Professor Brett Finlay
Founded a National Food and Water Safety Coallition. With funding from a 2000 MRC/CIHR Opportunity Program grant that he wrote, Dr. Finlay organized a workshop in Vancouver to which select scientists in disciplines ranging from basic science to epidemiology, industry, and government were invited. The objective of the workshop was to lay the foundation for a multidisciplinary group research program in microbial food safety and foodborne and enteric infections, and to identify funding opportunities upon which such a program would be based. A report with these recommendations was submitted to the CIHR Institute for use towards developing an Institute-specific initiative and call for application. A Canadian Food and Water Safety Network website was also established with residual funds from the MRC/CIHR Opportunity Program grant. Dr. Finlay organized a meeting in Ottawa sponsored by the Institute for Infection and Immunity of the CIHR , which was attended by representatives from national government, academic, industry, and commodity groups. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Canadian Coalition for Safe Food and Water. Its mandate is to prioritize and fund research based on safe food and water as it pertains to infectious agents. Seven major research groups have been funded, in addition to extensive linkages between government, academics, and industry across the country. It also includes national initiatives on Bioterrorism and Antimicrobial resistance as they apply to food and water. In over three years, the entire initiative has a value in excess of $13 million dollars. He was Chair of this national steering committee, and it has been a highly successful initiative. This represents the first time such a national initiative was achieved to get six different government departments, many academics, and nearly all the major industry partners and commodity groups to coordinate and cooperate with their research programs. It demonstrated that such a unified research approach can work.
In May 2003, the British Columbia Government announced that it was investing $2.6 million in a project to accelerate the development of a human vaccine against SARS. Dr. Finlay was the Founding Director, and put in place a unique rapid research response mechanism to facilitate human vaccine development. This involved a top-down approach of initiating many related projects in parallel, and emergency management principles. It has been highly successful, and within six months had three separate vaccine candidates being tested in animals. This unique research approach is also being used as a model for responding to other emerging infectious disease threats that may arise in the future. It has garnered worldwide attention as a mechanism to do rapid response research to emerging threats.
Based on SAVI’s success, Dr. Finlay expedited the formation of the CSRC to coordinate, promote, and support national SARS research and to develop international linkages and partnerships. The CSRC is a coalition, which is comprised of funding agencies, public and private sector organizations, and investigators. He is Co-Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), who will advise funders on research areas that should be supported through RFA and about opportunities for international collaboration, as well as overseeing the funded science relating to various aspects of SARS.
In 2002, Dr. Finlay co-founded Inimex Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biopharmaceutical company engaged in the discovery and commercial development of a new and exciting approach to controlling infectious diseases. He is a Board Member, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board, and Vice-President of Research, overseeing 19 employees. This is an exciting company whose mandate is to enhance the innate immune response to pathogens to prevent and treat infectious diseases. This company has already won many awards for its unique approaches to treat infectious agents. There is currently $900,000 in funding, and the company is about to sign on another $9 milliion in venture capital funding.
Basic studies in our laboratory led to the discovery of type III secreted proteins in pathogenic E. coli and later to the understanding of the adherence mechanisms used by these pathogens. Based on these studies, we used this knowledge to determine if Tir and related type III secreted proteins could be used to immune cattle from carrying and shedding O157. These studies have been very successful in both small scale studies and clinical (feedlot) trials of several hundred animals. This vaccine decreases shedding levels at 80%, and is being licensed by Bioniche. It is expected to be marketed in 2004, and is the first successful intervention or treatment available for EHEC infections. It also demonstrates the translation process of basic discoveries leading to relevant solutions, as well as proving the concept that animal carriers of pathogens (cows do not get disease from EHEC) can be vaccinated to prevent a human disease.
Dr. Finlay was awarded $8.7 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Foundation for the National Institutes of Health for new ways to fight infectious diseases, as part of the $450 million Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative. The project aims to improve health in the Third World with 43 specif ic research projects around the world. Dr. Finlay’s international research team will focus on finding an alternative to antibiotics for the treatment of diseases such as diarrhea-causing E.coli and salmonella, typhoid fever, dysentery, ulcers, and tuberculosis. Instead of attacking the disease itself as antibiotics do, Finlay is working to produce medications that boost the body’s natural response to bacteria.
Drawing on many of the unique research findings of a previous Genome Canada project, the Functional Pathogenomics of Mucosal Immunity Program, this project will advance our understanding of immune responses in humans and animals. Specific genes will be knocked out in mouse embryonic cells and in mice derived from these cells, and the cells and mice will then be challenged with the important human food-borne pathogen, Salmonella, which causes intestinal infections and diarrhea. A range of genes representing key pathways and decision points in innate immunity will be targetted for knocking out. Human and bovine cells will also be targetted using siRNA methods, which use a class of short (20-25 nucleotides long) RNA molecules that interfere with gene expression. By knocking out specific genes, we will be able to determine their relevance in human and animal infections.
Dr. B. Brett Finlay, a microbiologist and Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the University of British Columbia, and UBC colleagues Dr. Robert C. Burnham and Dr. Neil Reiner are project leaders of Functional Genomics for Emerging Infectious Diseases (also called the PREPARE Project).
The PREPARE Project (Proteomics for Emerging Pathogen Response) will use one overall approach to uncover the biology of infection of such serious diseases as SARS, influenza, West Nile, BSE, pathogenic E. coli, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. This approach consists of identifying microbial drug targets through the study of protein interaction networks and the application of innovative computational genomics. Protein interaction networks are complex – they are involved in catalytic processes, protein synthesis and gene expression with in the cell.
The research team expects to share experimental approaches in order to study different pathogens and to undertake whole-genome approaches to investigate common pathogens. This new knowledge base will be particularly valuable in the event that new infectious agents emerge – new strains of existing pathogens, for example, or previously unknown pathogens.
The research project will create new opportunities for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and will also maintain a rapid response team of highly competent genomics researchers, ready to find scientific solutions for new infectious threats as they arise.
- Thomson Reuters 2015 Highly Cited Researcher and one of 2015 World’s most Influential Scientific Minds.
- Researcher of the Month, Canadians for Health Research. In recognition of a scientist conducting some of the most interesting research in Canada today.
- CIFAR, Senior Fellow, Microbes & Humans (elected).
- Prix Galien 2014, the most prestigious award in the field of Canadian pharmaceutical research and innovation.
- 2013 LifeSciences British Columbia Awards: the Genome British Columbia Award for Scientific Excellence.
- Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for dedicated service to peers, community and Canada.
- Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Honorary Membership.
- German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, elected member..
- Carnegie Fellowship for tenure (2015), College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow.
- Canadian Society of Microbiologists Roche Diagnostics Award, for national recognition to outstanding Canadian Microbiologists.
- Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., Award of Excellence and studentship in the name of B. Brett Finlay established.
- Appointed Chair d’État, Collège de France
- Canadian Society of Microbiologists Roche Diagnostics Award, for national recognition to outstanding Canadian Microbiologists.
- Selected for ISIHighlyCited.com based on exceptional citation count in the field of Microbiology by fellow scientists.
- Awarded Order of BC
- Peter Wall Distinguished Professor (renewed)
- Awarded “Distinguished Alumni”, University of Alberta
- Jan. 2006 Received the Jacob Biely Faculty Research Prize, University of British Columbia’s premier award for outstanding research.
- March 28, 2006 Recieved Canadian Killam Prize for 2006. This prize is considered Canada’s Top Career Achievement Award.
- July 24, 2006 Recieved Order of Canada. The Order recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation honouring people in all sectors of Canadian society.
- Aug. 2006 Awarded the 2006 Flavelle Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, for outstanding contribution to biological science during the preceding ten years.
- June 14, 2005 Elected to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences
- June 28, 2005 Winner of Gates Foundation Award in Global Disease Fight for $8.7 million US to study ways of boosting the body’s immune system to help fight diseases in developing countries.
- Aug 23,2005 Awarded $5.7 million from Genome Canada for the PREPARE (Proteomics for Emerging Pathogen Response) project titled Functional genomics for emerging infectious diseases
- Aug, 2005 CIHR Partnership Award for Sars Accelerated Vaccine Initiative (SAVI). The award is given in recognition of partnerships that exemplify excellence by bringing health research communities together to respond to the health needs, concerns and priorities of Canadians and accelerate the translation of knowledge for the benefit of Canadians.
- Mar 11/2004 Received a Celebrate Research citation from University of British Columbia in recognition of research achievements.
- Mar 16/2004 Winner of The Michael Smith Prize in Health Research, which honours the memory of the late Dr. Michael Smith, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1993. This prestigious award recognizes innovation, creativity, leadership, and dedication to health research, providing world-class researchers with $1 million over five years to pursue critical research and to support and mentor trainees. The award honours exceptional people for their remarkable contributions to health research.
- Mar 18/2004 CIHR E. coli Operating Grant was ranked #1 out of 36 applications (8 were funded).
- Sept 13/2004 BC Innovation Council 2004 Solutions Through Research Award, given to an individual whose applied scientific and technical research has played an integral role in improving an adverse situation or resolving a specific problem in any B.C. organization.
- Oct 1/2004 2004 Squibb Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in an area of infectious diseases by an individual member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, who is 45 years of age or younger. This award is based on overall achievement, and not usually a single study.
- Oct 18/2004 BC innovation Council’s 2004 “Solutions Through Research” Award
- Jan 20/2003 Featured in Maclean’s “The 2003 watch list”, as one of the top 50 Canadians recognized for their accomplishments.
- Mar 24/2003 BC Biotechnology Award for Innovation and Achievement, to recognize individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the development of B.C.’s biotechnology industry, and to increase public awareness and understanding of biotechnology in B.C.
- Mar 2003 Received a Celebrate Research citation from University of British Columbia in recognition of research achievements.
2003 Elected to Fellowship in the American Academy of Microbiology, in recognition of one’s record of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.
May 26/2003 Chosen as TIME CANADA’S Best in Medicine, one of the five top scientists who have influenced health care worldwide.
- 2003 CIHR Operating Grant was ranked #1 (range 4.9) out of 33 applications (14 were funded).
Nov 18/2003 Ottawa Life Sciences Council National Merit Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in Canada’s life sciences sector. National leadership stature, national and international collaboration with the life sciences industry, excellent research and management record, and significant contribution to the development of life sciences in Canada are the award criteria.
- 1989 MRC Operating Grant was ranked #1 out of 839 applications in 1988 competition (246 were funded).
- 2002 Received a Celebrate Research citation from University of British Columbia in recognition of research achievements.
- 2002 CIHR Operating Grant was ranked #1 out of 12 applications (4 were funded).
2002 University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Department of Microbiology and Immunology James W. McLaughlin Distinguished Speaker. This award is given annually to a visiting scientist/lecturer who has made outstanding contributions to the scientific community in the areas of infection and immunity.
- July 2002 Featured in Canadian Living’s “Our Medical Megastars”, as one of the top 10 scientists most likely to save your life.
- Nov 21/2002 Chosen as one of four prominent Canadian scientists at the cutting edge of medical discovery, my research career and personal life was featured in “Brett Finlay, man against microbe” in Chasing the cure: a four-part documentary series on Discovery Health Channel and Knowledge Network.
- Nov 21/2002 Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, the University of British Columbia’s most prestigious appointment in recognition of career research achievements. The position honours research excellence that is fundamental, interdisciplinary, and innovative. It provides salary support for an initial five year period and is renewable. The award was last held by the late Nobel Laureate, Michael Smith.
- 2001 Received a Celebrate Research citation from University of British Columbia to acknowledge and bring about a greater awareness of the achievements of researchers at the University.
- 2001 2000/2001 University of Alberta Distinguished Lecture in Biochemistry award and plaque.
- 2001 3M Distinguished Lectureship, University of Western Ontario, only Canadian to receive this award and plaque given to outstanding scientists for their research.
- 2001 CIHR Distinguished Investigator Award, a prestigious salary award for 5 years. This is CIHR’s highest recognition of scientific excellence in outstanding investigators. The original application was for a CIHR Senior Investigator Award, but the five top-rated candidates in the competition were offered the accolade of CIHR Distinguished Investigator.
- 2001 Elected as a Fellow to the Life Sciences Division of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada, Canada’s senior academic accolade.
2001 Honourary Member, University of BC Golden Key (GK) International Honour Society. Joins a group of 20 distinguished individuals that have been honoured in the past. Honorary members’ achievements are acknowledged as representative of the pinnacle of what students can become.
- 2001 Dr. Cam Coady Foundation Lectureship. The Foundation was established to foster excellence in health care and to advance education and resesarch in the general operation of medical care.
- 2001 Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar, a prestigious award of $350,000 (U.S.), which is a competition of the Americas. Although non-renewable, this award was granted regardless of a previous International Research Scholar won in 1997. My laboratory is the only one to hold 2 International Research Scholar awards (for Salmonella and enteropathogenic E. coli) and have won 4 such awards. 42 were selected, 12 from Canada.
- 2000 Howard Hughes Medical Institute 1999 Holiday Lectures on Science, “2000 and Beyond: Confronting the Microbe Menace” was winner of a silver Telly Award in the category of “educational programs for academic use”. The Telly Awards is a well-known, highly respected national competition, which gives recognition to outstanding non-network TV programs and TV commercials. Approximately 12,000 entries are received each year. On a 10-point scale, winners must score 9.0 or higher.
- 2000 Featured as Profile #5 “From Dinosaurs to Bacteria” (Graduate Science Education and Research Section) in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Annual Report of the Office of Grants and Special Programs.
- 2000 Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar. A prestigious award of $450,000 (U.S.), which was a new Infectious Diseases and Parasitology initiative to support outstanding scientists working on the mechanisms of pathogenesis and approaches to therapy and prevention in worldwide problems. 45 were selected from 20 countries, 4 from Canada.
- 1999 Howard Hughes Medical Institute 1999 Holiday Lectures Presenter. First non-American chosen to give these lectures to promote science and infection/biology. They are broadcast live on Channel 1 and simulcast on the Web to over 20,000 US High Schools.
- 1999 MRC Operating Grant was ranked #1 (range 4.7) out of 34 applications (12 were funded).
- 1998 MRC Operating Grant was ranked #1 out of 32 applications (18 were funded).
- 1998 E.W.R. Steacie Prize. The Prize is Canada’s most prestigious award of $10,000 (CAD) given to a scientist or engineer of 40 years of age or less for outstanding contribution to research.
- 1997 Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar. A prestigious award of $275,000 (U.S.) given to support outstanding research scientists. 47 were selected from 500 nominees.
- 1997 Nominated to serve as a member on the American Society of Microbiology Foundation for Microbiology Lectures program July 1, 1997 – June 30, 1999, based on presentation and research skills.
- 1997 Awarded the 21st Annual Joseph E. Smadel Lecture, given for recognition of outstanding research, and to present a lecture on one’s research, “Enteropathogenic E. coli Pathogenesis and Cell Biology: Exploitation of Host Epithelial Cells”, at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
- 1996 MRC Scientist Award, a prestigious salary award for 5 years given to outstanding investigators for their research accomplishments, was ranked #1 out of 64 applications in 1995 competition (10 were funded).
- 1993 University of British Columbia Killam Research Prize. A prestigious award of $10,000 (CDN) given in recognition of research achievements.
- 1991 Fisher Scientific Award from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists. Given to a young investigator who has made an outstanding contribution to research. Includes cash prize, inscribed scroll and scientific presentation at the Canadian Society of Microbiologists annual meeting.
- 1991 Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar. A prestigious research award of $500,000 (U.S.) given to support prominent young medical researchers. 14 were awarded in Canada.
- 1991 Distinguished Scientist Seminar Award, University of Southern Alabama.
- 1989 Member of the Canadian Centers of Excellence for Bacterial Diseases.