Conference Speakers

March 6-7th, 2019

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Gregor Reid

Senior project

Dr. Gregor Reid is a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and Surgery at Western University and has an Endowed Chair in the Canadian Centre for Human Microbiome and Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute. He is an inductee into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. He was educated at Glasgow University in Scotland (B.Sc. Hons), Massey University in New Zealand (PhD), Monash University in Australia (MBA), and received an Honorary Doctorate from Orebro University in Sweden. Having been a pioneer of probiotic research and the study of microbes in the urogenital tract of women, his research has expanded to studies of the gut, breast, heart and use of probiotics to detoxify environmental pollutants. He helped set up Western Heads East and other projects in Africa where local ‘yogurt mamas’ produce probiotic yogurt for communities. Dr. Reid has been Chair of the United Nations – World Health Organization Expert Panel and Working Group on Probiotics; and past-President of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. He has received numerous awards, including the 2010 Hellmuth Prize, the highest research honour conferred by Western University, and the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award at Massey University, in 2011. The Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics won the 2011 Dean’s Award of Excellence at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Emma Allen-Vercoe

Head of Platform

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe serves as a scientific advisor to N of One: Autism Research Foundation and is part of N of One’s Microbiome team. Dr. Vercoe is an associate professor at the University of Guelph in Canada. Dr. Vercoe is leader in the human gut microbiome and has led investigations into its role in human disease and autism. Dr. Vercoe is an international lecturer on the microbiome and proponent of the view that the microbiome works together as a community to exist and perform tasks. Dr. Vercoe has an international reputation for being able to culture previously ‘unculturable’ anaerobic microbes in order to better understand their biology. To do this, she developed a model gut system (dubbed ‘Robogut’) to emulate the conditions of the human gut and allow communities of microbes to grow together, as they do naturally and study it as a working ecosystem. While many researchers emphasis the presence of absence of certain species, Dr. Vercoe’s work focuses on the functional metabolic capacity of the community rather than its specific constituents. Dr. Vercoe obtained her BSc (Hons) in biochemistry in 1993 from the University of London, and her PhD in molecular microbiology through an industrial partnership with the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, conferred through the Open University in 1999. She moved her lab and this system to the University of Guelph in late 2007, and has been a recent recipient of the John Evans Leader’s Fund (through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation) that has allowed her to develop her specialist anaerobic fermentation laboratory further. She currently runs a lab of 11 people with projects that are broad in nature, but united under the banner of human microbiome research. These projects include studies of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and in particular comparing the metabolic signatures of whole gut microbial communities from children with severe ASD with those obtained from neurotypical children, looking for molecular signatures of dysbiosis in ASD.

John Bienenstock

Senior project

Dr. John Bienenstock is internationally known as a physician and mucosal immunologist. He trained at King’s College, London and Westminster Hospital, London, U.K. He holds the title of Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University, an Honorary MD (Goteborg, Sweden), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Member of the Order of Canada and is an inductee into The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. He is the Founding Director of the McMaster Brain-Body Institute at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, a former Chair of Pathology and subsequently Dean and Vice-President of the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University. He has made significant contributions in medical and microbiome research. Among these are: Mucosal immunology; neuroimmunology; mast cells, and psychoneuroimmunology. Bienenstock pioneered the concept of the common mucosal system. The common mucosal system is the means by which the body’s different mucosal surfaces, such as the gut, the respiratory tract and the reproduction system, share information to fight infection. Working with Robert Clancy in 1972, Bienenstock’s team demonstrated that communication between the different mucosal surfaces was facilitated by lymphocytes from structures called Peyer’s patches located in the wall of the small intestine. Vaccines taken by mouth directly reach Peyer’s patch cells and induce immunity throughout the entire mucosal system. Bienenstock is one of McMaster’s most cited researchers, having written and published more than 500 peer-reviewed articles and other publications. He served as Dean of Health Sciences and Vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster, and Chair of the Council of Ontario Faculties of Medicine. In 1998 he was appointed to the scientific advisory board of International Medical Innovations Inc., which is now known as PreMD Inc., a Canadian company working with McMaster University, and specializing in predictive medicine. His current projects include: functional role of mucosal mast cells; mechanisms of action of commensal bacteria in models of asthma, colitis and visceral pain; effects of commensal bacteria on cognition and behaviour; neuroimmune mechanisms.

Dragana Sunjic

Head of Platform

Dragana Skokovic–Sunjic is a Clinical Pharmacist with Hamilton Family Health Team and NAMS Certified Menopause Practitioner. She is a leader in knowledge mobilization for probiotics in Canada and United States, translating scientific research in this field, she authored “Clinical Guide to Probiotic Supplements Available in Canada” and “Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products Available in the US”. This practical clinical tool is independently reviewed and updated yearly in order to reflect the latest evidence and include new probiotic products on Canadian and US market. In 2003, Dragana attained certification as Menopause Practitioner with North American Menopause Society (NAMS). In 2008 she received Wyeth Apothecary Award for Specialty Practice, awarded by the Ontario Pharmacists Association to a pharmacist who has completed specialty education or training and as a result has successfully expanded his or her professional practice. She is actively involved as a Planning Committee and Board Member with the Canadian Menopause Society (SIGMA), presently working on the 2018 IMS World Congress preparation in Vancouver. Her work in the field of women’s health and probiotic influence on microbiome has been presented at International Menopause Society World Congress (Prague, Czech Republic, Sept 2016) and North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting (Orlando, FL, Oct 2016), and published in their respective scientific journals.

Kjersti Aagaard

Senior project

Dr. Kjersti Aagaard is the Henry and Emma Meyer Professor in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine, where she serves as Vice Chair. She received her MD & PhD from the University of Minnesota/Mayo Clinic. Following her resident training at the University of Minnesota and MFM fellowship at the University of Utah, she joined the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Aagaard carries joint appointments in Molecular and Human Genetics, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Translational Biology and Molecular Medicine program, and Molecular and Cellular Biology. She is a member of the Center for Reproductive Medicine, Digestive Disease Center, Eisenberg Center for Decision Sciences, the Center for Microbiome and Metagenomics Research, and the School for Tropical Medicine. She is a co-Director in the MSTP MD PhD program, and actively mentors in her laboratory and clinical research programs over 20 graduate students, post doctoral fellows, clinical fellows, and junior faculty. Dr. Aagaard has worked globally for many years, and has focused on preterm birth in Malawi since 2011. She received the NIH Directors New Innovator Award in 2007, and the Michael Debakey Medal for Research Excellence in 2015. Dr. Aagaard’s highly collaborative laboratory and clinical research teams are dedicated to discovering the genomic, epigenomic, and metagenomic mechanisms underlying perinatal health and disease. Her lab’s interest and publications in this arena date back to 2004 and have evolved into clinical and translational research in murine, nonhuman primate, and human studies. There are currently four major focuses in the Aagaard laboratory: (1) the effect of in utero exposures on the fetal epigenome, (2) understanding the genomic and epigenomic mechanisms involved in perinatal disorders and notably the developmental origins of adult metabolic disease, (3) understanding the role of the microbiome in perinatal health with metagenomic interrogations, and (4) understanding mechanisms of emerging infectious diseases such as Zika virus. Since receipt of her first K12 in 2005 as a MFM fellow, Dr. Aagaard has been continuously funded by NIH (NICHD, NIDDK, NIGMS and the Office of the Director), Burroughs Welcome Fund Preterm Birth Initiative, March of Dimes, and most recently the Gates Foundation/USAIDS and the Thrasher Foundation. Her research group focuses on relevant perinatal translational research, notably with “big team science” and highly collaborative multi-site and center approaches. They collectively aim to continue to function as a translational research environment for biologic and informatics investigators together to interact in a transdisciplinary manner, and bring to light highly relevant clinical questions with discovery and mechanistic science.

Deborah Sloboda

Head of Platform

Dr. Deborah Sloboda is a fetal physiologist. She completed her BSc at the University of Guelph, her MSc at Western University in London and her PhD in the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto focusing on the effects of stress hormones during pregnancy on fetal development. In 2001 she received a fellowship from the Women’s and Infants’ Research Foundation at the University of Western Australia, where she spent 5 years completing her postdoctoral fellowship while opening new molecular research laboratories and taking on an administrative role as Lab Head. Here she was responsible for undertaking scientific research but also building and managing the Department’s wet lab facilities. In Australia, Dr Sloboda continued her investigations in fetal endocrine development and established a new research interest involving a prospective cohort study investigating the prenatal origins of reproductive function and the onset of puberty in adolescent girls. In 2006 Dr Sloboda was recruited to the Liggins Research Institute at the University of Auckland where she investigated the effects of early life nutrition on reproductive and metabolic health. In 2009 she was awarded an Early Career Research Award from the University of Auckland. In 2012, Dr Sloboda joined the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University as an Associate Professor. She is an Associate member to the Depts of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics. Dr Sloboda continues to be an Honorary Research Fellow Appointment at the Liggins Institute in New Zealand, where she maintains collaborations. Dr Sloboda holds a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Perinatal Programming. She was recently awarded the International Society of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease Nick Hales Award for outstanding research contribution to developmental programming, and in 2017 won the Hamilton YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in Science Trade, and Technology. Dr Sloboda is the founding co-President of the DOHaD Society of Canada, and has been the Secretary of the International Society for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease since 2013. She is an Associate Editor for the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. She has published >90 scientific papers in leading scientific journals and contributed to 13 books on the concept of early life origins of health and disease.

Mary Sharpe

Senior project

Mary Sharpe served as director of Ryerson University’s Midwifery Education Program (MEP) for five years ending in the 2014-15 academic year. She started as lecturer in the MEP in 1994 and became an Assistant Professor in 2002, and then an Associate Professor. Mary’s Masters thesis examined the transition of midwifery to a regulated field in Ontario through the eyes of practicing midwives. It focused on midwives who practiced during the pre-regulation period and captured their impressions of the changing landscape. Mary’s primary research interest focuses on impediments that disturb the normal spontaneous birth process. Related to this is her keen interest in the relationships between women and their midwives, (her PhD dissertation) home births, exploring mindful midwifery practice and the phenomenon of GBS colonization. She was among the pioneers in the renaissance of midwifery in Ontario leading to its regulation in 1994. She has more than 35 years experience in the field and was one of the founders of the Riverdale Community Midwives practice. Mary has held many leadership roles, including chair of the Canadian Association of Midwifery Educators Accreditation Working Group and peer reviewer for the Canadian Journal of Midwifery Research and Practice and in 2017 was the inaugural recipient of the Janice Waddell Faculty and Staff Collegiality Award at Ryerson University.

Deborah Money

Head of Platform

Dr. Deborah Money is the Executive Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and is a Professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medicine, and the School of Population and Public Health. She is a subspecialist in Reproductive Infectious Diseases and immediate past-Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute (WHRI) and Past Vice President Research of BC Women’s Hospital. Dr. Money was trained with a BSc in Microbiology, and an MD at UBC followed by her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology, also at UBC. She did a clinical and research Fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Washington, and returned to UBC as the first individual in Canada with this combined training. Dr. Money has developed a translational research program in Reproductive Infectious Diseases with research focused on three major areas: HIV in pregnancy, Human papilloma virus (HPV), and the prevention of cervical cancer; and is leading a Canadian (CIHR/GenomeBC) human microbiome project to understand the role of the vaginal microbiome in health and disease. As such she has published over 170 peer reviewed publications and received over $24M in peer reviewed research awards. She established the first training program in Reproductive Infectious Diseases in Canada, and she has trained/mentored 6 individuals who are now leaders in academic centres across Canada working as a network of experts supporting clinical care guidelines, education and research in this sub-speciality. She was honoured to be the first non-US President (2010-2012) of the Infectious Diseases Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (IDSOG), a 45 year old, US based, academic society. In 2013 she was awarded the Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology (SOGC) Western Regional Award for achievement, the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. She was awarded the Women’s Health Research Institute Career Award for Excellence in Research in 2017.

Greg Gloor

Senior project

Greg Gloor is a professor of biochemistry with broad experience in molecular biology, genetics and genomics. Most recently, he has developed tools to investigate fundamentals of molecular evolution, microbial ecology and meta-transcriptomics. He is currently working on developing and adapting principled methods to characterize correlation and differential abundance in sparse, high throughput sequencing data as generated in 16S rRNA gene sequencing surveys, meta-genomics and meta-transcriptomics. He is the developer and maintainer of the ALDEx2 R package on Bioconductor. Greg has experience in both wet-lab and computational biology, ranging from bacteriophage molecular biology to Drosophila genetics to bacterial genomics and computational biology. His lab investigates and characterizes the functional makeup of complex microbial systems using high-throughput sequencing and other approaches. He is trying to alter the perception that sequencing is counting. The Gloor lab want experimentalists to understand that sequencing is a probabilistic sample of the underlying environment, and that the resulting data can be manipulated using the methods developed for compositional data analysis.D

Michael Surette

Head of Platform

Michael Surette’s Laboratory’s primary area of research investigates the role of normal flora-pathogen interactions in health and disease in the area of respiratory infections with a focus in cystic fibrosis. A polymicrobial perspective on these infections has lead to identification of overlooked pathogens in airway disease as well as synergistic interactions between avirulent organisms and pathogens. This is a fundamentally different view of airway infections and has lead to direct benefits to patients through altered treatment strategies. Mike Surette has been elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology. The Academy, the honorific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology, recognizes excellence, originality, and leadership in the microbiological sciences, and his election to this group is a mark of distinction.Dr.

Ruben Hummelen

Senior project

Ruben Hummelen has the privilege to work in North-Western Ontario, Canada, delivering healthcare to 33 remote fly-in communities with a team of generalist working for the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. His practice involves obstetrics, hospitalist medicine, emergency medicine and addiction care. In addition, he works as a primary care researcher, focusing on improvements in maternal-child outcomes. He earned his medical degree at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. During his medical training he completed a PhD focusing on the microbiome of women living with HIV. His research took place in Tanzania in collaboration with Western University, Ontario, Canada. Living in the most stunning place in the world he also enjoys fat biking, cross country skiing, sailing and swimming in the land of a thousand lakes.

Jessica ter Haar (Younes)

Head of Platform

Jessica ter Haar (Younes) is a Microbiome Science Liaison at Winclove Probiotics, Amsterdam and the founder of this conference. She combines expertise in the female microbiomes and probiotics with a strong personal interest in vulnerable patient populations. The microbiome must become accessible and understandable for healthcare professionals and she is convinced that one way to accomplish this is to facilitate awareness and communication of high quality research between scientific academic, medical and industry stakeholders. Coming from a large family of all girls, she is naturally passionate about the importance of microbes in women’s health and will continue to dedicate her career to helping to drive change. Jessica has a PhD from the University of Groningen (Netherlands) focused on biophysical interactions between microorganisms within the vaginal niche. Additionally, she holds a Masters in Nutrition and Nutraceutical Sciences from the University of Guelph (Guelph, Canada) and a bachelor in Kinesiology (York University, Toronto, Canada).

Janet Hill

Janet Hill has a background in Biology and Microbiology. Her PhD research was in baculovirus (insect virus) pathogenesis. She did postdoctoral work in plant virology (geminivirus movement) and molecular parasitology (Trypanosoma cruzi pathogenesis) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Hill’s next step was to work as a research scientist at the National Research Council of Canada Plant Biotechnology Institute, developing cpnDB and cpn60 sequence-based methods for microbial ecology and diagnostics. She became a faculty member in Veterinary Microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan in January 2006. Her research interests include microbial ecology, livestock and human disease, phylogenetics and taxonomy, molecular diagnostics, and the development of cpnDB, a chaperonin sequence database.