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History of the Department (from 60th anniversary celebration 1999)

The Department originated as the Department of Bacteriology and Immunology in the Faculty of Medicine at The University of Western Ontario. Its primary focus was to teach medical students and provide a diagnostic bacteriology service, which was previously a function of the Department of Pathology, for Victoria Hospital and the War Memorial Children's Hospital. It developed a research presence in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and after the Faculty of Medicine moved to the University Campus in 1965, it expanded its teaching responsibilities by starting a B.Sc. Honours program in Bacteriology and Immunology, as well as offering basic courses in association with the Faculties of Science, Dentistry, and Nursing. We are a strong department within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and proud of our history and achievements during the past 60 years.

In 1938 Dr. Igor N. Asheshov arrived in London to be appointed Professor and Head of a new Department of Bacteriology and Immunology in 1939. His immediate task was the design of appropriate laboratories in a building added to Victoria Hospital which opened in 1941. The Department of Bacteriology and Immunology formed part of the Hamilton King Meek Memorial Laboratories serving the hospital along with the Departments of Pathology and of Pathological Chemistry. Professor Asheshov initiated a research program, an effective service laboratory, and taught with style. To ease the load a medical bacteriologist, Dr. R.G.E. Murray, was appointed in 1945 to assist in all the functions.

It was a happy arrangement but Professor Asheshov resigned in 1948 to head a March of Dimes poliomyelitis project concerning antibiotics that might interfere with viruses. Dr. Murray, after assuming the role of Acting Head for a year, was appointed Professor and Head of the Department. He recruited Dr. Carl F. Robinow in 1949 as a senior colleague. This was a supportive appointment that allowed a conjunction of mutual interests in microscopy and research in microbial cytology, concentrating on bacteria at first (Dr. Murray, Dr. Robinow) and later with Dr. Robinow studying fungal cytology. A continuing departmental association with colleagues at the Agricultural Research Institute on campus, notably with Dr. C.L. Hannay and Dr. E.B. Roslycky, was started in 1951. This association continues even today with other Agriculture Canada microbiologists. Electron microscopy was added in 1954. Biochemical cytology was initiated with the appointment in 1955 of Dr. P.C. Fitz-James, the first National Research Council (Medical Research Council) Associate. These steps initiated a lasting and productive graduate program while undergraduate teaching concentrated on the second year course for medical students.

The research and clinical activity of the department increased radically after 1955, requiring physical expansion and additional appointments for the hospital services, (Dr. E.W.R. Campsall for bacteriology, Dr. A. Bakerspigel for mycology, and Dr. I.B.R. Duncan for virology). These appointments also strengthened teaching and, in the case of virology, a relationship with St. Joseph's Hospital. Physical rearrangements in Victoria Hospital helped, but space and development awaited until the move of the Faculty of Medicine to the University Campus in 1965; the progressive integration of the basic medical sciences in B.Sc. programs in the Faculty of Science with specialized 4th year honours components (1965-69); and the building of a University Hospital in 1972. During this period a Faculty of Dentistry was formed allowing an extension of The Department of Bacteriology and Immunology into an addition to the medical sciences building in 1968. This provided the department with additional laboratory and teaching space.

These additions resulted in a series of appointments from 1965 to 1972. The first being Dr. J. Robinson in general bacteriology, Dr. E.L. Medzon in immunology and virology, Dr. J. Rozanis in dental bacteriology, and Dr. K. Ebisuzaki in genetics. Immunology then underwent a major development with the arrivals of Dr. N.R.StC. Sinclair in 1967, Dr. G.H. Strejan in 1968, and Dr. S.K. Singhal in 1970. Expanded teaching of microbiology in the Faculty of Science brought Dr. P.O. Wilkins in 1968 and later Dr. S.B. Galsworthy in 1971. A short-lived program of environmental engineering by Dr. P.O. Wilkins brought the association of Professor J.E. Zajic of Engineering Science. These changes, which involved a move, setting up new teaching facilities, and planning of new laboratories were accomplished with the expert assistance of the Chief Technical Officer Mr. D. Cornelius and Mr. J.F. Marak. In addition, Ms. M. Luney, ART., set up the laboratory teaching.

For its part, University Hospital had at its outset a service laboratory and research function under Dr. J.L. Whitby. He was soon joined by Dr. R.H. Behme and Dr. W.A Black, and more recently Dr. D. Colby, and Dr. M. John to provide a research and diagnostic back-up. Facilities were built into University Hospital to encompass medical student and residency teaching. The two other teaching hospital microbiology departments were, and continue to be, a resource and these colleagues have contributed a great deal over the years as members of our Department. Dr. E.J. Penikett, Dr. E.W.R Campsall, Dr. Z. Hussain, and Dr. R Lannigan were at Victoria Hospital and Dr. I.B.R Duncan, Dr. L.A Hatch, Dr. O. Hammerberg, Dr. H. Bialkowska-Hobrzanska and Dr. G. Reid were located at St. Joseph's Hospital.

In 1974 Professor Murray resigned as Head of the Department to return to normal professorship. Dr. E.L. Medzon and Dr. N.R.StC. Sinclair each acted as head for one year until Professor Samuel Dales, from the Public Health Research Institute of the City of New York, took up the Chairmanship in 1976. Dr. Dales added a new concentration on virology and cell biology with the effective recruitment of Dr. R. Anderson and Dr. V.L. Morris as virologists, and Dr. W.F. Flintoff as a cell biologist. Genetics had developed a strong program in biology and to help contribute to that field Dr. T.G. Linn was appointed as a microbial geneticist in 1978. During this period, inter-departmental associations were reinforced with joint appointments recognizing common research and practical interests in immunology and cell biology. Joint appointments included Dr. W.B. Chodirker from the Division of Clinical Immunology and Allergy, Dr. D.A. Bell and Dr. M. Harth from the Division of Rheumatology, in the Department of Medicine and Dr. D. Denhardt and Dr. A. Chambers from Cancer Research. The name of the Department changed to Microbiology and Immunology in 1978 to reflect the breadth of competence.

In 1981, Professor Dales stepped down as Chair to continue his scientific interests in the Department. He was replaced by Professor N.R.StC. Sinclair, whose immunological interests played a part in increasing the scope of research in the Department. Research interactions evolved with University Hospital involving immunosuppression, the transplant programs, and a clinical trial of Cyclosporin by Dr. Cal Stiller together with clinical research interests in expanding the neuroscience effort. This combination of intentions were incorporated into the founding of The John P. Robarts Research Institute (RRI) in 1988 which was intended to promote and administer priority research. The establishment of RRI provided an opportunity for expansion of departmental recruitment as well as providing additional space and special facilities. At its outset, Dr. Strejan and Dr. Singhal were able to expand their research on autoimmune diseases and immunomodulation, greater involvements were to come later. Retirements and withdrawals from active teaching required additional appointments to the department, namely Dr. S.F. Koval in bacterial structure in 1984, Dr. M.W. Clarke in parasitology in 1986 and Dr. M.A.Valvano in bacterial virulence in 1988.

Professor Sinclair stepped down in 1990 after two terms as Chair. Professor Bhagirath Singh, from the University of Alberta, was then appointed Chair in 1992. Dr. W.F. Flintoff and Dr. S.B. Galsworthy both acted as chair during the interim two years. Professor Singh brought to the Department an extensive research program in immunology including an approach to the prevention of diabetes. This interest in diabetes resulted in a 1994 MRC Development Grant and, in 1996, a major grant from the MRC-Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International to support new recruitment and a group effort. Fortunately, the initiation of this program coincided with the opening of the Siebens-Drake Research Institute (SDRI), co-administered with the RRI and fused with the former Agricultural Research building. The result during the period from 1993-96 was the appointment of Dr. T.L. Delovitch in autoimmune diabetes, Dr. D.J. Kelvin in chemokine regulation, Dr. B.M.C. Chan in cell movement in immune diseases, Dr. J. Madrenas in T-cell regulation and Dr. A. Ochi in cell signalling, all of whom contribute to the Type-l diabetes research in SDRI. In 1997, following Dr. Dales retirement, Dr. G. McFadden was recruited as a virologist to join Dr. G.A. Dekaban in human retroviruses and Dr. C. Strathdee in human neurodegenerative disorders in the laboratories at RRI/SDRI. SDRI also incorporates Agriculture Canada microbiologists, Dr. D. Cuppels, Dr. K.R Dobinson and Dr. M. Gijzen, who have appointments in the department and contribute expertise on plant pathogens and soil microbiology. The most recent appointments to the Department include Dr. M. Bhatia in stem cell control and Dr. D.E. Heinrichs in S. aureus pathogenesis, both in 1998. The department now has productive research programs, together with graduate and undergraduate teaching, of broad scope and extensive involvements outside the boundary of the formal Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

As an aside, we should note that clinical microbiology has been a major service function of the department but the Meek Laboratory responsibility reverted to Victoria Hospital when the medical school moved to the University Campus in 1965. The microbiologists retained contact with the department through teaching appointments and departmental responsibilities, as was the case for the microbiologists at St. Joseph's and University Hospitals. To encourage a more formal arrangement, the Department formed a Division of Clinical Microbiology in 1992 with Dr. R Lannigan as Director from 1992-1998. The centralizing of all the microbiology laboratory services at Victoria Hospital as part of "Hospital Rationalizing" in 1998 has changed the pattern; new arrangements will retain this resource for the department and its teaching function.

The department has consistently contributed to the body of knowledge and to the societal side of the biological sciences in Canada. It was pivotal in the foundation of the Canadian Society of Microbiologists in 1951 and R.G.E. Murray chaired the inaugural meeting. In 1954, he initiated its journal, the Canadian Journal of Microbiology and was its editor from 1954-60. Past Presidents of the Society include R.G.E. Murray, C.F. Robinow and E.L. Medzon, while J. Robinson spent years as Secretary and S.F. Koval has been the Meetings Secretary. The Canadian immunological community has been well served by our faculty with N.R.Ste. Sinclair serving as the President of the Canadian Society for Immunology (CSI) from 1981-1985. More recently S.K. Singhal, B. Singh and B.M.C. Chan have served on the council of CSI.

The Research Profile of the Department

The research intent of the department was mainly bacteriological up to 1965.

There were major contributions to the description and understanding of structural cytology of bacteria; C. Robinow's micrographs and descriptions concerning the character and behaviour of bacterial nucleoids illustrated textbooks for many years.

P.C. Fitz-James pioneered biochemical studies of bacterial endospores and participated with C.L. Hannay (Agricultural Research Institute) in the recognition of the parasporal protein crystals of B. thuringiensis, now an important insect larvicide. The department and its students (graduate and some medical) contributed extensively in the transition from light microscope cytology to the applications of electron microscopy, notably: a first view of the structure of endospores (Robinow); the stages of differentiation in endospore formation (Fitz-James); and the resolution of the envelope components and plasma membrane of bacteria (Robinow, Murray) including the detailed description of S-layers of cell walls (Murray). Cytological studies of the nuclei of mycelial fungi (Robinow) culminated in detailed electron microscopy of nuclear behaviour and mitosis in yeasts. Structural studies of bacteria continue today (Koval). It is noteworthy that a long series of international "spore conferences" and "workshops on bacterial paracrystalline surface layers" (S-layers) were derivative and still taking place today.

In more general microbial biology R.G.E. Murray has had directive involvement (1964-90) with both Bergey's Manual and the International Committee on Systematic Bacteriology, which record and regulate systematic data and bacterial taxonomy. Biodiversity is recognized and representatives of a number of microbial groups are studied in the department: Trypanosoma (Clarke); Listeria (Galsworthy); Bdellovibrio (Koval); Deinococcus (Murray); Burkholderia (Valvano); Staphylococcus (Heinrichs); and Micrococcus (Bialkowska-Hobrzanska) among others. Molecular genetic studies of the cell surfaces of select pathogenic bacteria are in progress (Valvano, Heinrichs) as are molecular taxonomic studies (Bialkowska-Hobrzanska).

The virology research of early years sought antibiotics interfering with bacteriophage (Asheshov) and studied cytological effects of phage infection (Murray), which anticipated understanding of the biochemical events. Formal teaching on animal viruses was introduced after 1960 along with diagnostic facilities (Duncan, Hatch) and basic research after 1965 (Medzon) becoming intensive after 1976 (Dales). Significant research developed on Poxvirus biology, particularly vaccinia virus morphogenesis and genetics (Dales), and on Coronavirus (Dales, Anderson) with concentration on neurovirulence. Poxvirus research continues today (McFadden) with a productive focus on Myxomavirus replication and viral modulation of the immune system of the host. Gene transfer by virus vectors is also studied (Dekaban, Strathdee).

Immunological research started after 1965 and contributed consistently to the immunological background needed for the transplantation service developed in University Hospital and to the understanding and treatment of autoimmune diseases. First, there was solid work on immunosuppression (Sinclair), antigenicity (Strejan), and natural suppressor cells (Singhal). Among lasting contributions was the explanation of Fc-dependent inhibition of immune responses as co-inhibition by specific antibody/antigen complexes (Sinclair). Interest in diseases with autoimmune features led to studies on multiple sclerosis and neurodegenerative effects of immune reactions (Strejan, Ebers), as well as of systemic lupus erythematosus (Bell, Cairns). Immunological interest in neurodegenerative disease (MS) habits parallel in virology research (Dales). After 1992 came intensive studies of immune system participation and the molecular/genetic control in susceptibility to autoimmune diabetes (Singh, Delovitch). All this, along with continuing study of immune modulation by bone marrow-derived molecule, Reptimed (Singhal), T-cell responsiveness (Madrenas, Ochi) and cellular homing and migration (Chan, Kelvin) provides broad immunological approaches to current practical problems and effective associations with research colleagues in medical departments (Grant, Jevnikar, Ebers, Bell, Cairns, Lazarovits). Coordinated in many ways are current studies on cell-cell interactions and movements in metastasis (Chambers, Chan, Morris) and autoimmune disease and allergic reactions (Chan), as well as the regulation of cell growth (Flintoff). More recently, studies involving bone marrow stem cells (Bhatia) and xenotransplantation (Zhong, Kelvin) have been initiated.

Research and teaching collaboration with other departments and faculties has been encouraged and potentiates productive work and student interactions. This has often been recognized by cross appointments such as with the Faculty of Science (Dr. Y. Kang, Dean and a virologist, Dr. M.A Lachance of Plant Sciences, yeast biology). There are many cross appointments with the Department of Medicine whose researchers have interests in infectious or immunological diseases and cell regulation (Dr. T.W. Austin, Dr. D.A Bell, Dr. G.A Cairncross, Dr. E. Cairns, Dr. G.C. Ebers, Dr. A.M. Jevnikar, Dr. A.I. Lazarovits, Dr. E.D. Ralph, and Dr. C.R. Stiller) and with the London Regional Cancer Centre (Dr. A.F. Chambers, Dr. J. Koropatnick and Dr. J. Mymryk). There is effective collaboration, mostly without formal appointments and based on a long close association, with the Department of Biochemistry to the extent that the major 4th year Honors research project course of both departments is jointly designed and administered by Dr. J.H. Ball and Dr. S.B. Galsworthy; an exemplary effort.

Departmental teaching has never been static, and requires research and testing of new strategies: e.g. at present, a full-scale course is in progress to evaluate a computer-mediated mode of teaching microbiology with an active web site (Clarke). Also, the new medical teaching curriculum requires one-or two- week intensive "subject development" courses in medical microbiology (Colby, John) and immunology (Sinclair) requiring novel component sessions.

The department is a busy and active organization that has grown to include competence in several important and productive areas of microbiology and immunology. It maintains a graduate student population that has grown from 2 in 1950 to 42 in 1999. The current grant support of close to $5.5 million per year supports a strong research effort by the department.

The department has enthusiastic, strong links with clinical and basic science departments, research institutes and hospitals. In addition, it has built links with schools, community groups and national organizations.

Professor R.G.E. Murray

 

 

Past and Present Faculty Members

The Department of Pathology & Bacteriology 1939- 1943

The Department of Bacteriology & Immunology 1943-1978

The Department of Microbiology & Immunology 1978-present

(* indicates current appointment)

Abrahams, S. Dales, S. Jevnikar, A. M.* Naylor, D. H. Toogood, J. H.
Adler, R Dekaban, G. A. * John,M.A.* Nicolle, M. W. Tucker, M. J.
Anderson, R DeKoter, R.* Johns, E. P.    
Asheshov, I. N. Delport, J.*      
Austin, T. W. Delovitch, T. L. Kang, C. Y.* Ochi, A. Valvano, M. A. *
  Denhardt, D. T. Kelvin, D.    
Bains, M. A. Dikeakos, D. * Keown, P. A.   Whitby, J. L
Bakerspigel, A. Dobinson, K. R. Kerfoot, S.* Panchal, C. J. White, D.
Barnard, J. E. Du, C. Kim, S.O. * Paterson, J. C. Wilkins, P. O. B.
Barr, S.* Duncan, I. B. R Ko, H.S. Paterson, N. A. M. Wilson, W. M.
Behme, R J.   Koropatnick, D. J. * Penikett, E. J.  
Bell, D. A.* Ebers, G. C. Koval, S. F. * Percy, D. H.  
Bhatia, M. Ebisuzaki, K. * Krishnan, C. Podesta, R B. Yanover, L. R
Bialkowska-Hobrzanska, H Elsayed, S.     Yuan, Ze-Chun *
Bittner, J.   Lachance, M. A. *    
Black, W. A. Faust, E. A. Lala, P. K. * Ralph, E. D. Zajic, J. E.
Blaisdell, J. L. Fisher, J. H. Lannigan, R * Reid, G.* Zhong, R
Brown, E. E. Fitz-James, P. C. Lazarovits, A. I. Rice, G. P. A. Ziv, R B.
Buchanan, A. G. Flintoff, W. Linn, T. G.* Ridgway, A. A. G.  
Bulman, D. E.   Lipowitz, H. Robinow, C. F.  
Busscher, H. J. Galsworthy, S. B. Lucas, A. Robinson, J.  
  Gijzen, M. Luney, F. W. Roslycky, E. B.  
Cadieux, P.* Grant, D. R   Rozanis, J.  
Cairncross, J. G. Grant, R B. Macdonald, H.R    
Cairns, E.* Gunaratnam, L.* Madhosingh, C.    
Cameron, L.*   Madrenas, J. Sayed, H. I.  
Campsall, E. W. R Haeryfar, M.* Maki,A. Sener, A. *  
Chaconas, G. Hammerberg, O. Mazaheri, R Sinclair, N. R Stc.  
Chagla, A. Hannay, C. L. McCormick, J. * Singh, B.*  
Chakrabarti, S. Harris, J. F. McFadden, D. G. Singhal, S. K.  
Chambers, A. F. * Harth, M. . McGavin, M.* Stiller, C. R *  
Chan, B. .Hatch, L. A McKay,J.B. Strathdee, C.  
Cheevers, W. P. Heagy, F. C Medzon, E. L. Strejan, G. H.  
Chodirker, W. B. Heinrichs, D. E. * Mele,T. Summers, K.*  
Clarke, M. W. Heit, B.* Milavetz, B. I.    
Colby, W. D.* Hertel, L. Miller, S. J. C.    
Creighton, M. D. Holley, W. J. Miller, W.    
Creuzenet, C.* Howson, W. T.* Moore, D. S.    
Cuppels, D. Huff, R H. Morris, V. L.    
  Hussain, Z. Murray, R G. E.*    
    Mymryk, J.*    

 

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