Researchers

EPIC has unique pre-clinical capacity research capacity to support fundamental discovery through translational research with national and global impact across the entire continuum of pandemic response. Consequently, EPIC is rivalled only by a handful of initiatives around the globe in its ability to support world-class interdisciplinary research and the training of the next generation of infectious disease research leaders.

 

Prof. Cowen holds the Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease. Her research spans fundamental biology through to preclinical drug development, and includes the pioneering of chemical genomic approaches to map genetic interaction networks important for virulence in fungal pathogens. Her laboratory takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand what allows some microbes to exploit the host and cause disease, and to develop new strategies to treat life-threatening infectious disease. Prof. Cowen has cultivated an international network of excellence as Co-Director of the CIFAR Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities program, and is a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Bright Angel Therapeutics, which leverages innovative technologies to develop novel antifungals. 

Slava Epelman 

Assistant Professor, Medicine, Immunology, and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology 

Clinician Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network 

Prof. Epelman’s research centres on defining mechanisms of cardiac tissue injury and repair. His group mainly investigates the role of myeloid cells (i.e., macrophages and dendritic cells) in the myocardium during the normal state, and tissue injury using pre-clinical models and human samples with mouse genetic approaches and single cell-RNA sequencing technology. His group focuses on viral cardiac injury — including SARS-CoV-2 — in mouse and hamster models, and also the intersection of viral injury with other cardiac risk factors such as ischemic cardiac injury, hypertension, etc. 

Prof. Farnood’s research interests include disinfection of surfaces contaminated by COVID-19, understanding the role of suspended particles for harbouring pathogens in water, and high-rate processes for water treatment (ultraviolet disinfection, advanced oxidation and membrane filtration). Prior to joining U of T, he held industry research positions at Paprican, Abitibi-Price, and Trojan Technologies. He has led several large research programs including the Surface Science Consortium at U of T, and theme leader under the NSERC Strategic Network on Green Wood-Fibre Materials. 

Scott Gray-Owen 

Director, Emerging and Pandemic Infections Consortium (EPIC) 

Professor, Molecular Genetics

Professor Gray-Owen has been Director of U of T’s Combined Containment Level 3 Unit (C-CL3) for more than a decade, providing regulatory and research oversight. He was awarded the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities’ 2020 Award of Excellence to recognize his leadership in the pandemic research response. Prof. Gray-Owen’s infectious disease-focused research aims to understand molecular and immunologic interactions that govern immunity and immunopathogenesis by bacterial and viral pathogens, with projects ranging from genome-wide systems-based studies to the analysis of clinical specimens from infected patients. He leads national and international research consortiums, has consulted for biotechnology and vaccine companies, research foundations and public health agencies, and sat on national and international infection-focused panels. Prof. Gray-Owen is an inventor on 21 patents and co-founded Engineered Antigens Inc., focused on protein structure-based design of vaccine immunogens targeting human and livestock pathogens. 

Anne-Claude Gingras 

Professor, Molecular Genetics 

Senior Investigator, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute 

Dr. Gingras is an expert in mass spectrometry-based proteomics, a technology that enables the identification and quantification of proteins from biological samples. Her lab tackles broad studies on cell regulatory mechanisms, including somatic cell reprogramming and splicing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Gingras turned to studying the interactome in the context of SARS-CoV-2 infected cells as well as developing standardized diagnostic assays that are used nationally in the study of COVID-19. Dr. Gingras is the lead for the Functional Genomics Pillar of the newly established CIHR network for Variants of Concern (CoVaRR-Net).

Jean-Philippe Julien 

Professor, Biochemistry and Immunology 

Senior Scientist, SickKids Research Institute, The Hospital for Sick Children 

Prof. Julien holds the Canada Research Chair in Structural Immunology, and is a Member of the College of the Royal Society of Canada and a CIFAR Global Scholar. He has broad experience in characterizing antibody-antigen interactions using biophysical and molecular biology methods. Prof. Julien is a leader in the development of innovative antibody therapeutics and vaccines from molecular blueprints, including recent success targeting SARS-CoV-2, HIV-1 and malaria, and helps to coordinate EPIC’s vaccine and immunotherapy approaches. 

Prof. Mubareka has a long-standing focus on understanding transmission of viral infections. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Prof. Mubareka and her colleagues isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus from one of the first Canadian patients, in the C-CL3 in vitro lab. They have since isolated SARS-CoV-2 from 21 patients and become the principal source of SARS-CoV-2 for many academic CL3 labs in Canada. Prof. Mubareka serves on the Chief Science Advisor of Canada’s COVID-19 Panel, the Ontario Science Table, and has contributed to national guidelines for the management of acute respiratory viral infection. Her experience with ferret and rodent viral infection and respiratory transmission models, management of COVID-19 patients and public health leadership provide a solid foundation for EPIC’s focus on research and translation. 

Dr. Ostrowski’s is a lead investigator in the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network. His research program at the University of Toronto is investigating the mechanisms of chronic persistence of human viral infections like HIV or HCV within their hosts, from an immunologic perspective, as well as developing novel strategies to aid in vaccine design to enhance cellular immunity to persistent viruses. He is also interested in the role of new immunotherapies in HIV and HCV infection, immunodeficiency, and infectious diseases.

Milica Radisic 

Professor, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry 

Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network 

Prof. Radisic holds the Canada Research Chair in Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering. Her research program includes projects in cardiac tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. In particular, she is focused on molecular mechanisms governing the formation of contractile cardiac tissue in vitro, and on practical strategies for treatment of myocardial infarction and heart failure through development of new biomaterials. 

Haibo Zhang 

Professor, Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, Physiology, and Medicine 

Staff Scientist, St. Michael’s Hospital, Unity Health Toronto 

Prof. Zhang studies the mechanisms and therapy of acute lung injury and sepsis. He is a driving force in the discovery of ventilator-induced lung fibrosis, which is a key factor previously overlooked as a cause of high mortality in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and the poor quality of life of ARDS survivors. His bioengineering program uses human lung bud organoids for lung repair and regeneration, and he is a leader in the field of lung infection and immunity with a focus on discovering drugs to treat infectious lung disease. His respiratory critical care research and translational excellence anchor EPIC’s efforts to understand the mechanisms and impact of SARS-CoV-2, from multiple organ dysfunction and sex-bias clinical presentation to outcomes and development of therapies that increase survival.