The Canadian Society of Microbiologists’ top two annual career awards have both gone to McMaster University researchers.
Eric Brown, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences received the CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement; the honour is awarded for outstanding contributions to microbiological research in Canada.
The CSM Fisher Scientific Award for early career achievements is being awarded to Brian Coombes, associate professor of the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis.
As recipients of the honours, Brown and Coombes will present lectures based on their work. Brown and Coombes are both members of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.
In her nomination letter, associate chair of research, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences Lori L. Burrows described Brown as a “remarkable teacher, pioneer, tireless advocate for chemical biology and a visionary.”
Brown has now been working for years in the search for effective ways to combat so-called superbugs, or drug resistant bacterial infections. “To be recognized by my peers in Canada for this body of work is terrifically encouraging,” Brown said.
Brown and his research group are currently working on understanding the complex biology that underpins the ability of disease-causing bacteria to evade and acclimatize to antibiotic treatment.
Brown paid tribute to the Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology, a leading facility of the institute that “would be the envy of any biotechnology company”, as providing his research team a cutting edge in research. “We have amazing facilities at McMaster to do this kind of work,” commented Brown, adding, “we think our job is to really lead the way in exploring new ways of doing things, even if they sound a little crazy at first. Our goal is to take on problems and go in directions that, for example, the pharmaceutical sector might find too risky.”
Brian Coombes is working to comprehend the evolutionary battle between bacteria and humans at a foundational level, with his research probing the manners in which bacteria evolve to infect us and why they are becoming more dangerous and resilient to antibiotics.
Coombes leads a research team of a dozen scientists at the graduate and postdoctoral level who have published 41 papers in scientific journals, presented 27 conference papers, and filed a patent on an encouraging new anti-virulence molecule that he discovered himself.