Amgen Scholars Program Faculty Profiles

As an Amgen Scholar, you will join the laboratory of one of our excellent biomedical researchers from the University of Toronto Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine. 

Take a look at the research areas of participating faculty mentors. As part of your application, you must select three potential faculty mentors and for each potential mentor describe why you would like to join their laboratory as an Amgen Scholar. 


Rima Al-awar
The focus of our lab is to discover and develop new drugs in collaboration with academic and industry partners. We aim to build a drug discovery program that can efficiently help translate cancer-related academic discoveries from Ontario’s scientific community into novel oncology therapies that will benefit cancer patients.

Peter Dirks
Our lab studies brain cancer initiation and progression, through the lens of stem cell biology and neural regeneration.

Mirette Hanna
Our research aims to enhance and develop diagnostic tools/algorithms to improve diagnosis of hematologic malignancies.  

Levon Halabelian
Our researchers use X-ray crystallography and chemical biology tools to develop small molecule chemical modulators targeting disease-associated human proteins as well as E3 ligases for targeted protein degradation. We use advanced hit finding technologies including Affinity selection-mass spectrometry (ASMS), DNA-encoded chemical library (DEL) screening followed by Machine Learning (ML) and computationally in collaboration with Artificial Intelligence (AI) based drug-discovery companies.

Jennifer M. Jones
Our research team works with the Princess Margaret Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Program and participates in a number of ongoing clinical studies related to the detection, prevention and treatment of cancer treatment related sequelae as well as knowledge translation and health systems research. 

Joanne Kotsopoulos
Our lab group is a multi-disciplinary team committed to furthering our understanding of hereditary cancer, specifically among BRCA mutation carriers. Our focus is on epidemiological studies (also integrating biomarkers) to investigate risk and prognostic factors in the etiology of breast and ovarian cancer, with the goal of improving upon prevention strategies, quality of life and prognosis for women with a BRCA mutation. 

Linda Penn
Our research group focuses on understanding and targeting: i) the MYC oncogene that drives most human cancers, and ii) the metabolic mevalonate pathway, which is inhibited by approved and generic drugs (statins) often prescribed for cholesterol control.

Raymond Reilly
Our research team aims to develop novel radiopharmaceuticals, including radiolabeled monoclonal antibodies and radiolabeled gold nanoparticles, for imaging and treatment of cancer. We use preclinical tumour models and aim to advance the most promising radiopharmaceuticals to first-in-human clinical trials in collaboration with oncologists and imaging specialists. We design and formulate radiopharmaceuticals under Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for human studies.

Leonardo Salmena
Our research revolves around two main themes within the field of cancer pharmacology:
1. Understanding the impact of disruptions in phosphoinositide signaling pathways and exploring their potential as targets for cancer treatment.
2. Studying how microRNA and their regulatory networks affect cancer progression and drug resistance and examine ways to harness their functions for cancer therapy. 

Igor Stagljar
We currently direct major artificial intelligence projects focused on improving the diagnosis and therapeutic targets of serious diseases including cancer and cystic fibrosis. Research in the Stagljar Lab is organized around two central themes:
1. Technology development in proteomics.
2. Identification/development of precision medicines in cancer.

Carol Swallow
Our lab studies the cellular and molecular characteristics that promote solid tumour progression, including expression of oncogenic proteins and loss of tumour suppressor protein function. We use in vitro and ex vivo models, and well as murine xenograft models, to determine the function and interaction of multiple genes/proteins as they pertain to tumour invasion and metastasis. We also use patient derived cells and tissues, as well as clinico-pathologic data, to explore the clinical relevance of our pre-clinical observations. 

Ju-Yoon Yoon
We are a clinical molecular pathology lab, focused on cancer biomarker testing. Our assays include a custom comprehensive genomic profiling assay. Interested summer students may be involved in different components of assay optimization, validation and implementation, as well as novel omics-level data analyses.


Laura Chiavaroli
Our research focus is on developing tools and strategies to translate clinical practice guidelines on dietary patterns and Canadian Food Policy, including strategies to change food environments and health service delivery models. We use a variety of methods to assess uptake, adherence and effectiveness of these tools for the prevention and management of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in diverse populations. We collaborate with stakeholders, particularly those at high cardiovascular risk, and practices to address equity, diversity and inclusivity.

Brian Cox
Our interdisciplinary research group focuses on reproductive adaptation to pregnancy and developmental biology. We work with mouse and human models, including stem cells and organoids and use methods such as histology, qPCR, RNA-sequencing, polymorphic variant analysis and CRISPR knock-out models. We study communication between maternal immune cells and the trophoblast cells of the embryo and microRNA-mediated cell development in the trophoblast lineages. We seek trainees with interests in developmental biology and women's reproductive health or skills in cell biology, genetics or computational analysis (R or Python).

Mingyao Liu
Our research in the Toronto Lung Transplant Program, is focused on ischemia-reperfusion induced lung injury in lung transplantation. We are interested in different types of programed cell death on donor lung injury, PANoptosis and ferroptosis. We use cell culture and animal models to develop new preservation solutions for donor lungs and new perfusion solutions for ex vivo lung perfusion systems. In collaboration with our AI/machine learning group, we are looking for molecular biomarkers and therapeutic targets for ischemia-reperfusion induced lung injury. 

Cellular & Molecular Structure/Function

Vinod Chandran
Our lab investigates the genetic and molecular epidemiology of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, especially with respect to prognosis. Our research is focused on developing a soluble biomarker-based screening and prognostic tool for, and identifying mechanisms underlying inflammation and joint damage in, psoriatic arthritis. We are also focused on identifying and reducing barriers to multidisciplinary care of patients with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 

Chung-Wai Chow
Our group develops novel technologies to evaluate lung function and machine learning to improve their diagnostic acumen. Our research is conducted in different clinical cohorts that include patients following lung transplant, interstitial lung diseases, rare lung diseases and post-COVID.

Julie Claycomb
Our lab is working to understand how small RNA mediated gene regulation influences processes such as normal development (fertility) and stress responses. We use an integrated combination of genetics, genomics, molecular biology, and cell biology to tackle these questions in the tiny, yet powerful model organism: C. elegans.

Jeffrey Henderson
Our research aims to understand molecular mechanisms governing programmed cell death (PCD) in stem cells, under conditions of CNS injury, and development of small molecule therapeutics to PCD.
We study key protein-protein interactions which control neuronal injury and survival following CNS insults using mice as a model system, in conjunction with gene modification techniques such as CRISPR. 

Basil Hubbard
We are creating next-generation therapeutics for the treatment of a wide-variety of age-related (e.g., cancer), genetic, and infectious diseases. Our work is interdisciplinary and incorporates experimental techniques that fuse elements of chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, pharmacology, and molecular and synthetic biology. Research in our lab is grouped into three themes:
1) Gene Editing Tools & Macromolecular Therapeutics
2) Synthetic & Xenobiology
3) Molecular Pharmacology

Christoph Licht
Our lab engages in translational research on complement-mediated renal diseases including aHUS and C3G. My lab focusses on the pathomechanisms of complement-mediated TMA, in particular the consequences of complement dysregulation on endothelial cells. New research directions include a role for complement in organ repair and regeneration.

Craig Smibert
We study the role of RNA-binding proteins, long non-coding RNAs and microRNAs in regulating mRNA translation and stability. We are particularly interested in how these regulatory events control fruit fly development and how changes in these mechanisms contribute to autism spectrum disorder.

Andrew Wilde
Our lab seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that govern cell division. Successful cell division is required to maintain a stable genome; failures in cell division lead to aneuploidy and genome instability that are hallmarks of tumors. Projects in the lab focus on how different filamentous structures generate force to remodel the plasma membrane to successfully divide a cell and how these processes are subject to regulation by disruption of the genome including DNA damage.

Christopher Yip
Our lab focuses on the design, construction and application of novel high-resolution combinatorial imaging platforms for characterizing molecular and cellular dynamics on the single-molecule length scale. These tools are bespoke designs and range from light sheet to single molecule localization, scanning probe, digital holography, and more. The tools often are coupled providing unique capabilities and opportunities for studies of biological and biophysical phenomena.

Computational/Systems Biology

Artem Babaian
The biodiversity of Earth’s RNA viruses is enormous and unexplored. Under 0.1% of RNA viruses are known. Our lab uses ultra high-performance computing and AI as a means to explore the deep unknowns of virology and molecular genetics. Our aim is to build digital infrastructure to enable a global virus surveillance network, and understand the how we can prevent or mitigate the next pandemic.

Michael Hoffman
Our lab studies changes in gene regulation which often underlie the mechanism of genetic disorders and cancer. These changes can arise from variation in genomic DNA sequence or alterations in epigenomic properties, such as DNA methylation, chromatin packaging, histone modifications, or 3D chromosome conformation. Althoug new sequencing technology reveals genomic and epigenomic variation, without an understanding of the variation's consequences, we are limited in our ability to apply these data to diagnosis or personalized drug therapy.

Mikko Taipale
We use functional proteomics and genomics methods to study how the human protein interaction network is wired, how it is rewired by disease mutations, pathogens, and evolution, and how we can target the network for therapeutic purposes. We also develop new technologies for genome engineering, transcriptional regulation, and for characterizing protein/protein interactions.


Denise Belsham
Our lab investigates how the brain senses nutrients and how specific neurons and can regulate feeding by modulating the expression of neuropeptides in the brain. We have developed a number of unique neuronal cell models to study these pathways at the cellular level in tremendous detail not yet possible in the animal model. Our research to explore how we can prevent weight gain is an essential step for development of improved treatment regimens, and will lead to far-reaching and long-term cost benefits to the Canadian economy. 

Carolyn Cummins
Our research focus is to uncover mechanisms by which nuclear hormone receptors—one of the most common therapeutic drug targets—contribute to metabolic diseases like diabetes and dyslipidemia. Our research interests span many areas of nuclear receptor biology including the identification of new ligands and drugs; the study of signaling pathways upstream and downstream of receptor activation; the characterization of novel co-regulatory proteins; and the influence of nuclear receptor modulation on whole animal physiology.  

Jonathan Rocheleau
Our lab develops and applies a wide variety of fluorescence microscopy techniques and bioengineering tools to measure tissue molecular physiology with a focus on understanding islet biology in the context of Type 1 (transplantation) and Type 2 diabetes (dysfunction). We are presently developing devices to measure glucose-stimulated NADPH metabolism in beta-cells and in vivo and glucose stimulated islet metabolism and insulin secretion. We use these tools to explore the metabolic and functional heterogeneity of islets post-inflammation and stem-cell-derived islets.

John Sievenpiper
Our research focuses on using randomized controlled trials and epidemiological approaches to address questions of clinical and public health importance in relation to diet and cardiometabolic disease prevention. 

Minaa Woo
We elucidate molecular mechanisms that determine the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and related diseases including atherosclerosis, fatty liver disease/liver cancer, and sarcopenia. We use the latest technologies to assess the roles of novel genes in homeostasis and in various disease models.


Reina Bendayan
We study the location, expression, activity and regulation of several membrane transport proteins that are involved in the disposition of antiretroviral drugs at blood-tissue barrier sites (i.e., at the blood-brain barrier). In particular, we are interested in the role of efflux pumps under normal physiological and HIV-associated neuro-inflammatory conditions. We also examine novel molecular targets for the treatment of HIV-associated brain inflammation and the regulation of folate transport to the brain to identify novel approaches for the treatment of cerebral folate deficiency.

Lori Frappier
We aim to discover new functions of Epstein-Barr virus proteins in manipulating cellular processes.

Gregory German
We use bacteriophages to treat antibiotic resistance bacteria. We are developing microfluidics for testing phages quickly against bacteria as well as conducting clinical trials and knowledge translation for the public on phage therapy. 

Jennifer Gommerman
Our lab is focused on studying the mechanisms of immune dysregulation in autoimmune disease, particularly MS, and understanding the reason for the rapid increase in autoimmune disease observed in Canada. We are also determining the role of TNF family members in immune cell biology.

Walid A. Houry
Our team studies cellular stress responses and the role of molecular chaperones and ATP-dependent proteases in these responses. We use structural, biophysical, biochemical, proteomic, and cell biological approaches to understand the mechanism of function of these chaperones and proteases. We also investigate the development of novel antibiotics by identifying compounds that target these chaperones and proteases and result in the dysregulation of protein homeostasis in the cell. 

Arthur Mortha 
Our lab nvestigates the impact of microbiota regulated gut-tissue axes on host physiology and autoimmunity.  

Keith Pardee
Our team seeks to impact human health by developing portable, affordable tools using the principles of synthetic biology. We develop biotechnologies, such as a portable platform for low-cost molecular diagnostics and a portable system to manufacture therapeutics outside of the laboratory. Also, we are developing directed evolution and computational design platforms for biologic therapeutics.

Dana Philpott
Our group studies how innate immunity and the gut microbiome impact intestinal homeostasis and how dysregulation may lead to the development of inflammatory bowel disease.

Lena Serghides
Our lab studies the impact of HIV and HIV antiretrovirals on placenta and fetal development and the mechanisms that underlie adverse birth outcomes and long-term health effects of children born HIV exposed but uninfected. Our goal is to optimize treatment for pregnant women with HIV and ensure the best outcomes for mother and child.

Zahi Touma
Our research is focused on measuring cognitive function in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a long-term illness caused by problems with the body’s immune system. We are using fMRI to investigate whether SLE patients use compensatory functional brain mechanisms to aid with cognitive function. We are also using new imaging methods to investigate how the blood brain barrier (BBB) may be impacted in patients with SLE.  

Neuroscience/Brain Health/Neurogenetics

Isabelle Aubert
We study therapeutic approaches for Alzheimer disease, such as investigating drugs and genes that can protect brain health and function, halt degeneration and promote repair and regeneration. Our projects include the design of therapeutics, their delivery to the brain, and assessing their efficacy in models of Alzheimer disease. Transcranial focused ultrasound, guided by MRI, is used to modulate the blood-brain barrier, deliver therapies from the blood to the brain, reduce pathology, and increase neuronal and glial plasticity. 

Bruna Brands
Using driving simulation technology we study the effects of smoked cannabis and edible cannabis on driving performance, cognition, subjective effects, physiological parameters. These human experimental studies have been expanded to investigate the co-use of alcohol. Our findings seek to inform on the harms of cannabis and alcohol use in terms of public safety while driving. 

Zhong-Ping Feng
Our laboratory uses patch clamp recordings, optical imaging, cell culture, immunocytochemical, biochemical and molecular biological techniques to investigate cellular and molecular mechanisms by which voltage-dependent calcium channels and synaptic structural proteins are targeted to specific synaptic sites during synapse formation and synaptic plasticity. We test whether the mechanisms in invertebrate neurons are conserved in mammals and study the molecular determinants of calcium channel functions and modulation, ion channel rhythm generation and regulation, and the role of ion channels and calcium binding proteins in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. 

Rachel Harding
Our research focus is the huntingtin protein, mutated in people with Huntington’s disease, a devastating neurodegenerative illness. We study the structure of this molecule to understand the mechanisms of disease and to try and develop new therapies.

Evgueni Ivakine
Our lab focuses on disease pathogenesis to develop next-generation genetic medicines for the treatment of rare inherited disorders, particularly neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions including Niemann-Pick disease Type C and Tay-Sachs disease. We use a variety of genome engineering tools (i.e. CRISPR-Cas9, prime editing, base editing, CRISPR activation) alongside genetic, biochemical, molecular, and genome engineering approaches to gain insight into how mutations lead to genetic disease and to envision new ways of treating disease at the level of DNA.

James L. Kennedy
Our lab studies genetics/genomics of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as DNA variants in schizophrenia, bipolar, depression and Alzheimers. We study the pharmacogenetics of drug response and side effects and engage in clinical trial data analysis with AI/ML.

Julie Lefebvre
We study developmental neurobiology and neural circuit formation, such as how neurons develop and wire up into neural circuits. We seek to identify molecular and cellular mechanisms that guide the formation of these specific connectivity patterns and aim to link alterations in neuronal development to abnormal circuit function and behaviour, to better understand how these alterations lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. We use mouse models, molecular-genetic tools to label and manipulate neurons at the population or single-cell level, gene expression profiling, and microscopy. 

Patrick McGowan
We use molecular biology, behavioural neuroscience, and functional genomics to investigate phenotype. Key research areas include epigenetic mechanisms influencing glucocorticoid signaling pathways and the impact of early life environmental adversities on later brain and behaviour through epigenetic mechanisms, studying across various organisms including rat models and humans​.

Tatyana Mollayeva 
We use population-based epidemiological, mixed methods and qualitative research to investigate issues such as injury prevention, health service utilization and health service inequities among vulnerable populations. We study work-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and return to work, girls and women with TBI, and the role of sex/gender on outcomes of ABI for adults, youth, and children. 

Julien Muffat
Our lab combines tissue engineering and genome engineering to study neurodegenerative disorders using pluripotent stem cell-derived organoids. We are interested in the interaction of genetic predispositions and immune triggers, including viruses, on inflammatory processes that challenge humans across their lifespan. Our goal is to identify novel strategies to interrupt pathological progression at early stages.

Behdin Nowrouzi-Kia
Our lab aims to identify and assess risk and develop occupation-based interventions for preventing high-risk behaviours, optimizing functioning and improving mental and physical health in the workplace. 

Gerold Schmitt-Ulms
The overarching goal of our work is to develop treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Tauopathies and prion disorders by studying the molecular etiologies of these diseases.

Carol Schuurmans
The focus of our research is on CNS development and on the application of this knowledge to the development of neural regenerative strategies for the brain and retina to drive functional repair.

Hong-Shuo Sun
Our research interest is in studying the role of ion channels in neuroprotection against cerebral ischemia and stroke, and identifying potential therapeutic targets for stroke. The experimental approaches used in our lab include in-vivo animal models of human diseases in combination with genomic analyses, advanced imaging, electrophysiology, and functional and behavioral assessments. These approaches will allow us to: 1) study the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying ischemia and stroke; 2) to identify potential molecular targets that are responsible for the hypoxic- and ischemia- induced cell injury; 3) to develop pharmacological strategies for cytoprotection against the cell injury and potential stroke treatment.

Jiannis Taxidis
We study how our brain turns our experiences into memories while also keeping track of their temporal relationships, as well as how this process is disrupted in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease or schizophrenia. We combine in vivo calcium imaging, voltage imaging and optogenetic manipulations during complex behavioural assays in mice. We focus mainly on recording and manipulating activity from neural circuits in the hippocampus while mice learn and perform olfactory-driven memory tasks. 

Rachel Tyndale & Meghan Chenoweth
Our lab studies individual differences in psychiatric disorders with a focus on substance use disorders. Our goal is to identify genetic risk factors for these disorders, as well as identify new treatment targets. We use a combination of statistical genetics techniques, 'big data' approaches, and biomarkers to answer our research questions.

Regenerative Medicine/Development

Liliana Attisano
Our lab is interested in how signalling pathways regulate development and how their disruption contributes to disease. Most recently, we are focusing in two general directions. 1. Exploring how disruption of the Hippo pathway promotes cancer and fibrosis. 2. Establishing and using human stem-cell derived organoids (cerebral and lung) to model human development and disease.  

Sevan Hopyan
We are interested in the intersection of physical and genetic regulators of morphogenesis of the murine limb bud and craniofacial structures and on chromatin regulation.

Thomas Hurd
We use an integrated genetic, cell biological and imaging approach to understand how mitochondria influence development, differentiation and inheritance.

Howard Lipshitz
Using genetics, genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and computational biology, we study the role of RNA-binding proteins in controlling mRNA stability, translation and subcellular localization. We study post-transcriptional regulation during the maternal-to-zygotic transition in early embryos as well as in neural lineages in the developing brain of the fruit fly. We also use the fruity fly to understand the mechanisms underlying rare human diseases caused by mutations in RNA-binding proteins such as the role of RNA-binding proteins in autism spectrum disorder.

Miguel Ramalho-Santos
Our lab is interested in the epigenetic regulation of development and how the environment can impact the epigenome and affect the developmental trajectory of cells. We use mouse embryology, mouse and human embryonic stem cells, genome perturbations and chromatin and transcriptional analyses.

Molly Shoichet
Our lab is engaged in discovery to translational research. We are working at the intersection of biology, chemistry and engineering related to applications in regenerative medicine and cancer, including cell and therapeutic delivery and drug screening. 

Amy Wong
Leveraging our pre-clinical human lung models, our research program aims to: 1) Understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating human lung development; 2) Usehis new knowledge to identify molecular/cellular basis of pulmonary diseases; and 3) Design and test new therapies to treat congenital (CF) and acquired (COVID-19) lung diseases.