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AWARDS + HONOURS  ::  Award Winners

Award Winners

Jump to: Murray Award | Thermo Fisher Award | Armand Frappier Award | Burrows Award | Ambassador Award


Recordings of the three Awards' Lectures on YouTube (To be posted)

2021 CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement










Dr. Turlough Finan

Dr. Turlough Finan, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Biography:Turlough Finan is a professor of Biology at McMaster University. He obtained a B.Sc and M.Sc in Microbiology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland and PhD in 1981 under the supervision of Carl Jordan, Microbiology Department, University of Guelph, Canada. Following a year at the Connaught Research Institute studying the neutralizing antigens of Polio virus he performed postdoctoral studies on Sinorhizobium under the supervision of Ethan Signer in the Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At McMaster, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Environmental Microbiology. His research is focused on understanding aspects of carbon and phosphate metabolism and symbiotic genes and the multipartite genome of Sinorhizobium meliloti and is published in over one hundred peer reviewed articles in scientific journals. 

Date & Time: Monday, June 14th, 2021, 12:30 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: Deconstructing Sinorhizobium – towards a minimal genome for symbiotic nitrogen fixation.

Abstract: Rhizobia are diverse bacteria within the alpha and beta proteobacteria that form N2-fixing nodules on leguminous plants. We are studying a model strain, Sinorhizobium meliloti, whose genome consists of a 3.4 Mbp chromosome, a 1.7 Mbp pSymB chromid and a 1.3 Mbp pSymA megaplasmid. This presentation will outline our approach towards defining a minimal set of genes that are sufficient for the formation of N2-fixing root nodules on alfalfa. Our work has led us in unexpected directions including uncovering essential genes on the pSymB replicon, plasmid replication, toxin/antitoxins, and cobalt transport and I will touch on some of these in this presentation. .

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.

2021 Thermo Fisher Scientific Award

Prof. César de la Fuente

Prof. César de la Fuente, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA 

Biography: César de la Fuente is a Presidential Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he leads the Machine Biology Group whose goal is to combine the power of machines and biology to understand, prevent, and treat infectious diseases. Current application areas in his lab include developing novel approaches for antibiotic discovery, building tools for microbiome engineering, and creating low-cost diagnostics. Specifically, he pioneered the development of the first antibiotic designed by a computer with efficacy in animal models, designed pattern recognition algorithms for antibiotic discovery, successfully reprogrammed venoms into novel antimicrobials, created novel resistance-proof antimicrobial materials, and invented rapid low-cost diagnostics for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. De la Fuente is an NIH MIRA investigator, a BBRF Young Investigator, and has received recognition and research funding from numerous other groups. Prof. de la Fuente was recognized by MIT Technology Review in 2019 as one of the world’s top innovators for “digitizing evolution to make better antibiotics”. He was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Langer Prize (2019), an ACS Kavli Emerging Leader in Chemistry (2020), and received the Nemirovsky Prize (2020), AIChE’s 35 Under 35 Award (2020), and the ACS Infectious Diseases Young Investigator Award (2020). In addition, he was named a 2018 Wunderkind by STAT News, a Top 10 Under 40 of 2019 by GEN, a Top 10 MIT Technology Review Innovator Under 35 (Spain), 30 Rising Leaders in the Life Sciences, and received the 2019 Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Young Investigator Award in addition to the Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) CMBE Rising Star Award in 2021. Most recently, Prof. de la Fuente was awarded the prestigious Princess of Girona Prize for Scientific Research. His scientific discoveries have yielded over 85 peer-reviewed publications, including papers in Nature Communications, PNAS, ACS Nano, Cell, Nature Communications Biology, and multiple patents.

Date &Time: Tuesday, June 15th, 2021, 12:30 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: Machine Biology for Infectious Diseases

Abstract: Machines have the potential to outperform humans and revolutionize our world. In this talk, I will describe our efforts using machines to develop computational approaches for antibiotic discovery, as well as low-cost rapid diagnostics. Computers can already be programmed for superhuman pattern recognition of images and text. In order for machines to discover novel antibiotics, they have to first be trained to sort through the many characteristics of molecules and determine which properties should be retained, suppressed, or enhanced to optimize antimicrobial activity. Said differently, machines need to be able to understand, read, write, and eventually create new molecules. I will discuss how we trained a computer to execute a fitness function following a Darwinian algorithm of evolution to select for molecular structures that interact with bacterial membranes, yielding artificial antimicrobials that kill bacteria both in vitro and in relevant animal models. My lab has also developed pattern recognition algorithms to mine the human proteome, identifying throughout the body thousands of antibiotics encoded in proteins with unrelated biological function, and has applied computational tools to successfully reprogram venoms into novel antimicrobials. I will also describe the development of diagnostic biosensors for COVID-19, further substantiating the exciting potential of machine biology. Computer-generated designs and innovations at the intersection between machines and biology may help to replenish our arsenal of effective drugs and generate novel diagnostics, providing much needed solutions to global health problems caused by infectious diseases.

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

2021 Armand-Frappier Outstanding Student Award

Ms. Kali Iyer

Ms. Kali Iyer, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Biography: Kali Iyer completed her undergraduate degree in the Integrated Sciences program at McMaster University where her exceptional research potential in the lab of Dr. Eric Brown won her the Michael Kamin Heart Memorial Scholarship for Undergraduate Research. She is now in the process of completing her Ph.D. in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, supervised by Dr. Leah Cowen. During this time Kali has been involved in fostering a vibrant microbiology research community at the University of Toronto and in various science communication efforts, including those with the Royal Canadian Institute for Science. Her graduate work has been funded by the Ontario Graduate Scholarship and she was recently awarded the L.W. Macpherson Microbiology Award as the best acclaimed all-round student working in microbiology in her department. Her research centers around tackling the dire need for novel strategies to combat human fungal pathogens which are associated with unacceptably high mortality rates. Specifically, she has focused on assessing large chemical collections to identify and characterize molecules exhibiting antifungal activity against prominent drug-resistant fungal pathogens. Her presentation of this work has been recognized by numerous conference awards and includes ten publications, encompassing research articles, literature reviews, a protocol, and a book chapter. Overall, her research aims to expand our knowledge of the vulnerabilities these pathogens possess in an effort to expand the limited set of strategies to treat these diseases.

Date & Time: Wednesday, June 16th, 2021, 12:30 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: Exploiting diverse chemical collections to uncover novel antifungals against human fungal pathogens.

Abstract: Fungal pathogens are an underappreciated contributor to infectious disease related deaths, infecting billions and killing 1.5 million people annually. The rise in drug resistance amongst pathogenic fungi paired with the limited arsenal of antifungals available is an imminent threat to our medical system. To address this, I screened two distinct compound libraries to identify novel strategies to expand the antifungal armamentarium. The first collection, from Boston University, was screened to identify two types of compounds with activity against the highly drug-resistant pathogen Candida auris: those that were bioactive alone, and those that enhanced the efficacy of fluconazole, the most commonly administered systemic antifungal. Through these efforts I identified the rocaglates, a chemical class with single agent fungicidal activity. The rocaglates were found to inhibit translation initiation in C. auris but not in its close pathogenic relative Candida albicans. This species-specific activity was contingent on a single amino acid difference in the drug target, the translation initiation factor Tif1. Strikingly, rocaglate-mediated translation inhibition activated cell death in C. auris, but not in a rocaglate-sensitized C. albicans strain. From the fluconazole combination screen, I discovered a compound, later termed azoffluxin, that enhanced fluconazole efficacy against C. auris through increasing its intracellular accumulation. This activity was through the inhibition of efflux pump Cdr1, indicating azoffluxin targets a key resistance mechanism. Furthermore, azoffluxin significantly reduced fungal burden alone and in combination with fluconazole in a mouse model of C. auris disseminated infection. The second chemical library screened, the RIKEN Natural Product Depository, was evaluated for antifungal activity against four major human fungal pathogens: C. albicans, Candida glabrata, C. auris, and Cryptococcus neoformans. One molecule, NPD6433, was prioritized for having broad-spectrum antifungal activity and minimal mammalian cytotoxicity. NPD6433 was determined to inhibit the enoyl reductase domain activity of the essential fungal enzyme fatty acid synthase 1, Fas1. Treatment with NPD6433 inhibited various virulence traits in multiple fungal species and rescued mammalian cell growth in a co-culture model with C. auris. Overall, this work identifies compounds with bioactivity against fungal pathogens, revealing important biology and paving the way for the critical development of new therapeutic strategies.

This lecture is made possible with the financial support of

Canadian Society of Microbiologists


2021 The Burrows Award for Womxn in Microbiology

Ms. Melissa Sen


Ms. Melissa Sen Phuong, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario

Biography: I’m a current MD/PhD student at the University of Ottawa, having previously completed my undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at McMaster University. Throughout my undergraduate education, I was fortunate to work at Public Health Ontario Laboratories and the Tropical Disease Unit in Toronto General Hospital, which inspired my interests in microbiology research and infectious diseases. For my PhD studies, I’m studying inflammatory mechanisms observed during Pseudomonas aeruginosa lung infections in cystic fibrosis, with a focus on host programmed cell death and cytokine expression. As a proud child of refugees, I am incredibly privileged to be a part of a generation of women in my family that can prioritize pursuing a higher education, especially in light of the struggles that my grandmothers and mother faced. My gratitude for this opportunity has in turn driven my passion for encouraging diversity and inclusion in academic spaces.

This award is possible because of support from Dr. Burrows, the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University and the Canadian Society of Microbiologists.



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