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Microbiome Insights co-founder Dr. Brett Finlay to speak at Institut Pasteur event

Microbiome Insights co-founder and co-CSO Brett Finlay will be one of the distinguished speakers heading to Paris from October 15th to 16th 2018 for the Institut Pasteur meeting: Modeling the Mammalian Microbiota Host Superorganism, Current Tools and Challenges.

Knowledge about the role of microbiota and microbial metabolites in host functions and health has steadily increased over the past two decades. With mechanistic insights enabled by animal models and an increasing ability to characterize microbial communities during both development and adulthood, researchers are on the cusp of real therapeutic treatments. The Institut Pasteur meeting will bring together academic and industry leaders from this field to share new visions on host-microbiota mutualisms and parasitism, and to discuss the latest techniques and models. Along with Dr. Finlay, some exciting names on the program include Dr. Andrew Macpherson of Inselspital in Bern, Switzerland, giving the keynote address, and Marion Leclerc from the MICALIS Institute in Jouy-En-Josas, France and Philippe Sansonetti of Institut Pasteur.

Finlay will present his talk, entitled The Role of the Early Life Microbiota in Malnutrition and Environmental Enteropathy during the ‘Models of Pathogenesis’ session on Monday, October 15th. He has published over 500 papers and, as a principal investigator at the University of British Columbia he studies how microbes interact with hosts to influence health and disease. His lab developed the first animal model for the study of environmental enteropathy, a key feature of childhood malnutrition. Ongoing work with this model is now funded by the Gates Foundation in order to explore how it can better our understanding of the consequences of malnutrition. The Finlay lab also investigates the risks for childhood asthma stemming from microbiota and metabolic alterations during infancy, and were the first lab to demonstrate that early life intestinal microbiota plays a crucial role in asthma susceptibility.

By understanding how microbes colonize the small intestine and cause stunted growth and inflammation, Finlay and his collaborators hope to develop new nutritional therapies for human malnutrition. His lab’s work is essential for understanding the microbiota-host superorganism and the associations that are essential to maintain good health and development—making Finlay a “can’t miss” speaker at this prestigious meeting.

New tools could mean profound changes ahead in medicine, says Canadian Medical Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Brett Finlay

Six exceptional individuals have been inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2018 — and one of them is Microbiome Insights’ co-founder Dr. B. Brett Finlay, University of British Columbia Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Faculty of Medicine, and Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the Michael Smith Laboratories.

The honour recognizes contributions to medicine and the health sciences that have had an extraordinary impact on human health.

Dr. Finlay is a microbiome knowledge leader whose work has explored the role of microorganisms in human health and disease — in particular, asthma and malnutrition. His discoveries have led to the development of several human and animal vaccines, and to treatments for drug-resistant infections like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). (See Finlay’s full biography here.)

Below, we share a conversation with this esteemed member of our team — covering his career accomplishments and what he sees as the future of medicine.

Over the years, you must have overcome many challenges. What has driven you to do the things you’ve done in science and medicine?

I have always loved science, and the idea of using science to improve the world, including peoples’ lives, has always been a driving factor for me. Of course there are challenges, but as scientists we have the privilege to explore an exciting frontier, and find things never found before. Of course there are challenges, but all things worth doing have them, and being able to do science that has the potential to change the world is the greatest gift a scientist can have.

In your long and broad-ranging career, what medicine-related accomplishment or recognition are you most proud of?

The neat thing about science is you never know where it will take you. We are fortunate to have many successes. Some of the highlights include developing a vaccine to E. coli O157, developing the first SARS vaccine, and showing the early life microbiome plays a role in determining asthma are but a few. I am also proud of the book I co-wrote, Let Them Eat Dirt, and the new one I am finishing, The Whole Body Microbiome: Healthy aging with your microbes. This has allowed us to share the wonder and excitement of the microbiome with so many people. It is also changing how they look after their children with healthy benefits, which excites me tremendously, being able to promote child health through science education.

How do you think medicine is changing now?

I am biased, but I think medicine is about to undergo a profound change. Genomics, personalized medicine, and the microbiome will all play a major role in this upheaval. The ability to sequence a person’s genome or microbiome, to do a metabolomic analysis of a person’s urine, or a proteomic analysis of they blood all provide wonderful new tools to really figure out what is going on in a person, and then hopefully be able to treat based on molecular knowledge. The development of Crispr-Cas 9 could easily revolutionize gene therapy as well.

What innovations or directions in medicine do you see as uniquely Canadian?

Canada hits above its weight in science [but] science is global, and builds upon the shoulders of others, so to claim a geographic specialty is difficult. Canadian scientists are involved in many of the groundbreaking findings worldwide.

How do you hope your own work will lay the foundation for a different kind of medicine in future?

I strongly believe the microbiome will radically change medicine. If you take the top 10 reasons Canadians die, 9 of those 10 now have microbial links. Similarly, we know the microbiome plays a profound role in how our body develops early in life. There are so many areas of medicine the microbiome is impacting, the inside joke is “what area isn’t affected”! The other advantage of the microbiome is that we can change it easily, unlike our own genes. This means its application should be easier than gene therapy or developing drugs — drugging the “bugs” will be a whole new area of pharmacy in the future.

The 2018 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) induction ceremony was held on April 12, 2018, in London, Ontario (Canada). See the CMHF video of Dr. Finlay here.

About the company:

Microbiome Insights, Inc. is a global leader providing end-to-end services for microbiome DNA sequencing, including state-of-the-art bioinformatic analysis. Based in Vancouver, Canada, the company’s customized suite of services enables researchers and clinicians to easily and effectively include microbiome analysis in studies across a range of human, animal, agricultural and environmental applications. The multidisciplinary team of researchers and knowledge leaders at the company’s helm provide access to decades of expertise in traditional sciences such as ecology, microbiology, infectious diseases, and genetics. Microbiome Insights’ award-winning team is committed to providing clients with fast, dependable, cost-effective results.