EPIC announces new 12-person steering committee
A smiling woman with a grey sweater and a smiling man wearing a toque and blue coat

October 24, 2022

The Emerging and Pandemic Infections Consortium (EPIC) is pleased to introduce its inaugural steering committee. As Canada’s leading initiative for infectious diseases, EPIC brings together the unparalleled and diverse expertise of its members and state-of-the-art facilities to accelerate innovative and multidisciplinary research on high-risk, high-burden pathogens.

Composed of 12 members, the steering committee will advise and provide recommendations on goals, programs and partnerships to ensure that EPIC makes strides to advance the four main pillars of its mission: accelerating transformative research, expanding training & talent development, facilitating knowledge translation and supporting specialized infrastructure. The committee will also lead the creation of a five-year strategic plan and review progress on an ongoing basis.

The members of the steering committee represent the U of T divisions and hospital partners that have come together to support EPIC: the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Science, Faculty of Dentistry, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Hospital for Sick Children, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sunnybrook Research Institute, Unity Health Toronto and University Health Network.

Each committee member will serve a two-year term ending in December 2024. Meet our steering committee members below!

John Brumell, PhD

John Brumell completed undergraduate studies at Western University and his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Toronto in 1997. His postdoctoral studies were at Mt. Sinai Hospital and the University of British Columbia. In 2002, Brumell returned to Toronto where he established a laboratory at the Hospital for Sick Children. He is now program head of the cell biology program and a co-director of the SickKids Inflammatory Bowel Disease Centre. In 2014, Brumell was awarded the Pitblado Chair in Cell Biology. His research examines host-pathogen interactions and how defects in these interactions can impact the development of chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and arthritis.

Warren Chan, PhD

Warren Chan is currently a professor and head of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto. He holds the Canada Research Chair in Nanoengineering. He completed his B.Sc. from the University of Illinois in 1996, PhD from Indiana University in 2001 and postdoctoral training at the University of California San Diego. The Chan lab develops nanotechnology for diagnosing and treating cancer and infectious diseases. Some of his awards include the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship (NSERC), Kabiller Young Investigator Award in Nanomedicine (Northwestern University), Rank Prize Fund Award in Optoelectronics (England) and Dennis Gabor Award (Hungary). He is currently an Executive Editor of ACS Nano. 

Jen Gommerman, PhD

Jen Gommerman received her PhD in immunology from the University of Toronto in 1998. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School studying the complement pathway and then joined Biogen Inc. as a staff scientist in 2000. She returned to U of T as an assistant professor in the department of immunology in 2003 and was promoted to full professor in 2015. She holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Specific Immunity. Gommerman’s basic research continues to focus on how members of the TNF superfamily of molecules regulate immunity and autoimmunity. Her team has uncovered a novel gut-brain axis that regulates neuroinflammation. Gommerman has been examining the role of B lymphocytes in multiple sclerosis. More recently she has been studying the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in patients with COVID-19.

David S. Guttman, PhD

David S. Guttman is a professor in the department of cell & systems biology at the University of Toronto and director of the Centre for the Analysis of Genome Evolution & Function. His research focuses on deciphering how bacteria adapt to and manipulate their hosts with an emphasis on the evolution of bacterial host specificity and virulence and the dual role of secreted pathogen effectors as both virulence factors and immune elicitors. His group is particularly fascinated by the scope and impact of natural genetic diversity on these host-microbe interactions.

Jennie Johnstone, MD, PhD

Jennie Johnstone joined Sinai Health in 2018 as an infectious diseases physician and as the medical director of infection prevention and control. She is an associate professor in the department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Johnstone’s research interests focus on prevention of health care-associated infections. She has published than 100 research articles in peer-reviewed journals and has participated widely in the development of clinical guidelines on topics such as COVID-19 and other infection prevention and control topics on behalf of the National Advisory Committee on Infection Prevention and Control for Public Health Agency of Canada, Ontario Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee (PIDAC) and Ontario Health Toronto Region working groups.

Rupert Kaul, MD, PhD

Rupert Kaul completed his clinical training in Infectious Diseases at the University of Toronto and was then a research fellow at the Universities of Nairobi and Oxford for several years. He completed an immunology PhD and returned to the University of Toronto and University Health Network, where he currently serves as the director of the clinical division of infectious diseases and runs a research lab focused on interactions between HIV transmission, genital and rectal immunology, sexually transmitted infections and the microbiome. His translational research is based in participant cohorts from Canada, Kenya and Uganda.

Nelson Lee, MD, MBBS

Nelson Lee is a professor and the interim director of the Institute for Pandemics at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. With his infectious diseases background, Lee as been deeply involved in the research on emerging infectious diseases, epidemics and pandemics for almost two decades. With an interdisciplinary approach, he has conducted a wide range of studies to understand the epidemiology, disease burden, health outcomes, transmission modes and prevention, as well as antiviral and vaccine effectiveness against viral respiratory infections. His research is referenced by international health authorities, contributing to the prevention and control of epidemic viral diseases including coronavirus and influenza.

Céline Lévesque, PhD

Céline Lévesque is an oral microbiologist with a strong expertise in bacterial genetics. She was the recipient of the prestigious Canada Research Chair in Oral Microbial Genetics. Her lab focuses on bacterial communication and horizontal gene transfer in infectious biofilms. Her work has led to important discoveries in the detection of quorum and the formation of persistent bacteria, two subjects of prime importance in medical microbiology and infectious diseases. She has disclosed and filed patent applications for intellectual properties on caries management. She is a very active member of the Institutional Biosafety and Biosecurity Committee at the University of Toronto. 

Sharmistha Mishra, MD, PhD

Sharmistha Mishra is a physician, infectious disease epidemiologist and mathematical modeler. She holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Mathematical Modeling and Program Science. She and her lab develop data-driven mathematical models to disentangle sources of pathogen and network-level heterogeneity in the dynamics of infectious disease transmission, to examine and address population-level causal pathways shaped by systemic drivers of health disparities and to dissect and develop methodological solutions to mitigate biases in inference and forecasting drawn from epidemic modeling and observational studies. Her lab’s research is grounded in front-line public health programs and led in partnership with communities.

Samira Mubareka, MD

Samira Mubareka completed her MD at Dalhousie University and training in internal medicine at McGill University. She specialized in infectious diseases and medical microbiology at the University of Manitoba and went on to a research fellowship at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City. Mubareka is currently a virologist, medical microbiologist and infectious disease physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an associate professor in the department of laboratory medicine and pathobiology at the University of Toronto. Mubareka has been working on SARS-CoV-2 since the outset of the pandemic with a focus on virus biology, bioaerosols, genomics and wildlife surveillance. She is currently focused on understanding the biology and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and on coronavirus and influenza virus zoonotic spillover.

Beate Sander, RN, MBA, MEcDev, PhD

Beate Sander is an internationally recognized leader in infectious disease economics with extensive expertise in health economics and simulation modeling. Sander holds the Canada Research Chair in Economics of Infectious Diseases. She is developing novel approaches to evaluate intersectoral interventions and pioneered research on the burden of infectious diseases in Canada using linked population-based data. Sander has received several awards for research excellence. She contributes substantively to federal/provincial policy decision-making, serving as an expert to advisory bodies, including Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Sander co-chaired the Ontario COVID-19 Modeling Consensus Table and was a member of the Science Advisory Table.

Sharon Walmsley, MD, MSc

Sharon Walmsley is the director of the Immunodeficiency Clinic at Toronto Hospital, University Health Network and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.  She is a senior scientist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute and co-chair of the CIHR-Canadian HIV Trials Network. She is actively involved in the design, conduct and analysis of many clinical trials in HIV, COVID-19 and monkeypox. She is a member of the Order of Canada and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. She received the 2022 YWCA Women of Distinction Award for her work with women living with HIV. In 2022 she became the inaugural Speck Family Chair in Emerging Infections.