Dr. Chris McMaster
Inflammation, Infection & Immunity, Molly Appeal
Targeting genetic mutations:
Dr. Chris McMaster searches for drugs to treat inherited diseases
Different as they are, Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy and a blinding eye disease known as FEVR have two things in common—they are all inherited diseases caused by mutations on specific genes, and they all cause catastrophic damage.
Dr. Chris McMaster and his team have identified genetic mutations that could treat these diseases and now they are hunting for matching drugs that will successfully interfere with or reverse the effects of the mutations.
“We have found a number of small molecules that correct the defects due to mutations for Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy and FEVR,” notes Dr. McMaster, professor and head of the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School. “We’re testing these now in various pre-clinical models, such as zebrafish and mice, to see if they can treat these diseases.”
Dr. McMaster, his team and his collaborators will make extensive use of the ImageStreamX Mark II, a high-powered microscope combined with a high-throughput cell-sorting machine that will allow them to examine the cellular processes that are faulty in the inherited diseases, and how various agents correct the problem to alleviate disease. This equipment is being funded through Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation’s 2018-19 Fall Molly Appeal, which will also fund the Genome Informatics Training Program.
“The pace of genetic discovery is increasing rapidly,” says Dr. McMaster. “Our work will benefit tremendously by involving trainees to combine biology with computer informatics to make sense of the massive volume of data that we generate.”
Dr. McMaster was recently appointed scientific director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Genetics. This is the first time there has been a CIHR institute headed out of Dalhousie. He is also CEO of DeNovaMed, a drug development company that has created the first new generation of antibiotics in decades. The novel antibiotic works by preventing bacteria from producing a cell membrane, causing it to die. The company is preparing to launch the first human trial of the antibiotic soon.