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Gastrointestinal research has a long history at McMaster University. Following a national competition, McMaster established an Intestinal Diseases Research Unit in 1983 and received external funding for six years. Following successful site visits, the Unit was absorbed into the formal research structure of the Faculty of Health Sciences and was given program status as the Intestinal Disease Research Program under the initial leadership of Dr. Stephen Collins, and subsequently by Drs. Mary Purdue and Jan Huizinga.

The success of the Program attracted the attention of the Farncombe family who donated funds that enabled, in conjunction the University and a CFI award, the establishment of a sequencing (metagenomics) laboratory in 2003. Following an additional generous donation from the Farncombe family, we established Canada’s first axenic-gnotobiotic facility in 2004 under the guidance of recently recruited Dr. Andrew McPherson. In 2008, the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute was established, and its first Director was Dr. John Wallace, an internationally recognized scientist recruited from the University of Calgary. Dr. Paul Moayyedi became interim Director in 2011 until Dr. Stephen Collins assumed the Directorship in 2014 and Dr. Elena Verdu became Associate Director in 2022.  The Institute’s current membership is 25 full time faculty.

Historical Farncombe Group Photo
IDRU 1983
Opening of Farncombe Institute 2008
Opening of AGU Facility 2004