uOttawa's new Canada Research Chairs are driving innovation in health and sustainability

Better healthcare
Research and innovation
Awards and recognition
Faculty of Medicine
Faculty of Science

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

Portraits of uOttawa CRCs 2022-1
Professors Armen Saghatelyan, Zakia Djaoud and Adam Damry.
Three University of Ottawa professors have been awarded Canada Research Chairs (CRC) to support their work in postnatal neurogenesis, host-virus interactions and synthetic biology. These major projects are a testament to uOttawa’s exciting research scene.

“Our researchers are at the forefront of discovery and innovation, and the new CRCs will reinforce the impact of their work in Canada and beyond,” says Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation. “These three research programs hold great potential for addressing key health challenges while promoting sustainable industry.”

Professor Armen Saghatelyan, Canada Research Chair in Postnatal Neurogenesis 

Faculty of Medicine, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 

The discovery of neural stem cells in the brain has opened up exciting possibilities for using the organ’s natural regenerative ability to treat neurodegenerative diseases and brain trauma. But to make stem cell-based therapies a reality, we must understand the complex mechanisms that regulate neural stem cell activity, and the ways new neurons integrate into existing neural networks. 

Professor Armen Saghatelyan’s research program will study the natural process of neuron replacement in the olfactory system of rodents to identify the developmental changes underlying rare neurodevelopmental disorders. 

This research will not only advance our understanding of the brain’s ability to regenerate but also pave the way for strategies to diagnose and treat some of the most devastating neurodevelopmental disorders. 

Professor Zakia Djaoud, Canada Research Chair in Virus-Host Interactions 

Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology 

Dr. Zakia Djaoud is looking to understand how immune cells known as Gamma delta (γδ) T cells can control herpesviruses and cancer cells. Her research focuses on how genetics and patients’ immunological history affect the impact of such cells in combating these diseases.  

Her earlier work has shown the potential for γδ T cells to counter the cancer-promoting Epstein-Barr virus, as well as regulate natural killer cells. Her goal now is to enhance γδ T cell-based therapies for herpesvirus-mediated diseases and cancer. 

She will investigate the γδ T cell repertoire and explore the function of certain surface proteins in γδ T cell immunity against herpesviruses. She will also assess the repopulation of these cells in patients with cancer and herpesvirus infections after they’ve undergone hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This research could lead to promising outcomes in health care and patient well-being across the globe. 

Professor Adam Damry, Canada Research Chair in Synthetic Biology 

Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences 

Professor Adam Damry’s research aims to improve our understanding of how proteins interact with solid surfaces. These interactions are crucial to various applications, including sustainable plastic recycling and the development of biomedical devices.  

By using cutting-edge methods in synthetic biology, Damry and his team will create protein-based tools to sustainably degrade and recycle highly-polluting waste plastics. They will also contribute to cleaner bioindustrial processes and enable the design of novel diagnostic biomedical devices. 

This work will advance our understanding of proteins, enabling us to harness these natural workhorses for societal and technological development. It will also support the creation of industrial and medical tools, with the goal of protecting Canadians’ well-being and contributing to a healthier environment and society.