June 20, 2012


A photo of the award recipients can be found at:  http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/media/brown_coombes_wright.html


McMaster microbiologists clean up career awards


Hamilton, Ont. June 20, 2012It’s a sweep for McMaster University microbiologists as winners of the two top career awards presented annually by the Canadian Society of Microbiologists.


Eric Brown, professor and chair, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, is the recipient of the CSM Murray Award for Career Achievement, which gives national recognition to an outstanding Canadian microbiologist for key contributions to microbiological research.


The society’s CSM Fisher Scientific Award for early career achievements is being awarded to Brian Coombes, associate professor, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, and Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis.


The awards to Brown and Coombes are the top awards by the society and will be presented during the society’s annual conference this week. As award recipients, Brown and Coombes will present lectures based on their work.


Brown and Coombes are also members of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.


Brown is described as a remarkable teacher, pioneer, tireless advocate for chemical biology and a visionary by Lori. L. Burrows, professor and associate chair, research, Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences, in her nomination letter.


For years, he has worked in unchartered waters searching for the Achilles heel of so-called superbugs with the hope this research will lead to effective antibiotic treatments for drug resistant bacterial infections. “To be recognized by my peers in Canada for this body of work is terrifically encouraging,” Brown said.


Brown has had a string of research successes.  He and his research group are focusing on understanding the complex biology that underlies the ability of disease-causing bacteria to adapt and evade antibiotic treatment.  


Brown credits the Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology, a flagship facility of the institute that “would be the envy of any biotechnology company”, as giving his research team a special edge in research.  “We have amazing facilities at McMaster to do this kind of work,” he said. “We think our job is to really lead the way in exploring new ways of doing things, even if they sound a little crazy at first.  Our goal is to take on problems and go in directions that, for example, the pharmaceutical sector might find too risky.”


In his research, Coombes is working to understand the evolutionary tug-of-war between bacteria and humans at a very basic level: How bacteria evolve to infect humans and animals and why they are becoming more severe and resistant to antibiotics.


Coombes leads a research team of 12 scientists at the graduate and postdoctoral level who independently, and collaboratively, have published 41 papers in scientific journals, presented 27 conference papers, and filed a patent on a promising new anti-virulence molecule that he discovered.


Coombes and Brown note that these awards are a reflection of the combined work of many, including mentors and lab trainees with creativity, energy and commitment to science.





Note to Editors:  A photo of the award recipients can be found at:  http://fhs.mcmaster.ca/media/brown_coombes_wright.html


For further information and to arrange interviews, please contact:


Veronica McGuire

Media Relations

Faculty of Health Sciences

McMaster University

905-525-9140, ext. 22169