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AWARDS + HONOURS  ::  Award Winners

Award Winners

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

Recordings of the three Awards' Lectures on YouTube

2020 CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement

Dr. Lori Burrows

Dr. Lori Burrows, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

Biography: Professor Lori Burrows is a microbiologist, Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, and international expert on the structure, function, and regulation of type IV pili (T4P), ubiquitous bacterial virulence factors used for adherence, DNA uptake, biofilm formation, and twitching motility. Using the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa as a model, her group studies its pilin repertoire (relevant to vaccine design), pilin glycosylation systems involved in bacteriophage defense, structure-function of the pilus assembly system and its integration into the cell envelope, and the complex regulation underlying T4P function. Her group also studies biofilm formation, particularly stimulation of biofilm development by sub-inhibitory antibiotic concentrations and exploitation of the stimulation phenotype to find new antimicrobials for multidrug-resistant gram-negative bacteria. Burrows’ research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Glycomics Network, the Ontario Research Fund, and industrial support. She has published over 120 peer reviewed papers, reviews, and book chapters (h-index 49). She is currently the Associate Director (Partnerships and Outreach) of McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Diseases Research and serves on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Bacteriology (ASM), the Journal of Biochemistry (ASBMB), and ACS Infectious Diseases.

Date & Time: Thursday, June 25, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: We are all in this (biofilm) together

Abstract: With global interest in game-changers including the microbiome, antibiotic resistance, phage-encoded genetic modification tools such as CRISPR, and the current SARS CoV2 pandemic, there has never been a more exciting time to be a microbiologist. With my eye on vet school, I started my scientific training in 1984, enrolling in wildlife biology at U. of Guelph, but a mandatory first-year microbiology lab and hours spent gazing at the myriad creatures growing in Winogradsky columns led to a life-changing love affair with bacteria. Shortly after, a bacterial genetics course cemented my interest in molecular biology approaches to answering scientific questions. Through my postdoctoral work on the cystic fibrosis pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, I became interested in biofilms, which in the 1990s were moving from a mostly environmental focus to a medical one. In 1999 I joined the Sick Kids Division of Urology and Department of Surgery at U. of Toronto to work with clinicians and companies interested in developing anti-biofilm biomaterials. My lab also began basic science studies of biofilm physiology and antibiotic resistance, particularly for drugs targeting the bacterial cell wall. Around that time, a seminal study from Harvard Medical School reported that Pseudomonas used adhesins called type IV pili (T4P) to initiate biofilm formation, and the more I found out about these fascinating filaments, the more intrigued I became. In 2003, my long-term collaborator Lynne Howell and I began to apply molecular, biochemical, and structural biology approaches to understanding T4P function, and we continue to work together, even after I moved to McMaster in 2006 to join the newly formed Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research. My lab has since expanded our investigations of T4P and biofilms to include bacteriophages, particularly those that use T4P as receptors. Our ongoing hunt for new ways to inhibit biofilm formation took us down an unexpected path – using biofilm formation to find new antimicrobials, leading to the discovery of novel gram negative activity of a class of gram positive antibiotics – which in turn, led us back to molecules that inhibit biofilm formation. None of this would have been possible without hard work by really talented trainees, staff, and collaborators, and I share this award with them.

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.

2020 Thermo Fisher Scientific Award

  Dr. John Whitney

Dr.  John Whitney, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario 

Biography: Dr. John Whitney is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and a member of the Michael DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at McMaster University. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Guelph in 2007 and completed his PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in 2013. From 2013-2016, Dr. Whitney was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Washington before joining the faculty at McMaster in 2017. Dr. Whitney’s research program seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie antagonistic microbe-microbe interactions. Accumulating evidence indicates that one of the principal mechanisms used by bacteria to compete with one another is through the secretion of antibacterial protein toxins. Many species of pathogenic bacteria deploy antibacterial toxins to infiltrate the protective microbiota of a host while beneficial bacteria similarly use bacteria-targeting toxins to ward off pathogens. Thus, bacterial competition mediated by protein toxins represents an ongoing evolutionary ‘arms race’ between commensal and pathogenic bacteria. Dr. Whitney’s lab uses a combination of genetics, biochemistry and structural biology to gain an in-depth mechanistic understanding of how antibacterial toxins are secreted from bacteria, how they enter target bacterial cells and how they exert their bactericidal effects. Notable discoveries that Dr. Whitney has contributed to include the first genetic dissection of the pathways used by antibacterial toxins as they are exported by the bacterial type VI secretion system (Mol Micro, 2014), the discovery that a widespread family of polymorphic toxins mediate type VII secretion system-dependent antagonistic interactions between Gram-positive bacteria (eLife, 2017), and uncovering the first known physiological role for the long mysterious nucleotides ppApp and pppApp as energy-depleting cellular toxins (Nature, 2019).

Date &Time: Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: Molecular mechanisms of microbial warfare

Abstract: Many bacterial cells engage in warfare with their neighbours using type VI secretion systems (T6SSs), which enable the ‘injection’ of a diverse arsenal of effectors into target cells. In recent work, we identified a novel effector in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, named Tas1, that acts in an unprecedented manner. Using X-ray crystallography, we found that Tas1 resembles members of the broadly distributed RelA-SpoT Homolog (RSH) family of enzymes. All previously characterized RSH proteins reside in the cytoplasm of bacteria (i.e. are not secreted) where they synthesize the signaling nucleotides ppGpp and pppGpp, which regulate growth rate in bacteria. Remarkably, however, despite resembling (p)ppGpp synthetase enzymes, Tas1 does not synthesize (p)ppGpp but instead catalyzes the production of (p)ppApp. Tas1 makes (p)ppApp by rapidly pyrophosphorylating ADP and ATP. Thus, when Tas1 is injected into a target cell by P. aeruginosa, a rapid and substantial collapse of ADP and ATP levels ensues. Depletion of these essential nucleotides prevents proper dissipation of the proton motive force and causes widespread dysregulation of nearly all major anabolic and catabolic pathways, resulting in cell death. Collectively, Tas1 represents the first known (p)ppApp synthetase enzyme and our findings demonstrate a physiological role for (p)ppApp as a potent cellular toxin.

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.

2020 Armand-Frappier Outstanding Student Award

Mr. Brendan Daisley

Mr. Brendan Daisley, Western University, London, Ontario

Biography: Brendan Daisley completed his undergraduate degree in Biology at Western University and was a recipient of the Dr. Helen I Battle Scholarship and Gold Medal for academic excellence. He is currently enrolled in the 4th year of his PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at Western University, supervised by Dr. Gregor Reid, and is a recent winner of the John A. Thomas Award for research excellence from that Department. He is funded by a doctoral Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship (NSERC) and New Directions Research Grant (OMAFRA). Brendan’s primary interest is to develop a better understanding of the bidirectional communications and interactions between microorganisms and their hosts. Specifically, a major theme across his eight publications in the past three years is the development and proof-of-principle field testing of novel microbial-based solutions to improve honey bee health, prevent further colony loss, and support international agricultural demands. In the final year of his PhD, Brendan will continue collaborating with researchers in California, Detroit, and across southwestern Ontario to evaluate how select strains of beneficial bacteria influence honey bee resistance to pesticide toxicity and nutritional deficiencies which are also negatively influencing honey bee populations. Ultimately, his project aims to improve human food security by developing a functional product that beekeepers can easily and affordably implement in their management strategies to preserve the health of this ecological and economically important species. 

Date & Time: Wednesday, June 24th, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT - Via Zoom

Title: Tackling honey bee decline: pesticides, pathogens, and the impact of beneficial microbes

Abstract: Crop pollination is a key pillar of agricultural success and global food sustainability, yet honey bees (Apis mellifera) and other vital pollinators are declining due to pesticides, habitat loss, and the rampant spread of several infectious diseases. Recent evidence suggests that circumvention strategies such as the widespread implementation of antibiotic usage in apiculture may be acting to exacerbate colony losses by depleting honey bees of their bacterial symbionts. This is important as these insects rely heavily on the metabolic potential of microbial constituents for resistance to pesticide toxicity and nutritional deficits -  both of which feedback to influence pathogen susceptibility. Prophylactic hive treatment against American foulbrood (AFB – a deadly honey bee disease caused by Paenibacillus larvae) with oxytetracycline (OTC) is a prevailing cause of antibiotic overuse due to high disease re-occurrence rates. Here, we characterize the impact of OTC on the honey bee microbiota for the first time, validate the efficacy of OTC in reducing AFB, and benchmark the performance of a novel honey bee-specific probiotic containing three immunostimulatory Lactobacillus spp. (LX3) given in conjunction with OTC. The results demonstrated that routine OTC administration to sub-clinically infected hives significantly increased the abundance of tetB (efflux pump resistance gene) in the gut microbiota of adult workers while concurrently depleting several key symbionts known to regulate immune function and nutrient metabolism such as Frischella perrera and Lactobacillus Firm-5 strains. These microbial changes were functionally characterized by decreased capped brood counts (marker of hive nutritional status and productivity) and reduced antimicrobial capacity of adult hemolymph (indicator of immune competence). Importantly, we found that in comparison to vehicle controls, LX3-supplemented adults exhibited rapid alleviation in OTC-induced deficits to adult immunity, partially restored microbiota homeostasis, and amplified OTC suppression of larval pathogen loads to near undetectable levels during antibiotic recovery. Furthermore, using a novel RNA-DNA dual extraction technique enabled the discovery of several unique host-microbe relationships by comparing intraindividual bacterial abundances, presence of antimicrobial resistance genes, and immune-related gene expression in OTC-exposed adult worker bees. Altogether, these findings suggest that microbial-based therapeutics may offer a simple but effective approach to ‘saving the bees’ while also helping to minimize the global dissemination of antimicrobial resistance which threatens human healthcare.

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.


2020 CSM Graduate Ambassador Award (Two Awardees)

Ms. Moïra Dion

Nikhil George



Awardee # 1: 

Moïra Dion, Université Laval, Quebec City, Quebec

Biography: Moïra Dion is currently a PhD student in Prof. Sylvain Moineau’s lab. During her graduate studies, her project aims at studying phage-bacteria interactions in the gut by developing bioinformatics tools. She participates in many scientific communications events in her community and is involved in her university’s students’ association. Moïra is the CSM representative for Université Laval since 2020. She feels privileged to be given the opportunity to promote the CSM across Canada as the CSM Ambassador for the year 2020.



Awardee # 2: 

Nikhil George, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

Biography: Nikhil George is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Laura Hug’s lab at the University of Waterloo, where he has three main research objectives: identifying new microbial viruses from municipal waste sites, examining the ecological consequences of these viruses’ predicted host interactions, and discovering new CRISPR-Cas systems from uncultivated microbes. He received his B.Sc. from the University of Toronto Mississauga, which is where he worked in Dr. Steven Short’s lab studying algal viruses and cyanophages in Hamilton Harbour, and where he first began his involvement with the CSM. Outside of academia, Nikhil enjoys rock climbing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and learning new languages. He was a student representative of the CSM over the 2019-2020 academic year, and he now looks forward to serving as a CSM ambassador for 2020.


This award is made possible with the financial support of Canadian Society of Microbiologists


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