Biochemistry welcomes new department head
The Department of Biochemistry welcomes Dr. Mark Berry as its new head of department. Dr. Berry took up his new position on July 1. He succeeds Dr. Phil Davis who served as acting head for just over three years.
Dr. Berry was born in England and received his undergraduate education at Sunderland University where he obtained his B.Sc. (Hons.) in Pharmacology. He then moved to Canada and the University of Saskatchewan where he obtained his PhD in Neuropsychiatry. Thereafter, he remained in the American Midwest and Canadian Prairies with postdoctoral positions at the Ohio State University, and the University of Saskatchewan. He has been a faculty member at Brandon University since 2004, where he served as Chair of the Department of Chemistry from 2010-2013 and prior to joining Brandon University, he was Senior Scientific Officer with ALviva Biopharmaceuticals Inc.
Dr. Berry’s research interests lie in the area of neurobiochemistry. He has worked for many years on a group of naturally occurring compounds called trace amines to investigate and understand the role they may play in human diseases such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, and drug addictions. Dr. Berry has shown that, while trace amines are not traditional neurotransmitters, they do serve to maintain basal neuronal activity within defined limits. Having shown that trace amines can cross membranes by diffusion, he and his collaborators are carrying out molecular dynamic computer simulations of the process.
Following the discovery of trace amine receptors in the pancreas, Dr. Berry has also been investigating whether trace amines may play a role in regulating insulin secretion and glucose homeostasis, and the onset of diabetes. This novel angle intersects with ongoing studies of lipid- and amino-acid metabolism in diabetes by several members of the department.
More recently, Dr. Berry has been investigating the role of small molecules, so-called neuroprotectants, in cell death. Specifically, he is interested in the different effects such molecules have on normal cells compared with cancer cells. He has identified a compound that increases the toxicity of chemotherapeutics towards cancer cells while simultaneously protecting normal cells from the chemotherapeutic drug.
In his 'outside' life, Dr. Berry is a keen sports fan and supports the Riders, Leafs, Blue Jays, and Leeds United. He has joined - and already played his first match for - Haywoods Metropolitan United FC, in the St John's masters soccer league. His wife, Tangyne, is a research technician with Dr. Craig Moore, a new faculty member in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, and she runs a cake decorating business in her spare time. Their daughter is a competitive Scottish Highland dancer and cheerleader.