Charles H.


Donnelly Centre researchers always seek new ways to explore global gene regulation and signal transduction using systems biology approaches, including functional genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and computational biology.

Our ideal candidate is a highly qualified graduate (2 years or less post PhD) in the fields of in the fields of molecular biology, stem cell biology, genetics, systems biology (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics), biomedical engineering or computational biology. Candidates should send their application to one or two faculty members in the Donnelly Centre whose research interests match their own.

If you are a driven graduate wishing to tackle big questions in biology, then the Charles H. Best Fellowship is for you. The successful applicant will receive a generous stipend for up to two years. Once the candidate has arranged sponsorship with a Donnelly faculty member, the applicant must send the faculty member the following:

- Curriculum vitae
- One page statement of research interests
- Transcripts
- Three letters of reference to their sponsoring faculty mentor

The award was established in 2001 as a tribute to Dr. Charles H. Best who, along with Dr. Frederick Banting, co-discovered insulin at the University of Toronto in 1921. A full list of participating Principal Investigators can be found Here.

Description of Recent Dr. Charles H. Best Foundation Awardees

2021 Marina Musa, PhD, University of Göttingen, Germany - 2018

Juline Poirson

By Jovana Drinjakovic

Things did not go according to plan for Marina Musa when she arrived in Toronto last March to start her postdoctoral research. As the country shut down in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, she spent the next three months confined to an unfamiliar apartment thinking about science instead of doing it. “It was not a great time,” she says of the first lockdown. “But there was time to narrow down what we need to prioritize and how to go about things, so once the labs reopened it was full steam ahead.

I feel very fortunate and honoured, first by the chance to work with Dr. Andy Fraser and then by this fellowship,” says Musa. “What we are studying is essentially a biological puzzle with the host, the parasite and the microbiome all affecting each other, and there is a lot of variability and uncertainty, and this fellowship is a great encouragement to continue with research. I am very excited to see where this project takes us in the future.”Musa joined the lab of Andy Fraser, a professor of molecular genetics, to study the metabolism of parasitic round worms, also known as helminths, which infect the guts of about one billion people worldwide. Infections occur predominantly in the developing world and, if left untreated, can impair development and health in the long term. New drugs are urgently needed due to a growing resistance among the parasites to existing medications.

Musa is approaching the problem from a new angle. She is investigating how the bacteria in the worm gut—the worm microbiome— contribute to infection. Her goal is to identify the chemicals produced by the bacteria that are essential for the parasites’ survival in the low oxygen environment inside the host gut.

2020 Zheng Luo, PhD, Chinese Academy of Sciences – 2018

Zheng Luo

By Jovana Drinjakovic

Zheng Luo was half way through his PhD in China in 2016, when he read a scientific article published by the Donnelly Centre’s Blencowe lab that would prompt his move to Toronto three years later.

After I was introduced to Ben’s awesome work, I started learning more about it and thought this is what I want to do for my postdoc,” says Luo, who joined the lab last April to study alternative splicing, a process allowing cells to generate vastly more protein variants from a limited number of protein-coding genes.

The focus of Luo’s research is how protein diversification thorough alternative splicing is regulated by the cell. When a gene is switched on, its entire message is copied into a transcript, from which some coding fragments, or exons, are spliced out and therefore not included into the translated protein. Whether or not an exon is included can modify protein function and impact health. This is especially the case in the brain, where altered splicing regulation has been linked to autism, schizophrenia and other brain disorders.

2019 Juline Poirson, PhD, University of Strasbourg – 2016

Juline Poirson

By Jovana Drinjakovic

Juline Poirson, the 2019 Charles H. Best Fellow, has set out to discover and characterise interactions between E3 ligases and proteins involved in tumorigenesis. She has so far identified about 20 protein substrates, out of a pool of 450 known cancer drivers, whose abundance in cells increases upon inhibiting the UPS, suggesting they are targeted for the degradation. This is already an important new insight as the majority of these proteins have not been previously linked to the UPS. Poirson is now working to map each cancer driver protein to its cognate E3 ligase. She will also further characterise these molecular interactions and explore new ones using the CRISPR gene editing technology to functionally eliminate some 1200 UPS-related genes. And because E3-substrate interactions are highly specific, they make good drug targets — inhibiting them by drugs is more likely to have a specific outcome and fewer side effects, in contract to the widely used chemotherapy. Poirson’s research carried out in Mikko Taipale’s laboratory will therefore provide novel insights about how E3 ligases contribute to tumorigenesis and could open new avenues for developing personalized cancer treatments.

Poirson joined Mikko Taipale’s lab two years ago to study how protein stability contributes to cancer. “I am really thankful for the fellowship,” says Poirson. “It’s a great support for me to encourage me to continue to do what I love the most, which is science.

Before joining Taipale’s lab, Poirson completed her doctoral studies at the University of Strasbourg in France with Drs. Murielle Masson and Gilles Travé. There she studied how human papilloma virus, which causes cervical cancer, overcomes the host cell’s defense mechanism. The virus does this by co-opting the ubiquitin proteasome system, which remains the focus of her research.







Past Fellowship Holders

Jiabao Liu
Bsc, Harbin University of Commerce, Harbin, China, PhD, Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China.

Jingwen Song
BSc Henan University of Technology, Henan, China, MSc McGill University, Montreal, Phd McGill University, Montreal

Eugenio Gallo
BSc Purdue University, West Lafayette, MS San Francisco State University, San Francisco, PhD Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

Marjan Barazandeh
BSc Shahid Beheshti Shahid Beheshti University (Tehran), MSc Tarbiat Modares University (Tehran), PhD University of Alberta

Tim Sterne-Weiler
BS University of California, Santa Cruz, MS University of California, Santa Cruz, PhD University of California, Santa Cruz

Jelena Tomic
PDF - The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto, ON

Hamed Shateri Najafabadi
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Toronto

Anna Lee
Bioinformatician - Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Toronto ON

Jonathan Ellis
Research Associate - The Donnelly Centre, University of Toronto, ON

Lucia Caceres
Research Associate, Dalhousie University

Dewald van Dyk
Research Associate, University of Toronto

Mathieu Gabut
University of Lyon, France

Joseph Barash
Assistant Professor – University of Pennsylvania

Franco Vizeacoumar
Research Associate - Donnelly Centre

Gwenael Badis-Breard
Staff Scientist, Institut Pasteur, France

Gordon Chua
Assistant Professor - University of Calgary

Xianchun Li
Assistant Professor - University of Arizona

Christine Misquitta
Senior Research Associate-Donnelly Centre

Armaity Davierwala
Consultant, Persistent Systems Ltd, India

Gareth Butland
Staff Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories USA

Mark Lambermon
Senior QC Analyst, Active BioMaterials, Chicago, IL

Peixiang Wang
Staff Scientist, UHN, Toronto

Ping Yang
Genetic Counselor, Elizabeth Bruyere Centre, Ottawa