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Biological Sciences

Dr. David Andrews holding a microplane

Researchers in the biological sciences platform at Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) aim to understand the functions and interconnections of molecules, cells, organs and systems.

Scientists working in biological sciences use a range of experimental approaches and techniques to understand the mechanisms of healthy and diseased physiology. By understanding these mechanisms, we can improve diagnosis and prognosis; and make treatment more specific, selective and personalized, and thus more effective and safer.

Main areas of investigation include understanding how to turn genes on and off to control disease; how to shrink or kill tumors by stopping the growth of blood vessels; how to manipulate cells and proteins toward developing new drugs for a host of diseases; and how the immune system develops and functions in response to innate and external threats.

Research within biological sciences applies to numerous clinical areas, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, brain disorders, and traumatic or acute injury.

Select advances in biological sciences include the following:

Dr. Isabelle Aubert is designing and testing novel treatments for Alzheimer's disease in preclinical models. Her results so far show that administering anti-amyloid antibodies directly into the brain using focused ultrasound works to reduce the plaque pathology that is associated with this disease. This work is being done with Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, a pioneer of focused ultrasound technology.

Dr. Robert Kerbel's research into angiogenesis, the growth of new from existing blood vessels, has contributed substantially to the development of metronomic chemotherapy for cancer treatment, whereby low doses of chemotherapy are given frequently, without pause. His work on the mechanisms of such therapy has led to clinical trials worldwide, many of which his lab participates in through the creation and use of new surrogate biomarkers that help determine the best dose for antiangiogenic drugs.

Dr. Bradley Strauss has discovered a protein, collagenase, that safely unblocks chronically blocked heart arteries, thereby enabling doctors to pass a guide wire through the artery and do lifesaving angioplasty. He has taken this discovery successfully from preclinical through to clinical studies. An international clinical trial is set to begin next year.

Dr. Juan Carlos Zúñiga-Pflücker is doing pioneering work in T cell development. He developed a simple way to grow functioning T cells, which are essential for healthy immunity, in the laboratory. This discovery has advanced the work of hundreds of labs worldwide, and has huge implications for developing better treatments for diseases of the immune system.


Platform Coordinator
Carmen Ho
416-480-6100, ext 85481