Professor Dale W Laird and his research team has been examining the role of connexin gap junction proteins in health and disease for over 25 years. Since being recruited from McGill University in 1997, Dr. Laird’s research program has flourished as connexin gene mutations were discovered and shown to cause many human diseases. This coincided with the generation of numerous genetically-modified mice where connexin genes were ablated or mutated to mimic human diseases. Dr. Laird’s laboratory routinely employs these mutant mice together with organotypic cultures and patient cells to investigate the link between connexin gene mutations and a diverse array of diseases and syndromes ranging from skeletal development anomalies to skin disease.
“When I started my research as a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology, only three human connexins were known to exist; now there are 21 of which 12 are definitively linked to human diseases, said Laird.”
In 2005, Dr. Laird expanded his research program to include a newly discovered family of large-pore channel proteins called pannexins that were originally thought to serve a significant role in gap junction communication between cells but now are recognized for their role as signaling conduits between the inside and outside of most human cells. Laird’s research team were instrumental in the genesis and growth of this new research field of channel biology that is expanding at an exponential rate. “
We were strategic in expanding our research program to include pannexins as we entered this emerging field at the beginning as questions around their roles in cellular function and clinical importance were being asked, commented Laird.”
Dr. Laird has published over 120 peer-reviewed articles in cell and cancer biology and serves as a past or current Editorial Board member for the Journal of Biological Chemistry and Biochemical Journal. Dr. Laird has also served as a Member, Chair or Scientific Officer for CIHR review panels since their inception in 2000. “
Service in the research community has been an invaluable experience and has help shaped many successful research operating grants from the CIHR, CFI and several cancer funding agencies over the last 15 years said Laird.”
Dr. Laird was awarded the prestigious Quality of Life Research Award from the Canadian Institute of Health Research in 2006, the Faculty Scholar Award in 2007 and the Dean’s Research Excellence Award in 2009. “
I want to stress that any research successes attributed to me really belong to a long-list of extremely talented and dedicated researchers, trainees and staff that have worked with me over the years, says Laird”.
In addition to an active research program, Dr. Laird has a long history of lecturing to 1st year Medical and Dental students and is the founder and course coordinator for two popular and innovative 4th year undergraduate courses in “Discovery Based Cell Biology”. “
I have always enjoyed teaching and working with students as it taps into a different skill set and challenges me to refine my communication and organization skills, said Laird.”