My Profile


I am Canadian microbiologist who was recruited to a Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in the Centre for Infection and Immunity (later joined with the Wellcome-Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine)at Queen's University Belfast, United Kingdom.

In 1976, I earned a MD degree from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and acquired further specialization in Clinical Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases by 1980. Between 1980 and 1983 I was a research fellow in the Virology-Serology Laboratory at the Children's Hospital "Ricardo Gutierrez" in Buenos Aires; there, I discovered my passion for research. Under the supervision of Dr. Saul Grinstein, who encouraged me to think boldly and act accordingly, I became interested in the molecular mechanisms of bacterial pathogenicity. In 1983, I continued my training in molecular microbiology in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland, USA, under the supervision of Professor Jorge H. Crosa.

In 1988, I moved to Canada to start my independent scientific career in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology of the University of Western Ontario, progressing through the ranks until becoming Full Professor in 1998 and serving as department Chair since 2004 until 2012. I have held a prestigious Canada Research Chair since 2002 until the end of 2012, and earned the CSM/Roche Award from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists given to outstanding Canadian microbiologists and the Zeller's Senior Scientist Award from Cystic Fibrosis Canada for my research group's contributions to Cystic Fibrosis research.

Infectious disease remains one of the largest health care threats in the world; according to the World Health Organization, more than one-third of all deaths are the result of infections.  The incidence of multi-drug resistant infections in increasing relentlessly, putting enormous pressures on society concerning health care costs and the wellbeing of the population. Like many other scientists, I have joined the crusade to curb this dangerous trend by developing new strategies and therapies to combat drug-resistant pathogens. I believe that to develop new anti-infective therapies one must first uncover how microorganisms cause disease and evolve resistance to antibiotics. Our laboratory has become an international hub in molecular research aimed at dissecting the key bacterial components that directly interact with host cells to cause infections. The work of my team advances research in two areas.

First, my research team conducts innovative studies to reveal how the lipopolysaccharide (LPS) molecule assembles on the bacterial cell surface and protect bacteria from host defenses and antibiotic entry.  LPS is a key molecule that during infection can stimulate uncontrolled host responses, causing any number of clinical conditions ranging from flu-like symptoms to deadly septic shock.  We study enzymes and other proteins involved in LPS synthesis, with the purpose of utilizing the information for designing new antimicrobials. Since bacteria with defects in the LPS molecule are more sensitive to a variety of antibiotics and can be readily killed by host defensive mechanisms, LPS synthesis inhibitors may provide an additional tool to combat bacterial infections.

My team's second area of research seeks to characterize the biology and pathogenesis of opportunistic pathogens with a focus on the Burkholderia cepacia complex, Achromobacter species and the Enterobacter cloacae complex. The former two are major health problems for people suffering from cystic fibrosis, while the latter is an important but understudies pathogen of the ESKAPE group of highly antibiotic resistant bacteria.All these bacteria provide exciting model systems for understanding bacteria-host interactions that occur under circumstances where the host defenses are compromised including patients undergoing transplant surgery, cancer treatment, diabetes, and of course the elderly.



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