Simon Hirota, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, University of Calgary

Departments of Physiology & Pharmacology and Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases

Dr. Hirota was originally trained in the airway field, examining calcium handling in the contractile function of airway smooth muscle in the context of inflammatory asthma, under the mentorship of a well-respected airway researcher (Dr. Luke Janssen, McMaster University).

Upon completion of his graduate training, Dr. Hirota was eager to apply his skills to a new area and decided to transition into the gastrointestinal (GI) field, gradually moving away from smooth muscle function into the realm of intestinal mucosal biology and innate immune signalling (Drs. Paul Beck & Justin MacDonald, University of Calgary). Dr. Hirota rapidly moved to the forefront of the inflammasome field and became the first to report a role for the NLRP3 inflammasome in the pathogenesis of C. difficile colitis.

As an Associate professor in the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology, with a secondary appointment in Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases, Dr. Hirota believes that xenobiotic sensing in the intestine holds great therapeutic potential for intestinal diseases. His laboratory is also focused on understanding the mechanisms that regulate tissue repair in the intestine, with the hopes of identifying new targets to treat the pathogenic tissue remodelling that often occurs in patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Kyle Flannigan, Ph.D.

Post-doctoral fellow

Dr. Flannigan earned his Ph.D. under the supervision of Dr. John Wallace (McMaster University), and joined our lab after a stint as a fellow at Georgia State University, under the mentorship of Dr. Tim Denning. Kyle's interests lie in the interactions between the intestinal microbiota and the mucosal immune system.

Vivek Krishna, Ph.D.

Post-doctoral fellow

Dr. Krishna's work focuses on the regulation intestinal smooth muscle and fibroblast growth and fibrogenic signaling in the context of chronic inflammation. Vivek is assessing the role of NR4A1, an orphan nuclear receptor, in the cellular processes that contribute to pathogenic intestinal tissue remodelling in Crohn's disease.

Fernando Vicentini, M.Sc.

Ph.D. candidate (co-supervised by Dr. Keith Sharkey)

Joining our laboratory with an M.Sc. from the State University of Maringa (Brazil), Mr. Vicentini has been studying the role of the intestinal microbiota in regulating brain activity in the context of intestinal inflammation. Fernando is interested in how the metabolites released from the intestinal microbiota can regulate the function of specific brain regions associated with "sickness behaviour".

Grace Hudson

Ph.D. student

Ms. Hudson completed her M.Sc. degree in our lab, where she published a first-author manuscript in the British Journal of Pharmacology. Grace's current doctoral project is focused characterizing the invasion mechanisms of Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis, the causative agent of Johne's disease.

Kristoff Nieves

M.Sc. student

Mr. Nieves joined the laboratory following the completion of the M.B.T. program at the University of Calgary. Kristoff will be focused on examining the role of microbial metabolites on the regulation of the pathogenic remodelling in Crohn's disease.

Holly Szczepanski

M.Sc. student

Ms. Szczepanski joined the laboratory following the completion of her B.Sc. at the University of Guelph with a focus on nutrition and physiology. Holly will be focused on examining the role of orphan nuclear receptors on the regulation of smooth muscle hypertrophy in fibrostenotic Crohn's disease.

Hong Zhang, Ph.D.

Lab manager/technician

Dr. Zhang joined our team in the spring of 2019. We're excited to have her on board and look forward to capitalizing on her extensive molecular biology and immunology skillset.

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