Pharmacology Canada News
Getting to Know the New Department Chairs: Interview with Dr. Frank Beier
By Brad Urquhart, CSPT Treasurer
Following on the interview in the Fall 2018 Pharmacology News with the new Dalhousie University Pharmacology Chair Dr. Chris Sinal, we continue to check in with the pharmacology community across Canada. In this edition, CSPT treasurer Brad Urquhart interviews Dr. Frank Beier, new Chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University.
At Western University in 2002, the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology merged with the Department of Physiology to form the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. In 2004 Dr. Jane Rylett was appointed chair and held this position until 2016. In 2017, Dr. Frank Beier was selected by his colleagues to the department as interim chair. Following an international search, in 2018 the department appointed Dr. Beier as the permanent chair. Since his appointment, Dr. Beier has focused on further integration of physiology and pharmacology. While not formally trained in pharmacology, Dr. Beier recognizes the importance of the discipline and has ensured that pharmacology remains a prominent focus within the department from both research and educational pursuits.
Born in Germany, Dr. Frank Beier obtained his Diploma of Biology and PhD at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg. He then completed post-doctoral training at the University of Calgary before being recruited to Western University.
At Western University, Dr. Beier is a full professor, Chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Canada Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Research, and member of the Bone and Joint Institute. His lab explores mechanisms controlling cartilage and joint biology, using genetically engineered mice in combination with surgical, pharmacological, dietary and activity manipulations. Dr. Beier has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles and given more than 100 invited presentations. His work is supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and The Arthritis Society. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Osteoarthritis Research Society International, and is a current member of the faculty of 1,000 and several journal editorial boards, including as the Deputy Editor for Osteoarthritis & Cartilage. He was the Chair of the 2017 Cartilage Gordon Conference and has recently completed a four-year term on the Skeletal Biology Structure and Regeneration study section at the NIH. Highlighting the success of his team’s research, Dr. Beier recently received the Award for Basic Science Research from the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI), the world’s leading society for arthritis research.
In your opinion what is the main challenge/opportunity for the discipline of Pharmacology in Canada in the next 5 years?
The main challenges are common to other biomedical disciplines and Canadian research in general: the low funding rates at our federal funding agencies and many other funders, a research climate that is not very attractive for trainees (at least with regards to academia), increased bureaucracy that slows down research (for example animal research, which is a crucial component of pharmacology), and so on.
More specific to our discipline, political and societal developments will have a direct impact on teaching and research in pharmacology, for example the opioid crisis and the legalization of marijuana. This can be a challenge and an opportunity at the same time.
Along the same lines, the continuing rise of “omics” (including pharmacogenomics and metabolomics, which are particularly relevant to our discipline), big data, and so on will allow us to make rapid scientific progress. But it also comes with great challenges in terms of infrastructure, bioinformatics expertise, and so on.
What are your top two or three priorities as the chair of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western University?
We are a Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. One of my priorities is to continue the integration of the two disciplines, which was started by my predecessor, Dr. Jane Rylett, in both teaching and research. Similarly, I want to move the department from programs largely focused on single organs or disease to a more systemic, integrative approach where we study interactions between organs, co- and multi-morbidities.
I want to further strengthen our educational programs, with a focus on preparing our graduate students and postdocs for a wide variety of careers, many of which will be outside of academia.
Finally, I’d like to continue to address equity, diversity and inclusion in our department, at student, staff and faculty levels.
In your opinion what can the CSPT do better to serve pharmacology research/education across the country?
To be honest, I don’t have a pharmacology background and am just becoming familiar with CSPT (I have recently applied for membership – I hope you’ll take me!). From my limited experience it seems that the society could be more visible in the public, for example on political topics such as the ones mentioned above.
Many pharmacology departments across the country are now merged with other disciplines like physiology or anatomy. In your opinion, what opportunities and challenges does this pose?
I think from my earlier comments it is clear I am a fan of integrative approaches, such as integration of physiology and pharmacology in our case. I think disciplines can learn from each other and, in many cases, are complementary. After all, (patho)physiological processes are what we want to affect with our pharmacological treatments. Of course, there is a risk that some discipline-specific expertise becomes lost in such mergers, and that might be particularly relevant to pharmacology (such as pharmacodynamics or -kinetics). For example, our department clearly has a need for additional pharmacologists with expertise in these areas.
Here is your chance to pitch the department. For the trainees out there why should they consider choosing the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western University to further their education?
Is there any alternative? To be serious, we were the first graduate program in Canada offering combined physiology and pharmacology MSc and PhD degrees. We continue to evolve our undergraduate and graduate programs to ensure we offer first class education in both disciplines, and to prepare our trainees for both academic and non-academic careers. Many of our research programs are internationally recognized, such as in neuroscience, bone and joint health, and pharmacogenomics. We have very dedicated staff and faculty and provide not only a great learning and research environment, but also a vibrant and collegial atmosphere. Oh, and we do have the grad club—a great campus pub.
Are there any other recent exciting developments or news from the department you would like to share?
A number of important events have occurred in the department over the last 1.5 years.
Thank you, Frank, for sharing your thoughts. We wish you continued success and hope to see you at future CSPT meetings.
Welcome to Our New Co-Editor
By Kerry Goralski, CSPT Vice-President and Pharmacology Canada News Co-Editor
I recently learned that in the 1950s when one of our predecessor societies, The Pharmacological Society of Canada, was formed, there was no graduate student membership category. Fortunately, over time, this has changed. Trainees are now an integral part of and focus of the CSPT and we are committed to expanding trainee involvement in the society and opportunities for their career development.
With this we are very excited to welcome our new trainee Pharmacology Canada News Co-editor, Pierre Thibeault, who is a PhD student in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Western University. In his inaugural article “ The Evolving Role of Graduate Students” Pierre elegantly discusses the opportunities for students to become more involved outside the laboratory and why becoming involved is ever more important in career development and for future job opportunities.
The Evolving Role of Graduate Students
By Pierre Thibeault, Pharmacology Canada News Co-Editor
As graduate students there are few questions we are asked more often than, “What is next for you following the completion of your degree?” This question inspires contemplations of our greatest career aspirations while concurrently stirring up feelings of dread.
As graduate students we pour considerable effort and attention into our research, so much so that it can even become a large part of the way we view ourselves. Many of us may find ourselves wondering, “Will what I am doing now be enough to get me “there”? For each of us, the ultimate “there” may take different forms: academia, industry, clinical pharmacology, or another discipline.
As graduate students we are confronted with the reality of saturated job markets and challenging roads to success. Regardless of where our career aspirations direct us, one thing remains certain: as our future career markets evolve, so must our role as graduate students.
For those proactively planning to meet these challenges, the question “Is what I am doing enough?” must evolve to become “What more can I be doing to make myself a more attractive candidate?” For many of us this means doubling down our research efforts and networking. The importance of quality research and networking will be impressed upon many of us throughout our graduate careers; meet mentors and contacts at conferences, take all opportunities you can to discuss your research with people who are where you want to be, work hard and publish as much as you can. While all of these are necessary and purposeful, you may wonder if there is more we can do. I propose there just may be.
As graduate students we have the opportunity to get involved. Involvement in appropriate institutions can take many forms, including serving on departmental and other university committees to volunteering in academic or industrial organizations and societies. These may seem like extra commitments we don’t really have time for while we work towards our research endpoints. However, I propose that if we look to our mentors we will find many of them are involved in some level of departmental, institutional, or societal leadership. The adage “dress for the job you want” could be modified to “model yourself after those who have the job you hope for.”
What do these opportunities provide to prepare us for our career aspirations? Each opportunity can offer different skill sets and networking opportunities that may not readily be apparent: learning how to budget while working on a university finance committee; developing leadership and communication skills while serving as the trainee representative on a departmental or institutional committee; or gaining insight into the ways local, national, and international scientific societies operate. In addition, to the skills these opportunities can teach us to prepare us for our future careers, they give us a seat at the table with which we can help to shape the future workspaces we hope to occupy post-graduate studies. These opportunities exist for us to learn from and represent our fellow trainees, is it time we take full advantage of these for all of their benefits?
Education Committee Update
By Cindy Woodland, CSPT Education Committee Chair
The Education Committee liaises with the Scientific Program Committee and Outreach Committee and provides members with a broad spectrum of educational opportunities. Education Committee Chair, Dr. Cindy Woodland, provides us with an inside look at the committee, its members and its initiatives, with the hope of engaging CSPT members in its educational mission.
What is the mission of the Education Committee?
The Education Committee fosters educational opportunities related to basic and clinical pharmacology for both members and non-members of CSPT with special consideration of the CSPT student and trainee population. The Committee aims to enhance the value of CSPT membership by providing enriching education opportunities that are unique to members.
Who is involved?
The committee is chaired by Cindy Woodland and was recently expanded to include the following committee members representing educators, clinical pharmacologists, basic scientists, post-doctoral fellows and other trainees. We frequently consult with student members, health care and industry professionals and regulatory bodies with the aim of serving the diverse membership of CSPT.
Khaled Abdelrahman, PhD – University of Ottawa
Emily Austin, MD – Unity Health Toronto and The Ontario Poison Centre
Kim Chau, PhD – McMaster University
Fabiana Crowley, PhD – Western University
George Dresser, MD – London Health Sciences Centre and Western University
Doreen Matsui, MD – Children’s Hospital—London Health Sciences Centre and Western University
Rommel Tirona, PhD – Western University
Brad Urquhart, PhD – Western University
Cindy Woodland, PhD – University of Toronto
What are the current priorities for the Education Committee?
The Education Committee strives to support current member interests in basic and clinical pharmacology while also encouraging new membership through attractive educational offerings. Working with the Scientific Program Committee, the Education Committee contributes to educational programming at the annual scientific meeting. Committee members also work with the Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology section of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as the official society affiliate for clinical trainees.
The Education Committee is excited to update you on our current educational initiatives. We hope you will share your own ideas for future education projects with us at email@example.com.
1. Emphasis on the Next Generation of Pharmacologists
PhD Mentorship Program
We are seeking student and faculty volunteers to participate in our inaugural mentorship matching system for junior and senior members. The mentorship program comprises quarterly (or more frequent) telephone or in-person chats with an individual from outside your institution. This program aims to provide opportunities for PhD and clinical trainee members to tap into the wisdom of CSPT members with more than five years of career experience. Mentors benefit equally from their conversations with the generation-in-training, and we expect this program to create win–win relationships all around.
We hope to expand academic and career networks for participants without requiring an onerous time commitment. If you are interested in participating in the mentorship program, please contact Cindy Woodland at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to obtain a mentorship application form. Our aim is to match all PhD and clinical fellow members in our inaugural year with a view to future expansion of the program to other students. Our one-page application form can be completed in less than 10 minutes so join now!
National Career Seminar Series
We recognize that not all of our student members are hoping to follow in their academic supervisor’s footsteps. In an effort to build awareness of what you can do with a graduate degree in pharmacology, we will offer a Careers with Pharmacology online webinar where students and trainees can log-in to hear about potential career paths for pharmacology graduates. Members from coast to coast will benefit from learning about the roles and duties in a variety of career paths related to pharmacology. If you or someone you know would be willing to share their career experiences, please let us know email@example.com. Think of the career conversation that turned on the light for you or that you wish had happened. Let’s help enable our members to better understand career opportunities through our shared experiences. Stay tuned for dates and instructions on how to participate.
2. Membership has Privileges
Website Access to Your Pharmacology Questions
What if you could redirect your Internet search or pharmacologic definition to the CSPT website to access a glossary of pharmacological terms? Who better to explain pharmacological terms and principles than our own members? The Education Committee is creating a searchable glossary of pharmacologic terms. Instead of searching the vastness of the World Wide Web to learn about an inverse agonist, wouldn’t it be nice to be directed to an authoritative source? Imagine having a searchable list of terms with the trust that it had been vetted by experts in the field. To encourage membership, non-members who are directed to our website when searching terms in our glossary will be given a limited-time opportunity to access our educational materials for free before having to join CSPT to have continued access.
If you wish to be a part of the review process, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Educational Objectives to Guide Your Learning and Teaching
Sometimes it feels like we are constantly reinventing the wheel in teaching. Join the national conversation being led by the CSPT Education Committee on pharmacology learning objectives. Determine which objectives you can adopt at your institution to enhance teaching and learning. Keep reading your newsletters for updates on accessing the CSPT pharmacology learning objectives.
Pharmacology Resources with the Click of a Button
Have you seen an animation or video that explains a component of pharmacology really well? Do you have some go-to Internet favourites you utilize for teaching or learning? Let’s expand our list of great resources accessible through the Members Portal of the CSPT website. Help us build our Links section by sharing links to great resources by sending an email to email@example.com.
Please donate to CSPT to contribute to our educational success (while lowering your taxes!). Note that your donation is for the Ken Piafsky Education Fund. Every little bit helps us to grow pharmacology education.
In Memorium: Saying Goodbye to Domenico Regoli
By Emanuel Escher, CSPT Past President
In April 2019, Dr. Domenico Regoli passed away at the age of 85.
Dr. Regoli was Professor at the Department of Pharmacology at the Université de Sherbrooke from 1968 to 1998. He became Professor emeritus in 1998. A world leader in pharmacology, Dr. Regoli dedicated his half-century career to the pharmacology of vasoactive peptides and their antagonists, with a particular emphasis on drugs for the treatment of cardiovascular disorders and diabetes. As a testimony to the high impact to biomedical research, he made remarkable contributions on three classes of drugs broadly used in the clinics today: diuretics, angiotensin II receptor antagonists, and inhibitors of angiotensin-converting enzyme.
Dr. Regoli was a strong proponent of the study of peptides in Quebec. Peptides are a group of natural substances found in our biology and possessing central physiological roles in our health and homeostasis. He published over 500 scientific articles and book chapters throughout his career. His publications on angiotensin II, bradykinin, substance P and their receptors are among the most cited in the world biomedical literature. In 1993, a study from the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) revealed that Université de Sherbrooke ranked first in Canada and 34th worldwide for the impact of its research in pharmacology. This impressive performance is largely due to Dr. Regoli’s scientific productivity. At the time, Dr. Regoli was ranked 22nd as the most cited scientist worldwide.
Of particular note, of the 20 PhD students trained by Dr. Regoli, eight are university professors at Sherbrooke, Laval, Montreal and McGill. One of these eight, Rémi Quirion, occupies the position of Québec’s Chief Scientist.
Upon arrival at Université de Sherbrooke in 1968, Dr. Regoli started organizing research in pharmacology. Despite modern laboratories, there was much to be done, including equipping labs and recruiting professors, technicians and students. Dr. Regoli is among the builders of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Université de Sherbrooke and was very proud of its progression. He believed pharmacology and chemistry were working hand in hand to advance knowledge on novel drugs. The Department of Pharmacology was built based on this principle, and continues to develop, attracting numerous students and important research funding, and maintaining international recognition in the field of respiratory, cardiovascular and neuropharmacology. His vision and the success of the Department of Pharmacology are at the origin of the creation of the Institut de Pharmacologie de Sherbrooke (IPS) in 1997, which allies research in pharmacology and chemistry.
Above and beyond the impact of his work in the scientific community, Dr. Regoli received numerous recognitions, including Scientific Fellow (1973–1998) from the Medical Research Council of Canada (now the Canadian Institutes of Health Research). He was honored by the Canadian Society for Pharmacology with the award of the Upjohn Prize in 1993 for his exceptional contributions to research and teaching in Canada. In 1994, the Frey-E.-Werle Foundation awarded him the Gold medal to commemorate his outstanding contributions to the understanding of the kallikrein-kinin system. In 1996, he received the prestigious Léo Parizeau award in biological and health sciences from the Association Francophone pour le Savoir (ACFAS). In 2006, he received the prestigious title of Great Officer of the Italian Republic, one of the highest honours awarded to Italian citizens. Finally, in 2008 he was awarded the Prize for Scientific Mentor of the Club de Recherche Clinique du Québec. He was also an emeritus member of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.
Among his numerous contributions to research, one of the most notable is the first patent describing antagonists of the receptor for angiotensin, an endogenous polypeptide central in the contraction of blood vessels and associated with hypertension. These molecules laid the basis for the identification of the drug class known as Sartans, antagonists of the angiotensin AT-1 receptor, now a mainstream therapy against hypertension, other cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. His research also led to the identification of the bradykinin B1 receptor at the end of the 1970s, and he was the first to develop selective agonists and antagonists to characterize this inducible receptor in several experimental models. This receptor, which is essentially not expressed in healthy tissues, has become a therapeutic target in the treatment of chronic pain, inflammatory diseases, diabetic retinopathy, cancer, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
His unparalleled passion for research was a great inspiration to several generations of researchers now working in the academic environment. He was undoubtedly one of the great masters in the pharmacology of vasoactive peptides of the G protein-coupled receptors family. His critical and creative mind coupled with his extraordinary work capacity made him one of the great modern time pharmacologists, alongside with Sir John Gaddum, Jacobus Ariens, Ulf von Euler (Nobel 1970), Sir John Vane (Nobel 1982) et Robert F. Furchgott (Nobel 1998
In Memoriam: Domenico Regoli a été professeur au Département de Pharmacologie de l’Université de Sherbrooke de 1968 à 1998. On lui attribuera le titre de Professeur émérite en 1998. Reconnu comme une sommité mondiale en pharmacologie, le Pr Regoli a consacré toute sa carrière longue d’un demi-siècle, à la pharmacologie des peptides vasoactifs et de leurs antagonistes. Il s'est intéressé plus particulièrement à la recherche de nouveaux médicaments applicables au traitement des maladies du système cardiovasculaire et du diabète. Ses contributions remarquables ont porté sur trois types de médicaments (diurétiques, antagonistes de l’angiotensine, inhibiteurs de l’enzyme de conversion de l’angiotensine) et qui sont, aujourd'hui encore, parmi les plus utilisés en clinique, ce qui constitue, en soi, la meilleure preuve de la pertinence physiopathologique des travaux de recherche du Pr Regoli pour les sciences biomédicales.
Le Pr Regoli a été le promoteur de l'étude des peptides au Québec, un groupe de substances naturelles douées de fortes activités et affectant des fonctions physiologiques essentielles au bon maintien de l'état de santé de l'organisme.
Le Pr Regoli est l'auteur de plus de 500 articles scientifiques et chapitres de livres. Ses publications sur l’angiotensine Il, la bradykinine, la substance P et leurs récepteurs sont parmi les plus citées de la littérature médicale mondiale. En 1993, une étude de l'lnstitute for Scientific Information (ISI) révélait que l'Université de Sherbrooke se classait première au Canada et 34e à l'échelle internationale pour l'impact de sa recherche en pharmacologie. Cette place de choix est attribuable en grande partie à la productivité remarquable du Pr Regoli, qui se classait alors à la 22e position du palmarès mondial des auteurs les plus cités.
Fait remarquable, parmi les 20 étudiants et étudiants formés au doctorat par le Pr Regoli, on compte huit professeures et professeurs titulaires exerçant à l'Université de Sherbrooke, à l'Université Laval, à l'Université de Montréal ou à l'Université McGill, dont Rémi Quirion, nommé Scientifique en chef du Québec.
Dès son arrivée à l'Université de Sherbrooke, en 1968, le Pr Regoli commence à y organiser la recherche en pharmacologie. Bien que disposant de laboratoires ultramodernes, tout reste à faire: équiper les laboratoires, recruter des professeurs, des techniciens et des étudiants. Le Pr Regoli a donc été parmi les bâtisseurs de la Faculté et il était très fier de l'évolution de cette dernière. Dans l'esprit du Pr Regoli, les études en pharmacologie se doivent de côtoyer celles de la chimie médicinale afin de faire avancer les connaissances sur le médicament. C'est sur ce principe que le Département de pharmacologie s'est développé, et continue de se développer, de manière impressionnante, attirant de nombreux étudiants et d'importantes subventions de recherche et se méritant une reconnaissance internationale en pharmacologie respiratoire et cardiovasculaire et en neuropharmacologie. La vision du Pr Regoli et les succès du Département de pharmacologie sont à l'origine de la création de l'Institut de pharmacologie de Sherbrooke, (IPS) en 1997, institut qui allie une vocation de recherche en pharmacologie et en chimie pharmaceutique. Outre l'influence notable qu'ont eue ses publications dans la communauté scientifique, attestée par le nombre élevé de citations, le Pr Regoli a reçu de nombreux honneurs, à commencer par le titre de Chercheur de carrière (1973-1998) décerné par le Conseil de recherches médicales du Canada (aujourd'hui les Instituts de recherche en santé du Canada). Il a été honoré par la Société canadienne de pharmacologie, qui lui a remis le prix UpJohn en 1993 pour ses contributions exceptionnelles à la recherche et à l'enseignement en pharmacologie au Canada. En 1994, la Fondation Frey-E.-Werle lui a décerné la médaille d'or commémorative pour ses contributions remarquables à notre connaissance du système kallicréines-kinines. En 1996, il s'est mérité le prix Léo-Parizeau en sciences biologiques et sciences de la santé de l'Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS). En-2006, il a reçu le titre de Grand Officier de la République Italienne, un des plus prestigieux honneurs pour un citoyen italien. Finalement, il a reçu en 2008 le prix du Mentor scientifique du Club de recherches cliniques du Québec. Il est également membre émérite de l'Académie canadienne des sciences de la santé.Parmi les nombreuses contributions du Dr Regoli en recherche, notons le dépôt du premier brevet décrivant des analogues antagonistes capables de neutraliser l'angiotensine, un polypeptide important dans le processus de contraction des vaisseaux sanguins responsables de l'hypertension. Ces molécules sont considérées comme les prototypes peptidiques des Sartans, les antagonistes du récepteur AT-1 de l’angiotensine, qui sont utilisés, à présent dans le monde, pour soigner les patients atteints d’hypertension, d’autres maladies du système cardiovasculaire et du diabète de type 1 ou 2. Son équipe fut aussi à l’origine de la découverte du récepteur B1 des kinines à la fin des années '70. Il a été le premier à développer des analogues agonistes et antagonistes ayant servi à caractériser ce récepteur inductible dans plusieurs modèles expérimentaux. Ce récepteur qui est virtuellement absent dans les tissus sains est devenu une cible thérapeutique dans le traitement de la douleur chronique, des maladies inflammatoires, de la rétinopathie diabétique, du cancer, de l'épilepsie et de la maladie d'Alzheimer tel qu'en font foi les nombreux articles récents sur le sujet.
Sa passion pour la recherche fut sans borne et elle a permis à plusieurs générations de chercheurs de gravir les échelons de la recherche académique. Il a été sans contredit l'un des plus grands maîtres de la pharmacologie classique sur les récepteurs des peptides vasoactifs appartenant à la grande famille des récepteurs couplés aux protéines G. Par son esprit critique et créatif ainsi que sa capacité phénoménale de travail, il s'est hissé au rang des plus grands pharmacologues des temps modernes dont font partie Sir John Gaddum, Jacobus Ariens, Ulf von Euler (Nobel 1970), Sir John Vane (Nobel 1982) et Robert F. Furchgott (Nobel 1998).
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