Advancing knowledge of mood disorders and defenses against HIV: FoM researchers elected into Royal Society of Canada

The exterior of Roger Guindon Hall.

Pierre Blier and Marc-André Langlois have been elected by their peers to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), recognizing them as leaders in scientific innovation and discovery.

Pierre Blier and Marc-André Langlois have been elected by their peers to the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), recognizing them as leaders in scientific innovation and discovery. The Royal Society of Canada has great prestige as the senior collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists in the country.

Dr. Pierre Blier has been elected a Fellow of the RSC for his contributions in psychopharmacology. He is one of three uOttawa researchers in the 2018 cohort of new Fellows. Fellowship includes advising policy-makers on issues of great importance to Canadians, such as health care.

Dr. Blier is a full professor with the Department of Psychiatry and is cross-appointed in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine; he has held the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Psychopharmacology since 2004. He explores the biological mechanisms underlying the antidepressant response, vital research at a time when an estimated three million Canadians reported a mood disorder or anxiety disorder (2013).

Dr. Blier’s specific focus is on characterizing the mechanisms by which medications treat mood and anxiety symptoms. Such work enables a faster treatment of patients and a higher rate of remission, with Blier having devised a method to double the remission rate. He was also the first researcher in Canada to investigate using low doses of ketamine to rapidly treat resistant depression with suicidal thoughts.

No stranger to informing high-level health research decisions, Dr. Blier is one of 10 international task force members working to devise and implement a novel classification system for psychotropic medications, which helps clinicians devise treatment strategies (30,000 downloads of the free NbN2 app thus far).

“Major depressive disorder carries the largest burden of all diseases, according to the World Health Organization, and is expected to grow in the next decade,” says Dr. Blier. “The research funding, however, is inversely proportional to the importance of this public health issue.

“Having the Royal Society recognize accomplishments of someone working in this area will hopefully bring greater attention of this problem to the public and government agencies, helping to diminish the scourge of mood disorders, too often plagued by suicide.”

Read a recent article on Dr. Blier’s endeavours to help those with severe depression.

Dr. Marc-André Langlois is among six researchers at uOttawa elected a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the RSC. The College recognizes emerging scholarly, scientific and artistic leadership in Canada and a high level of achievement at an early stage of one’s career.

Membership is for seven years, calling on incumbents to “address issues of particular concern to new scholars, artists and scientists, for the advancement of understanding and the benefit of society, taking advantage of the interdisciplinary approaches fostered by the establishment of the College.”

An associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology and as the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Virology and Intrinsic Immunity, Dr. Langlois studies how viruses and host defense mechanisms interact—specifically, how HIV evades detection and destruction by the immune system. His research brings new insights into how HIV hides and persists in its host, and could lead to new strategies for fighting and preventing retroviral infections.

A strong supporter and advocate for basic scientific research and discovery, Langlois is poised to answer the call of the College to showcase the immense value of basic research and improve its perception in the eyes of the public and policy-makers.

“Basic scientific research is being sidelined by translational and clinical research,” Langlois says. “This is highly problematic given that it’s at the very core of understanding the natural world and is the fundamental catalyst for downstream translational and clinical research.”

Without a constant stream of new and cross-disciplinary scientific discoveries, he says, we are headed toward a shortage of new drugs for treating and curing disease, as well as discoveries to translate into products and technologies that solve problems and benefit society.

“Ultimately, we are slipping away from reaching our goal of curing HIV,” he says. “HIV research has been going on for nearly 40 years and there is no cure in sight. Why? Because we still don’t understand the fundamental basics of this terrible virus and the disease that it causes.

“I am ready and eager to step forward in shifting the paradigm from an emphasis on product-driven research to a curiosity-based approach through basic science, which has emerged repeatedly throughout history as a highly successful strategy for acquiring knowledge.”

The two researchers have led advances in basic science and patient care in Canada and beyond. The Faculty of Medicine is proud to showcase them as symbols of dedication to research excellence.

Blier and Langlois will be recognized at an official ceremony in November.

About The Royal Society of Canada:
  • The RSC was established in 1883 under an Act of Parliament as “the senior collegium of distinguished scholars, artists and scientists in the country.”
  • The RSC consists of three bilingual Academies and the College of New Scholars, that cover the broad range of scholarly disciplines as well as the artistic and scientific fields.
  • Considered one of the highest academic accolades in Canada, election to the RSC is a distinction toward which many scientists strive.
  • The College was established by the RSC in 2014 to honour researchers in the early stages of their career.
  • Election as a Fellow of the RSC and as a Member of its College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists are but two accolades bestowed by the RSC on those scholars, artists and scientists considered the best in their field.
Dr. Pierre Blier

Dr. Pierre Blier

Dr. Marc-André Langlois

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