LSI Postdoctoral Researchers awarded the CIHR REDI Early Career Transition Award

Two LSI postdocs were recipients of the prestigious CIHR Research Excellence, Diversity, and Independence (REDI) award that aims to support post-doctoral researchers, clinicians, and research associates belonging to specific underrepresented groups in Canada as they embark on their journey toward establishing research faculty careers. By addressing training and support gaps and fostering diversity, this program not only enriches our research landscape but also contributes to the creation and utilization of health-related knowledge to enhance the well-being of Canadians.

Dr. Henok A. Sahile
Repurposing Histamine Receptor 1 (HR1) blockers for host directed therapy of tuberculosis.

Research Focus
My current research focus lies in the area of discovering novel antimicrobial drugs, with a major emphasis on developing Host-Directed Therapies (HDT) for combating tuberculosis (TB). Tuberculosis, caused by M. tuberculosis (Mtb), is the leading cause of death among infectious diseases. My particular interest is to repurpose the commonly used antiallergen drugs, specifically antihistamine drugs, for use against TB in combination with other antibiotics. This research hypothesis stems from my initial findings indicating that an FDA-approved drug, functioning by inhibiting the histamine receptor 1 (HR1) on macrophages—the primary defense cells in Mtb infection—can restrict the growth and replication of intracellular Mtb without directly targeting the bacteria. Together with other colleagues, I also conducted further investigations to confirm HR1 as a valid drug target for HDT in TB. Utilizing various medicinal chemistry tools, my goal is to refine the chemical structure of the identified drug, aiming to enhance its potency and minimize off-target effects that contribute to adverse reactions. The development of an HDT with a novel mode of action, when used alongside existing antibiotics, is expected to revolutionize the existing TB treatment approaches by reducing the excessively prolonged treatment duration and boosting the efficacy of existing drugs against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

On Receiving the Award
Receiving this award fills me with great joy and a profound sense of honor. It holds great significance for me as it signifies a major step towards fulfilling my long dream of becoming a drug discovery scientist and embarking on independent research in the field of antimicrobial drug development. Growing up in a resource-constrained environment, I witnessed firsthand the suffering caused by infectious diseases, notably tuberculosis and malaria. It was during these formative years that I developed a deep-seated desire to contribute positively to my community by pursuing a career in drug discovery. The journey to realizing my dream has been very long, marked by numerous challenges. However, the CIHR REDI Early Career Transition Award presents an ideal opportunity to finally turn my dream into reality. Beyond facilitating my transition to an independent researcher, this award also enables me to serve as a beacon of hope for aspiring young individuals from underrepresented backgrounds who face similar obstacles on their journey towards scientific excellence. My hope is to inspire future generations of scientists and make a meaningful impact in the area of drug discovery.

Dr. Miffy Hok Yan Cheng
Rational design of more potent lipid nanoparticle mRNA therapeutics.

Research Focus
My research is driven by a desire to improve outcomes for patients by developing safer and more effective nano-sized agents for cancer imaging, phototherapies, and gene therapies. My current research aims to address the delivery limitations in gene therapy through a holistic approach, establishing a structure-activity relationship between lipid nanoparticles and gene expression. I believe lipid nanoparticles hold significant potential as a delivery vehicle for various disease-specific RNA therapeutic platforms. I hope my research program can enable a better understanding of the LNP carrier and its RNA cargos, and further contribute to advancing the academic and industrial development of the next generation of vaccines and therapeutics.

On Receiving the Award
I feel honored and excited to have received the CIHR Research Excellence, Diversity, and Independence (REDI) Early Career Transition Award. This award recognizes the diversity and research excellence of health science researchers. Being a recipient of this award has provided me with the opportunity and support needed to transition into an independent research career. I am incredibly grateful for the abundant support from my mentors, and being part of the CIHR REDI program has given me funding security and the flexibility to achieve research independence at a Canadian institution, but also the opportunity to establish my academic network through webinars and meetings.