Raewyn Broady

Raewyn Broady

Clinician Scientist

My research is focused on determining the role T regulatory cells play in ameliorating graft versus host disease. There is evidence in mouse models that suggests Treg cells play a role in the prevention of GVHD but in humans their role has not been clearly defined. In addition to quantifying the number of Tregs in the peripheral blood of patients with GHVD, we are developing methods to assess them in tissues, such as skin, that are affected by the disease.

Laura Cook

Laura Cook

Postdoctoral Fellow

My primary research area is the role of disease antigen-specific CD4+ T cells in intestinal autoinflammatory and infectious diseases and investigating novel cell-therapy approaches for treating inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). My key areas of investigation are:

  • Determining the unique advantages of using IL-10-secreting type 1 regulatory cells as a cell-therapy for IBD.
  • Exploring the utility of a parasite-derived molecule to induce stable regulatory T cells for therapeutic use.
  • Understanding the role of bacterial flagellin-specific CD4+ T cells in driving inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Characterizing the CD4+ T cell memory response to C. difficile infection and determining its use as a predictive diagnostic tool.

Awards:

  • Bertram Hoffmeister Postdoctoral Fellowship – BC Children’s Hospital, Canada
  • JDRF Canadian Clinical Trial Network Postdoctoral Fellowship – JDRF, Canada
  • Transplant Research Training Award – Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Nick Dawson

Nick Dawson

Doctoral Student

After insertion of an allograft, a common complication that occurs in patients is graft versus host disease. However, there is increasing evidence that acceptance of a graft is dependent, in part, by numbers of regulatory T cells. My research involves determining whether the Treg gene signature developed in our lab can predict susceptibility of GVHD after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Awards:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarship - Doctoral Award

Maria Fernando

Maria Fernando

Postdoctoral Fellow

Inflammatory bowel disease is a chronic relapsing and remitting disease of the gastrointestinal tract. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD worldwide. My research is focused on the newly developed humanized monoclonal antibody vedolizumab (trade name Entyvio), which blocks binding of the alpha 4 beta 7 integrin, thereby preventing migration of T cells to the small intestine. In clinical trials, this drug has been shown to be extremely effective in reducing the severity of IBD. The clinical efficacy of this drug has been clearly demonstrated, and the purpose of my project is to determine the exact biological mechanism by which vedolizumab exerts its effect. 

Awards:

  • CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship
Jonathan Han

Jonathan Han

PhD Candidate

High levels of insulin is found in the obesity linked type 2 diabetes (T2D), a metabolic disorder in blood glucose homeostasis caused by insulin resistance. Interestingly, T2D patients also suffer chronic inflammation. My research suggests in the high levels of insulin in T2D may negatively regulate Tregs and consequently impairs immune tolerance, resulting in excessive inflammation.

Romy Hoeppli

Romy Hoeppli

PhD Candidate

Animal models and early clinical trials have shown that regulatory T cells (Tregs) can induce tolerance after transplantation. As Tregs isolated from the blood are often contaminated with effector T cells, we propose discarded thymuses from children undergoing heart surgery as an alternative and rich source of Tregs for cell-based therapy. My research focuses on developing optimized culture conditions to expand thymic Tregs in vitro and investigating how Tregs induce tolerance in vivo.

Awards:

  • Child and Family Research Institute Sue Carruthers Graduate Studentship
  • Child and Family Research Institute Canucks for Kids Fund Childhood Diabetes Laboratories Graduate Studentship
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Transplant Research Training Award
Caroline Lamarche

Caroline Lamarche

Postdoctoral Fellow, MD

My goal is to increase tolerance in solid organ transplant recipients by harnessing the natural properties of regulatory T cells (Tregs). Dr Levings’ lab developed a way to improve the potency of Tregs by engineering them to express a chimeric antigen receptor specific for a transplant-relevant antigen: HLA-A2. My role is to demonstrate whether A2-CAR Tregs can control allograft rejection and induce long-term transplant tolerance.

Awards:

  • CIHR Postdoctoral Research Award
  • Société Québécoise de Néphrologie
  • Council of Physicians, Dentists and Pharmacists of Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital
Kate MacDonald

Kate MacDonald

PhD Candidate

Kate is a PhD student who is working on T regulatory cells in a clinical context. Her first project aims to genetically engineer antigen-specific Tregs to induce transplant tolerance against a graft mismatch. Her second project is to explore the plasticity of Tregs in diseases such as scleroderma. 

Uyen Nguyen

Uyen Nguyen

Masters Student

I joined the Levings Lab in 2018 as a Masters student with interests in high-dimensional flow cytometry and automated gating for flow data analysis. Using the latest 5-laser FACSymphony, I evaluate whether physical exercise improves immune recovery in patients who received an allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT). Ultimately, I will determine whether physical exercise can help rebuild the immune system and improve clinical outcome in the BMT population.

Annika Noreen

Annika Noreen

Research Coordinator

I have a strong scientific background, with a PhD and postdoc in molecular ecology. My passion lies in research management, and I enjoy taking on the varied responsibilities that help the research environment run smoothly and efficiently.

Scott Patterson

Scott Patterson

Research Associate

Our lab has shown that T regulatory cells (Tregs) have a defect in the PI3K pathway. We have found that a negative regulator of the PI3K pathway, PHLPP, is highly expressed in Tregs. I found that PHLPP is important for regulating Treg function and development. Using mouse models I aim to delineate the role of PHLPP expression in Tregs during disease.

Anne Pesenacker

Anne Pesenacker

Postdoctoral Fellow

I'm interested in regulatory T cells (Tregs), how they work and why they fail to control autoimmunity. To further understand how Tregs work in health but not in autoimmunity, I investigate one particular new mechanism of Treg action. We have discovered that Tregs can produce so called chemokines, we believe to facilitate close proximity to the cells, they are regulating. My aim is to find the mechanisms controlling Treg chemokine production, so that we might be able to restore this process when it is broken. Furthermore I'm studying Treg gene signatures, and how they might be used track Treg 'fitness' in the clinic. I'm particular interested in autoimmune type 1 diabetes and childhood arthritis.

Awards:

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship
Antoine Sicard

Antoine Sicard

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am a French clinician scientist (MD, PhD) specialized in nephrology, kidney transplantation and transplant immunology. Most of my clinical and experimental research has focused on a type of graft rejection that results from the development in the recipient of antibodies directed against donor determinants. These deleterious anti-donor antibodies are the main cause of long-term allograft loss and decrease the access to subsequent transplantations. Antibody-mediated rejection therefore represents one of the main current challenges of transplantation medicine.

My research has focused on three different areas:

  • The physiopathology of antibody-mediated rejection,
  • The prognostic stratification of patients with antibody-mediated rejection (AMR),
  • The development of novel approaches to control the anti-donor antibody response.

Awards:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) fellowship award
  • European Commission H2020 program, Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSCA) actions, Individual global fellowship award
Jens Vent-Schmidt

Jens Vent-Schmidt

PhD Candidate

Inflammatory Bowel Disease, an incurable chronic disease, is associated with hyper-activated pro-inflammatory cells that promote inflammatory lesions in the gut. Concomitantly, regulatory T cells which usually suppress unwanted immune responses are reduced in numbers and are under-activated. My project aim is to genetically engineer regulatory T cells to re-gain their function and to suppress gut inflammation at the side of the lesion. This would result in a novel patient-specific therapy with significantly reduced risk of systemic side effects. 

Awards: 

  • Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship

Dan Wu

Dan Wu

PhD Student

We have found that a pseudokinase, Trib1, is highly expressed in Tregs. Although lacking the catalytic domain for phosphorylation, the tribbles proteins can modulate various cellular processes by interacting with a number of transcription factors and signalling kinases, including FOXP3 and AKT, which are important regulators of Treg function. My project aim to establish the expression profiles of tribbles proteins and to understand their functions in human and mouse Tregs.

Awards:

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research / Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate  Scholarship - Doctoral Award

Maggie Yao

Maggie Yao

PhD Candidate

Inflammatory bowel disease is a condition that is believed to be driven by pathogenic inflammatory responses against commensal bacterial antigens. Cellular stress signals that are released during chronic inflammation may contribute to drive the vicious cycle of pathogenic immune responses in the disease. My research focuses on studying how different stress signals, such as extracellular ATP, influence the inflammatory response and regulate the crosstalk between innate and adaptive immune responses.