IMRIC and You

Follow the news and meet the people behind IMRIC's innovative medical research.

Holiday Story of Inspiration: “Dear Cancer, I beat you aged eight and today I got my PhD in cancer research”

Dr. Vicky Forster

Check out this incredible holiday story, orginally published on the Cancer Research UK Blog about a young girl who beat cancer only to go on and become a cancer researcher. Vicky's story is impacting, inspiring and a great read. Enjoy!

 

“Dear Cancer, I beat you aged eight and today I got my PhD in cancer research”

Dr Vicky Forster in the lab

Dr Vicky Forster at work in the lab

December is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and it will always be a memorable time for Dr Vicky Forster – but not for the right reasons.

In this inspiring piece for the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) newsletter, Contact, she describes her own experience of cancer as a child and how it motivated her to pursue a career as a cancer researcher. She also tells the story of how a celebratory tweet when she gained her PhD made it around the world. Vicky’s now a scientist at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research – part of our Newcastle Cancer Centre. Thanks to Vicky and the CCLG for allowing us to share her story here.

On Christmas day in 1994, whilst the rest of my family were playing games in the lounge, I was asleep in bed upstairs feeling absolutely exhausted, despite the fact that I had only woken up a few hours previously.  I had been ill for a few weeks with what the doctor thought was a chest infection.  Later that week, when I still wasn’t better, my mum took me to the doctor again who sent me for a blood test.

To read more click here.

The Newtown Shooting: Did Mental Illness Play A Role, IMRIC Expert Discusses Autism, the Tragic Shooting, Diagnosis and New Research

By:

Molly Livingstone

Molly Livingstone

Molly Livingstone never did well at science, but that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating it. Here at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) she is able to witness first-hand, the innovative breakthroughs changing the face of medicine, on a daily basis. Living in Israel, Molly has the opportunity of visiting the IMRIC labs, talking with the students and faculty about their latest research, and getting to know the people behind these great minds.

IMRIC Prof. Asher Ornoy

The tragic events of this past Friday’s school shooting in Newtown have sparked a new conversation about gun control and mental illness. Like most people that read the news that day, my eyes stood in shock. How could anyone go into an elementary school with the goal of harming defenseless children with weapons armed for war?

The reality is that people with mental health issues can be a likely candidate for the most crucial of violent circumstances. Of course not all people with mental illness are violent, but as I learned during my meeting with Professor Asher Ornoy, Head of the Autism Hub at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Hadassah Medical School, there are cases that autism can in fact lead to very dangerous behavior due to lack of feeling and communication.

Many have questioned if this was the case for Adam Lanza, the gunman behind the 27 victims of Friday’s shooting. He took his own life at the end of his siege so now it is up to investigators to figure out his motive. Currently it is being speculated that Lanza had Asperger’s, which is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction.

To learn more about ASD, Adam Lanza, how to diagnosis the disorder and how medical research continues to give us the necessary tools and therapies to help deal with this serious issue, check out this clip from autism expert Prof. Ornoy.

Also, adding to the flame of the mental health debate was the viral blog post, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” by Lisa Long about her 13-year-old son and his mental illness. Check out the post, and an interview with Long on CNN

Author and TV Personality Gil Hovav Visits IMRIC

By:

Molly Livingstone

Molly Livingstone

Molly Livingstone never did well at science, but that hasn’t stopped her from appreciating it. Here at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC) she is able to witness first-hand, the innovative breakthroughs changing the face of medicine, on a daily basis. Living in Israel, Molly has the opportunity of visiting the IMRIC labs, talking with the students and faculty about their latest research, and getting to know the people behind these great minds.

Gil Hovav

 

Gil Hovav, Israeli author and TV personality returned to Hebrew University, where he once studied, to tour the new facilities at the Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC). During his visit, Hovav met with IMRIC researchers and explored their labs. Hovav sat, listened and even had an opportunity to ask the top researchers questions about their breakthrough investigations. Hovav met with Dr. Alex Binshtok where he learned about his fascinating research on pain mechanism. He then sat with Prof. Abraham Fainsod and discussed his current research on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and the Canada-Israel International Fetal Alcohol Consortium, collaboration with the government of Manitoba and the University of Manitoba.

Check out Gil Hovav’s Vlog on his impression of IMRIC, the researchers and the incredible research taking place on campus.  

 

A Breakthrough in Malaria: We've Got the Sneaky Strain

What could be better than back-to-back blog posts about exciting breakthrough research? This week the buzz is about malaria. Each year over one million people die from malaria, caused by different strains of the Plasmodium parasite transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. To date, there is no viable vaccine against this deadly parasite. Worse, the parasite generally affects pregnant women and children under the age of five.

Dr. Ron Dzikowski and research student Inbar Avraham, at the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at The Institute for Medical Research Israel-Canada (IMRIC), and the Kuvin Center for the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, have been investigating how the most dangerous strain dodge the watchful eye of the immune system. Now, their breakthrough research will pave the way for the development of new approaches to cure this acute infection.

 

“We have identified a DNA element that regulate the molecular mechanism by which malaria parasites evade the human immune system,” Dr. Dzikowski explains. "These results are a major breakthrough in understanding the parasite's ability to cause damage.” The team showed that the parasite's ability to express only one gene while hiding the other 59 depends on this sequence. The research suggests that by interfering with the regulatory role of this DNA sequence it would be possible to prevent Plasmodium falciparum from hiding most of its destructive genes from the immune system.

Breakthrough Research in a Life-threatening Bacterial Infection with High Mortality Rate

Prof. Raymond Kaempfer

I am always excited to receive first-hand news about breakthrough research that will have a real impact on lives around the world. I recently heard the good news that from a clinical trial tin Phase 2a which displayed positive results in patients with Necrotizing Soft Tissue Infections (NSTI), a life-threatening bacterial infection with significant morbidity and high mortality rate.

IMRIC researcher Professor Raymond Kaempfer and his lab in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology are the team behind this exciting discovery. “Molecular biology is a sophisticated field. We now have tangible news for the real world,” he says. “Conditions leading to shock often involve an immune storm that is lethal. We designed in our lab a molecule that attenuates the immune storm in human cells and protects animals from death. The clinical results now show that our molecule has a clear treatment benefit in patients with a life-threatening disease, ‘flesh-eating bacteria'. In other words, it works in humans. For me as a basic scientist, this is an exciting moment.”

The trial established that patients treated with AB103 had a meaningful improvement across multiple endpoints measured in the trial compared to the placebo. Those treated with AB103 had spent fewer days in the ICU, had faster resolution of organ dysfunction, required fewer days of assisted ventilation and needed fewer surgical procedures to remove infected tissue. In addition, systemic inflammatory biomarkers demonstrated a faster decline in treated patients compared to placebo, consistent with the drug’s mechanism of action.

So what is AB103? “AB103 is a novel, short peptide immune regulatory therapy that appears to be very promising as an adjuvant treatment in early clinical trials of necrotizing soft tissue infections (NSTI)” explains Dr. Steven Opal, Brown Medical School professor of medicine, who also serves as Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island’s chief of its infectious disease division and a member of Atox Bio's Scientific Advisory Board. “These are devastating infections that need immediate and often repeated surgical intervention, and prolonged courses of antibiotics. A new and safe treatment to reduce the need for repeated surgeries, and long ICU stays would be a welcome addition to current NSTI management strategies.”

Atox Bio, the clinical stage biotechnology company behind the therapy, was established in 2003 by Prof. Kaempfer and Dr. Gila Arad from the Faculty of Medicine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Yissum, the technology transfer company of the university. The company develops novel immunemodulators for severe infections in critically ill patients. Atox Bio plans to present data from the trial at an upcoming major medical meeting.