Dr. Alexander Hynes

Division of Gastroenterology

Alexander Hynes


Assistant Professor, Division of Gastroenterology, Department of Medicine

Farncombe Family Chair in Phage Biology





Education and Professional Standing

Dr. Hynes obtained his BSc from the University of Calgary, and has spent the years since working on bacteriophages in one form or another – first, through a PhD at Memorial University of Newfoundland with Dr. Andrew S. Lang, and then later as a Postdoc with Dr Sylvain Moineau, at Université Laval. As the Farncombe Family Chair in Phage Biology, he brings this expertise to complement the exciting microbiome research that is already a signature of the institute.

Research Interests

Bacteriophages (phages) are viruses that specifically infect bacteria. Phages are ubiquitous, and the rule of thumb is that for every bacterium there are 10 phages. Consequently, phages are responsible for the death of an estimated >20% of the global bacterial population every day. Their influence on bacterial populations isn’t limited to predation – ‘temperate’ phages integrate into their host’s genome and can drastically impact the physiology of the bacteria they infect, protecting them from other phages, encoding new surface proteins or bacterial toxins, and conferring numerous fitness advantages to their hosts.

My group’s research focuses on establishing the role of phages in shaping key bacterial populations, notably those of the gut microbiome. In this environment, temperate phages are common and diverse, and changes in phage populations correlate closely with disease states. A better characterization of these phage communities will allow us to identify new diagnostic and predictive markers, as well as develop phage-based approaches to manipulate the gut microbiome.

Selected Publications

  1. Hynes AP, Rousseau GM, Lemay M-L, Horvath P, Romero DA, Fremaux C & Moineau S. 2017. An anti-CRISPR from a virulent streptococcal phage inhibits SpCas9. Nature Microbiology; doi:10.1038/s41564-017-0004-7

  2. Hynes AP, Lemay M-L, Trudel L, Deveau H, Frenette M, Tremblay DM, & Moineau S. 2017. Detecting natural adaptation of the Streptococcus thermophilus CRISPR-Cas systems in research and classroom settings. Nature Protocols; 12:547-565

  3. Hynes AP, Shakya M, Mercer RG, Grüll MP, Bown L, Davidson F, Steffen E., Matchem H, Peach ME, Berger T, Grebe K, Zhaxybayeva O, & Lang AS. 2016. Functional and evolutionary characterization of a gene transfer agent's multi-locus 'genome'. Molecular Biology and Evolution; 33(10):2530-2543