Dr. Thomas I. Michalak
Canada Research Chair in Viral Hepatitis/Immunology
Achievements: Widely published on the natural history and pathogenesis of hepatitis; discovered a new category of chronic hepatitis infection; extensive work into the means by which hepatitis B is transmitted from mother to child; innovative use of woodchucks to advance understanding of the human immune response in virus-induced liver diseases.
Research Involves: Development of additional knowledge about the pathogenesis and health implications of infections caused by hepatitis viruses.
Research Relevance: Results of the work will add to existing research about the causes of hepatitis and assist researchers in working toward a possible prevention or cure.
Using Woodchucks To Beat Hepatitis
Diseases related to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) kill at least one million people each year. Up to one third of the four hundred million people worldwide who are serologically positive chronic carriers of the virus will ultimately die of liver disease. In Canada, at least two hundred and seventy thousand people are chronic carriers of HBV; another two hundred and forty thousand Canadians have chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV).
Although a vaccine against HBV and treatments to alleviate clinical symptoms in some patients exist, there is no treatment to eradicate established HBV, and the number of those infected grows each year. There is no vaccine against HCV, but results of tests of anti-viral therapies give hope for an effective treatment in the future.
The Chair in Viral Hepatitis/Immunology will add to the body of research required to better understand the molecular and immunological mechanisms by which HBV and HCV establish persistent infections and cause chronic liver diseases, hepatocellular carcinoma and, possibly,chronic disorders of the immune system.
Dr. Michalak has worked in the field of viral hepatitis for more than 25 years, and has completed much groundbreaking work, including the establishment of a large colony of Eastern American woodchucks for the study of the woodchuck hepatitis virus, closely related to HBV. The Canada Research Chair will enable Dr. Michalak to continue to expand his research on antivirals and viral hepatitis, and to collaborate with other researchers around the world on the potential development of novel therapeutic strategies and preventive vaccines against HBV and HCV.