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AWARDS + HONOURS  ::  Award Winners

Award Winners

2013 CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement


Gerard Wright

Gerard Wright is the Director of the Michel G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University. He is Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Associate member of the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Biology as well as Pathology and Molecular Medicine. He received his BSc in Biochemistry (1986) and his PhD in Chemistry (1990) from the University of Waterloo working in the area of antifungal drugs. He followed this up with 2 years of postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School in Boston where he worked on the molecular mechanism of resistance to the antibiotic vancomycin in enterococci. He joined the Department of Biochemistry at McMaster in 1993. He holds the Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Infection and Anti-Infective Research, a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry and has received Canadian Institutes of Health Research Scientist (2000-2005) and Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar (1995-2000) awards.

Additionally, Dr. Gerry Wright received Killam Research Fellowship (2011-1012), Premier’s Research Excellence (1999) and Polanyi Prize (1993) awards. He was the American Society of Microbiology Division ‘A’ (Antimicrobial Chemotherapy) lecturer in 2007, received the Faculty of Science Alumni of Honor Award from the University of Waterloo (2007) and was the 2012 Hopwood Lecturer (John Innes Centre, Norwich UK). He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology in 2013. He is the past director of the American Chemical Society Short Course on Antibiotics and Antibacterial Agents. Dr. Wright was Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences for 6 years (2001-2007) and the founding director of the McMaster Antimicrobial Research Centre; he is co-founder, with Dr. Eric Brown, of the McMaster High Throughput Screening Facility.

Dr. Gerry Wright has consulted widely in the private sector (biotech and pharma) on aspects of antibiotic resistance and discovery and antifungal agents. He has published over 180 papers and book chapters and is a member of the editorial boards of Chemistry and Biology (2000-present), Journal of Antibiotics (2004-present), and Antimicrobial Agents Chemotherapy (2011-2013).
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"Resisting resistance: Blocking antibiotic resistance with small molecules."
Gerard Wright
M.G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University

Antibiotic resistance in bacterial pathogens represents a health crisis of growing and alarming proportions. Overcoming resistance will require new drugs and alternative therapies. One approach to maintain the efficacy of our existing antibiotic arsenal is to inhibit resistance mechanisms directly, thereby allowing the antibiotic to regain activity even in the face of resistance. This approach has been highly successful in the beta-lactam area where inhibitors of beta-lactamases have found great clinical utility over the past 25 years. We have developed a screening approach to identify molecules that block various mechanisms of resistance including direct inhibition of resistance enzymes and increased permeability of antibiotics. Examples of our recent efforts in this area will be presented including both natural product and synthetic small molecules.

 


This award is made possible by the financial support of Canadian Science Publishing (publisher of the NRC Research Press journals). Their commitment and service to microbiological research and teaching in Canada is greatly appreciated.

2013 Armand-Frappier Outstanding Student Award Lecture


Salim Islam

Salim Islam came to UBC with excellent grades from the Eberhard Karls Universitӓt Tübingen, Germany, and a very high recommendation from renowned microbiologist, Prof. Volkmar Braun. Elena received her Diplom in biology in 2006 with a major in microbiology. Since 2007 she has been a member of the laboratory of Prof. R.E.W. (Bob) Hancock where she worked on her PhD. Consistently supported by scholarships (Cystic Fibrosis Canada and a BC Proteomic Network Training award), Elena has developed into an accomplished researcher demonstrating genuine insight into the experiments she does. Her research work has made major contributions to Pseudomonas biology and to the understanding of an important and insidious resistance phenomenon, adaptive resistance, which she has further promoted through four well received review articles and book chapters. She has made major inroads into understanding a truly unconventional global regulator of ciprofloxacin intrinsic resistance, virulence and biology and has defined the mechanisms involved in substantial molecular detail. Elena presented her research at several international conferences and her research has now been published in 9 separate peer reviewed papers and reviews.
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“From X to Y to Z: Structural and Functional Characterization of O-Antigen Biosynthesis in Pseudomonas aeruginosa”
Salim Islam, University of British Columbia

Heteropolymeric O antigen (O-Ag)-capped lipopolysaccharide is the principal constituent of the Gram-negative bacterial cell surface.  It is assembled via the integral inner membrane (IM) Wzx/Wzy-dependent pathway.  In Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Wzx translocates lipid-linked anionic O-Ag subunits from the cytoplasmic to the periplasmic leaflets of the IM, where Wzy polymerizes the subunits to lengths regulated by Wzz1/2.  The Wzx and Wzy IM topologies were mapped using random C-terminal-truncation fusions to PhoALacZα, which displays PhoA/LacZ activity dependent upon its subcellular localization.  Twelve transmembrane segments (TMS) containing charged residues were identified for Wzx.  Fourteen TMS, two sizeable cytoplasmic loops (CL), and two large periplasmic loops (PL3 and PL5 of comparable size) were characterized for Wzy.  Despite Wzy PL3–PL5 sequence homology, these loops were distinguished by respective cationic and anionic charge properties.  Site-directed mutagenesis identified functionally-essential Arg residues in both loops.  These results led to the proposition of a “catch-and-release” mechanism for Wzy function.  The abovementioned Arg residues and intra-Wzy PL3–PL5 sequence homology were conserved among phylogenetically diverse Wzy homologues, indicating widespread potential for the proposed mechanism.  Unexpectedly, Wzy CL6 mutations disrupted Wzz1-mediated regulation of shorter O-Ag chains, providing the first evidence for direct Wzy–Wzz interaction.  Mutagenesis studies identified functionally-important charged and aromatic TMS residues localized to either the interior vestibule or TMS bundles in a 3D homology model constructed for Wzx. Substrate-binding or energy-coupling roles were proposed for these residues, respectively.  The Wzx interior was found to be cationic, consistent with translocation of anionic O-Ag subunits.  To test these hypotheses, Wzx was overexpressed, purified, and reconstituted in proteoliposomes loaded with I.  Common transport coupling ions were introduced to “open” the protein and allow detection of I flux via reconstituted Wzx.  Extraliposomal changes in H+ induced Iflux, while Na+ addition had no effect, suggesting H+-dependent Wzx gating.  Putative energy-coupling residue mutants demonstrated defective H+-dependent halide flux.  Wzx also mediated H+ uptake as detected through fluorescence shifts from proteoliposomes loaded with pH-sensitive dye.  Consequently, Wzx was proposed to function via H+-coupled antiport.  In summary, this research has contributed structural and functional knowledge leading to novel mechanistic understandings for O-Ag biosynthesis in Gram-negative bacteria.




This lecture is made possible with the financial support of Canadian Society of Microbiologists. Their commitment and service to microbiological research and teaching in Canada is greatly appreciated.

2013 Fisher Scientific Award


Josh D. Neufeld

Josh D. Neufeld obtained his Ph.D. with Bill Mohn in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of British Columbia (2000-2005) where he developed and applied novel molecular methods for characterizing complex microbial communities. In his doctoral work, he investigated biogeography of North American soils and the impacts of halogenated organic contamination on soil microbial communities. This work was supported by fellowships from National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Killam Trusts. His postdoctoral work with Colin Murrell at the University of Warwick (2005-2007) involved the optimization and application of stable-isotope techniques for linking uncultivated microorganisms with their preferred substrates. By combining DNA stable-isotope probing and metagenomics, Dr. Neufeld characterized marine methlylotrophs involved in the assimilation of one-carbon compounds involved in algal metabolism and climate forcing. This postdoctoral research was supported by fellowships from NSERC and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Since 2007, Josh Neufeld has been a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo. The basic and applied research projects he has conducted there have been supported by NSERC, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, and the Ministry of Research and Innovation. His 13-member research team combines cultivation-dependent and molecular techniques to study microbial ecology in aquatic, terrestrial and host-associated environments. They have developed molecular and computational approaches for the analysis of large sequence datasets for microbial biogeography and discovery, use stable-isotope probing and metagenomics for identifying novel genes and enzymes, and study nitrogen cycling in relation to human activity. His team's discoveries are featured in over 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading microbiology and microbial ecology journals.

These scientific contributions, coupled with active leadership in scientific communication and teaching, have earned Dr. Neufeld several awards including the "Young Microbiologist of the Year" from the Society for General Microbiology (2006), Outstanding Faculty Performance Awards from the University of Waterloo (2010, 2013), the Jack Carlson Teaching Excellence Award (2013), and an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research and Innovation (2010).


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"Beyond the black stump of microbial ecology"
Josh D. Neufeld
University of Waterloo ON

Although microbial communities remain a largely unexplored frontier of biological diversity, recent developments in molecular methods have enabled unprecedented access to microbial community composition, including both active and uncultivated microorganisms and also those that represent previously unrecognized phylogenetic diversity. This talk will highlight key projects from the three research areas in my research group, including a) the development and application of next-generation sequencing for studying microbial diversity, b) the combination of DNA stable-isotope probing and functional metagenomics for recovery of novel enzymes, and c) exploring nitrogen cycling in soil and aquatic environments. The results demonstrate the need for careful experimental design and combined methodological approaches for linking structure and function at the research frontiers of microbial ecology, beyond the black stump.



This lecture is made possible with the financial support of Fisher Scientific. Their commitment and service to microbiological research and teaching in Canada is greatly appreciated.
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