LEAH E. COWEN, Ph.D.
I pursued my doctoral research with Jim Anderson and Linda Kohn at the University of Toronto focused on the genomic architecture of adaptation to antifungal drugs. As a postdoctoral fellow with Susan Lindquist at the Whitehead Institute, I then investigated how the molecular chaperone Hsp90 impacts on fungal evolution and phenotypic diversity. Since 2007, I have been a Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics and Infectious Disease in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. My research has been recognized with a myriad of awards including a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, a Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award, an E. W. R. Steacie Award from the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council, a Ministry of Research and Innovation Early Researcher Award, and a Grand Challenges Canada Star in Global Health Award.
LUKE WHITESELL, M.D.
I am a pediatric oncologist and senior research associate within Leah Cowen’s lab where I help guide translational drug discovery and development efforts. As a clinician, I was involved in the development of new cancer treatments for well over two decades and the care of many children with invasive fungal infections. The experience made me acutely aware of the need for better antifungal treatments and the specific gaps that need to be filled. I am convinced that new, more effective and resistance-disfavoring treatments can only be discovered and developed through a better understanding of the mechanisms by which fungi are able to infect people and grow within them. I joined the Cowen lab in late 2017 to help decipher these mechanisms and bring much needed new antifungals to clinical testing.
I graduated from Harvard College in 1979 with an A.B. in Biology. After graduate work in pharmacology at Cambridge University, I completed medical training at Johns Hopkins University and a pediatric residency at Boston Children’s Hospital. I did fellowship training at the National Cancer Institute before joining the faculty of the University of Arizona in 1994. After achieving the rank of Professor, I left Arizona to join the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, MA where Leah and I first met and began our now more than decade long collaborative efforts.
NICOLE ROBBINS, Ph.D.
I pursued my doctoral research here in the Cowen lab from 2007-2012 where I focused on mechanisms by which the molecular chaperone Hsp90 governed fungal drug resistance in C. albicans. I then worked as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Gerry Wright where I used high-throughput screening methodologies to look for novel compound combinations with efficacy against diverse fungal pathogens. I am thrilled to be back in the Cowen lab as a Senior Research Associate where I am involved in many lab projects that aim to provide a global view of the circuitry in fungal pathogens that governs drug resistance, morphogenesis and virulence.
SEAN LISTON, Ph.D.
I completed my doctoral research in Dr. Chris Whitfield’s lab, at the University of Guelph, after completing a B.Sc. in Biochemistry. There, I studied the assembly of polysaccharide capsules in bacteria using biochemical, structural, and molecular biology-based approaches. I joined the Cowen Lab in 2018 as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow. My interests lie in identifying glycoconjugates that participate in the structure and assembly of the fungal cell wall. These Glyco-structures are critical mediators of fungal virulence; I therefore aim to apply functional and chemical genetics methods to characterise their assembly machinery and explore small molecule inhibitors to these potential antifungal targets.
ZHONGLE LIU, Ph.D.
I completed my PhD in Biochemistry at Dartmouth College studying function of the Mediator complex. Mentored by Dr. Larry Myers, I investigated how Mediator interacts with chromatin and its role in regulating drug resistance and morphogenesis in multiple fungal species. I joined the Cowen lab in August 2018, and am working on developing fungal selective mitochondria inhibitors and understanding transcription networks underlying mitochondria-nuclear communication in Candida albicans.
CI FU, Ph.D.
I completed my PhD in Dr. Stephen J Free’s laboratory at SUNY at Buffalo where I studied cell fusion, cell wall biosynthesis, and female development in the model filamentous fungus Neurospora crassa. I then joined Dr. Joseph Heitman’s laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow studying the molecular mechanisms underlying unisexual reproduction in the human fungal pathogen Cryptococcus deneoformans. Following which, I joined the Cowen lab in 2020 and continued my postdoctoral training in exploring fungal essential genes utilizing functional genomic and classical genetic approaches.
DUSTIN DUNCAN, Ph.D.
I pursued my PhD in Chemistry at McGill University developing and synthesizing antimicrobial agents that sensitize bacteria to the immune system under the supervision of Prof. Karine Auclair. I synthesized numerous compounds that resensitized Salmonella enterica Typhimurium to the macrophage metabolite itaconate for which it is intrinsically resistant, and further described media conditions suitable to address the antimicrobial effects of itaconate. I joined the Cowen lab in January 2021 and am working on developing fungal selective mitochondria inhibitors, the discovery, mechanistic elucidation, and development of novel bio-active compounds in the context of antifungal therapies, and serving as an in-house Chemistry consultant.
HARLEY MOUNT, Ph.D.
I started my scientific career in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto over a decade ago. In 2012 I pursued an honours Bachelor of Science as a molecular genetics specialist and performed an independent undergraduate research project under Leah’s mentorship. I successfully graduated with high distinction and a first-author publication highlighting my undergraduate research into antifungal resistance. I then pursued my Ph.D. guided by Dr. Alexander Ensminger within the same department. During my graduate work, I performed high-throughput proteomics to investigate the virulence protein interactome of Legionella pneumophila. I also characterized and linked a novel eukaryotic mRNA decay factor to a previously uncharacterized virulence protein. I re-joined the Cowen Lab in 2022 after completing my graduate work. I am currently assisting in the discovery and characterization of novel antifungal compounds that target critical stress-response machinery.
BRADLEY LAFLAMME, Ph.D.
SAIF HOSSAIN, HBSc
I completed my Honours BSc in Biochemistry and Health and Disease at the University of Toronto. During this time, I worked for Dr. Marc Meneghini where I explored the mechanism of programmed cell death in sporulating Saccharocymes cerevisiae. I also worked in the lab of Dr. Justin Nodwell where my work focused on elucidation of a signal transduction pathway that activates secondary metabolism in Streptomyces coelicolor. I joined the Cowen lab in January 2017 and I am focused on investigating genetic circuitry involving mitochondria and cell cycle regulators in governing morphogenesis in the pathogenic fungus Candida albicans.
JESSIE MacALPINE, HBSc
While investigating novel antimalarial therapeutics in the Kain lab at the University of Toronto, I became fascinated with the field of microbiology in high school. I decided to pursue my Honours BSc in Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, where I completed my undergraduate thesis in the Cowen lab, focusing on both host-pathogen and inter-kingdom interactions in the context of fungal pathogenesis. I decided to stay with the Cowen lab to pursue my graduate studies, and am continuing to dissect the mechanisms underlying the interactions between bacterial and fungal species in health and disease.
EMILY PUUMALA, MBiol
I completed my integrated Master’s degree at Durham University’s Department of Biosciences in Durham, UK. My research focused on the structural and functional properties of Rap, a bacteriophage lambda Holliday junction resolvase, as a member of Dr. Gary Sharples’ research group. Now pursuing my PhD at the University of Toronto, I joined the Cowen lab in late 2018 where I am currently identifying and investigating novel antifungal compounds to combat drug resistance in the emerging pathogen, Candida auris.
YUN JIN (RACHEL) LEE, BSc
I completed my undergraduate degree in Honours Biology at McMaster University. For my senior thesis project in Dr. Ana Campos’ lab, I screened a library of protein kinase inhibitors to identify novel regulators and signaling pathways underlying Hydra regeneration. This piqued my interest in the use of chemical biology strategies to unravel complex biological mechanisms. After learning about the devastating impact of fungal pathogens, I wanted to be actively involved in researching new therapeutic strategies and understanding the mechanisms of antifungal drug resistance. I joined Dr. Leah Cowen’s lab in December 2018, and I am currently part of the chemical biology team. My research involves identifying and investigating the mechanisms of novel antifungal compounds that possess activity against Candida albicans.
NIKKI CASE, HBSc
I completed an Honours BSc in Biochemistry at Western University, where my senior thesis project in Dr. Murray Junop’s lab focused on dissecting the dual roles of a DNA repair nuclease using Saccharomyces cerevisiae. I joined the Department of Molecular Genetics in September of 2018 and was floored by the incredible and exciting research being performed in the Cowen lab. I am delighted to now be a part of this ongoing research that focuses on strategies to combat fungal disease with my project focusing on the dynamic interplay between Candida albicans interactions with the host-immune cells.
EMMA LASH, HBSc
I completed my Honours B.Sc. in Biology at Queen’s University. I have always had a strong interest in microbiology and have pursued diverse research in the field, ranging from exploring the relationship between duckweed plants and their bacterial symbionts to investigating Listeria monocytogenes virulence factors. I joined the Department of Molecular Genetics in September 2019 and my rotation with the Cowen lab exposed me to the devastating but fascinating world of fungal pathogens. As part of the functional genomics team, my research focuses on elucidating the genetic mechanisms underlying high temperature induced morphogenesis in Candida albicans.
EMILY XIONG, HBMSc
I completed an Honours BMSc in Interdisciplinary Medial Sciences at Western University. With Dr. Martin McGavin’s group, I studied the impact of host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions on Staphylococcus aureus virulence and resistance within cystic fibrosis airways. I joined the Cowen lab to pursue my MSc in September of 2020. My research utilizes high-throughput functional genomics approaches to define essential gene sets for Candida albicans in diverse host-relevant conditions.
Kali Iyer. PhD in Cowen Lab (2017-2021). Associate Science & Strategy Consultant | Sixsense Strategy Group.
Nicole Revie. PhD in Cowen Lab (2017-2021). Consultant | Shift Health.
Alice Xue. MSc in Cowen Lab (2019-2021). Associate Medical Writer | Complete HealthVizion.
Antonia DuBois. MSc in Cowen Lab (2020-2022).
Sabrina Hyde. MSc in Cowen Lab (2017-2019). Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy Masters in Public Policy.
Amanda Veri. PhD in Cowen lab (2012-2018). Research Associate (2018-2020). Lead, Research Training Program, Office of Research Trainees, University Health Network.
Elizabeth Polvi. PhD in Cowen lab (2012-2018). Research Associate (2018-2020). Instructor, Biological Sciences, University of Alberta.
Sang Hu (David) Kim. PhD in Cowen lab (2012-2018). Mitacs International Accelerate with Boragen Inc. and the University of Toronto.
Kwama Duaah. Master's in Cowen lab (2015-2018). Research Assistant at the University of Toronto. Science & Strategy Project Analyst at Sixsense Strategy Group.
Tanvi Shekhar-Guturja (2010-2016). PhD in Cowen lab. Mitacs Accelerate with Bright Angel Therapeutics Inc. and the University of Toronto.
Tavia Caplan. Master's in Cowen lab (2015-2018). Executive Director, Banting Research Foundation.
Jing Lin (Lucy) Xie. PhD in Cowen lab (2011-2016). Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford.
Xinliu (Angel) Li. Master's in Cowen lab (2014-2016). Research Technologist at Mount Sinai.
Jason Tjia, M.Sc. Master's in Cowen lab (2014-2016).
Jessica Hill, Ph.D. Doctoral work in Cowen lab (2009-2014). Teaching Stream Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto.
Nicole Robbins, Ph.D. Doctoral work in Cowen lab (2008-2012). Senior Research Associate at the University of Toronto.
Rebecca Shapiro, Ph.D. Doctoral work in Cowen lab (2008-2012). Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Broad Institute. Assistant Professor at the University of Guelph.
Sheena Singh-Babak, Ph.D. Doctoral work in Cowen lab (2007-2011). Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at UCSF.
Shantelle LaFayette, M.Sc. Master's in Cowen lab (2008-2010). Doctoral Student at McGill University.
Heather Senn, M.Sc., M.D. Master's in Cowen lab (2009-2010). Medical Student at the University of Toronto.
Tanvi Shekhar-Guturka, Ph.D. Doctoral work in Cowen lab (2010-2016) . Medical Writer, Sixthsense Strategy Group.
Emmanuelle LeBlanc, M.Sc. Master's in Cowen Lab (2018-2020). MD-PhD Student at Queen's University.
Denny Chin, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow in Cowen Lab (2022). Microbiology Research Scientist at Corteva | Bacterial Therapeutics | Translational Research.
Teresa O’Meara, Ph.D. NIH NRSA Postdoctoral Fellow in Cowen lab (2013-2019). Assistant Professor, University of Michigan.
Stephanie Diezmann, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellowship in Cowen lab (2009-2013). Lecturer, University of Bristol.
Michelle Leach, Ph.D. Wellcome Trust Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow in Cowen lab (2012-2017).
Cathy Collins, B.Sc. Technician (2007-2020).
Sarah Campbell, Ph.D. Research Associate (2018-2021).
Jaideep Mallick, Ph.D. Research Associate (2018-2019).
Sara Shariati. Summer Student. 2021-2022.
Miaoxi Liu. Summer Student. 2022.
Isabel Sternthal. Summer Student. 2022.
Mahrukh Fatima. Summer Student. 2022.
Clara Hick. NSERC USRA Summer Student. 2021.
Ayni Sharif. AMGEN Scholar Summer Student. 2019.
Dongyeob (Peter) Lee. Summer Student. 2019.
Madeline Beer. NSERC USRA Summer Student. 2019.
Yanzhi Feng. International Summer Student Scholar. 2019.
Jiaming (Patrick) Du. Summer Student. 2019.
Fawziyah Nabeelah. Summer Student. 2019.
Wanlin He. International Summer Student. 2018.
Levon Tokmakjian. PCL472 Thesis Project Student. 2017.
Honghao Ma. International Summer Student. 2017.
Shoshana Buckhalter. Summer Student. 2017.
Timothy Doyle. Summer Student. 2017.
Harley Mount. NSERC USRA Student, MGY480 Thesis Project Student. 2013-2015.
Juan Colazo. Molecular Genetics Summer Scholar. 2016.
Trevor Sless. Life Sciences Summer Project Student and Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (MGY480). 2014-2015.
Erin Wong. Life Sciences Summer Project Student and Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (MGY480). 2013-2014.
Kristi Papamihali. DTL Undergraduate Summer Project Student and Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (HMB499). 2013-2014.
Kaitlin Anstett. NSERC USRA and Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (MGY480). 2012-2013.
Fereshteh Valaei. UTEA Undergraduate Summer Project Student and Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (BIOD99Y3). 2012-2013.
Gilvonette Lages. Science Without Borders Undergraduate Summer Project Student. 2013.
Carly Weiss. Undergraduate Summer Project Student. 2011.
Meirui Li. Undergraduate Summer Project Student. 2011.
Danielle Sexton. Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (HMB499Y) 2010-2011.
Daniel Merritt. Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (MGY480). 2010-2011.
Janine Gabriel. Undergraduate NSERC USRA. 2010.
Jess Morhayim. Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (MGY480). 2007-2008.
Kathleen Turner. Undergraduate Thesis Project Student (HMB499Y1). 2007-2008.