Dr. Elena Verdu was recently awarded the 2017 CAG Visiting Research Professor Award by the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology. This award encourages academics working in gastroenterology to visit at least six different sites or institutions around Canada from July 2017 to June 2018. As Dr. Verdu remarks, “This award is a great opportunity to share the work performed in my Lab at the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Institute and to enhance interactions with colleagues and students in other Canadian universities. This is not only important to promote knowledge dissemination, but to foster collaborations and attract highly qualified trainees to Farncombe’s labs”.
This award also puts the spotlight on Dr. Verdu’s trajectory. She admits to never actually planning a strict career path, but states she was always certain she was passionate about gastrointestinal research. From her early beginnings her interest was set at studying bacterial-host interactions which shifted focus with time to microbiome-dietary interactions in biomedical research. This personal history provided the basis to develop a research program aligned with the interests of the Farncombe Institute when she became faculty in 2006.
Dr. Verdu highlights the importance of team-work by recognizing how interactions between academic colleagues, mentors and trainees throughout the years was paramount for the success of her career. She finds that one of the benefits of these interactions is to allow members of the Institute to stay up to date and face some of the challenges in academia, including creative and critical thinking in order to continue to lead microbiome research in gastroenterology.
Dr. Verdu’s Lab main research interest relates to how bacteria that reside in the gut and the food that we eat interact to either increase or decrease inflammatory conditions. They recently found that opportunistic pathogens and commensal bacteria digest food components differently, and in this way they can produce food metabolites with a higher or lower antigenic capacity. The CAG Visiting Research Professor Award offers a great opportunity for Dr. Verdu to make this ground breaking research known around Canada and to open her research program to collaborative work.