Although they may be early in their careers, the latest recipients of the Michael G. DeGroote Fellowship Awards are already making a significant mark in their fields of study.
From fighting superbugs, shedding light on an underlying cause of depression, understanding the global threat of infectious diseases and translating genetic discoveries to the clinic, these four, bright young scholars are helping to solve some of the most critical public health crises of our time. And they are doing so under the guidance of four of McMaster University's top researchers.
Postdoctoral fellow Omar El-Halfawy was the recipient of the fall 2015 basic biomedical fellowship. He studies antibiotic resistance, particularly resistance to penicillins to treat MRSA, in the lab of Eric Brown, associate professor of biochemistry and biomedical sciences and investigator with the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.
"Our research will enhance our understanding of the physiology and antibiotic resistance mechanisms of such an important human pathogen revealing new targets for antimicrobial intervention," says El-Halfawy. "It may also provide novel leads for antimicrobial molecules."
The fall 2015 clinical fellowship winner was Deanna Alexis Carere, who studies in the lab of Guillaume Paré, an associate professor in the Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine and Canada Research Chair in Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology.
Carere, who has worked in the Paré lab since 2015, uses a specialized statistical method called Mendelian Randomization to identify clinically useful biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease.
She says the funds will provide her with freedom as a postdoctoral fellow to develop new and exciting research questions and analyses. "Not all postdocs have this kind of opportunity, so for that I am especially grateful," she says.
David Allison, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Brian Timmons, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, was the winner of the spring 2016 clinical fellowship.
In Timmon's lab, Allison is involved in a project that has the potential to shed light on the underlying causes of depression in the young and highlights the need for early intervention.
"I am extremely grateful for the generous financial support provided by Mr. DeGroote," says Allison. "This funding has allowed me the opportunity to continue performing research in an area that I am truly passionate about."
Venkateswarlu Yarlagadda, the spring 2016 basic biomedical fellowship winner, is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Gerry Wright, scientific director of the Michael G. DeGroote Isntitute for Infectious Disease Research.
Prior to joining McMaster, Yarlagadda received a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in India, with his work already reported in 17 published papers and five manuscripts, which are currently under review. He has also one patient filed for a strategy he developed.
He hopes to use his background in synthetic biology and natural product chemistry to help solve the current global health crisis of antibimicrobial resistance by discovering a new class of antibacterials.
"Dr. Yarlagadda is an incredibly talented biomedical researchers with excellent kills in antibiotic chemistry and a first rate publication record," said Wright.
The fellowship awards are funded through a portion of the Faculty of Health Sciences Development Fund, part of Michael G. DeGroote's $105 million donation in 2003.
The winners are chosen for their exemplary academic record and are awarded $50,000 to develop a competitive research program.