After 12 years as Director of the Lady Institute, Dr. Roderick McInnes has stepped down. During his term, there was notable growth in the national and international stature of the LDI (and the JGH) as a leading clinical and fundamental research facility.

Asked what being Director has been like, he said, “Well, the job is really all about helping people to get where they want to go. That has been hugely rewarding.”

Having served for a decade as the inaugural Scientific Director of the Institute of Genetics of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Dr. McInnes came to the LDI from the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in 2009.

He was the first Director in the LDI’s history to be recruited from the outside the McGill University network. His internationally recognized expertise in genetics and his reputation as a leader introduced many fresh perspectives.

Under his guidance, the LDI has been streamlined, with researchers in cardiovascular disease, aging and viral disease now grouped together to create a critical mass of scientists who study disease biology and treatment.

Dr. Koren Mann has led this new group, the Molecular & Regenerative Medicine Axis from its inception. To keep the LDI at the forefront of innovation, a cadre of stem cell researchers was recruited to the MRM axis.

“The job is really all about helping people to get where they want to go. That has been hugely rewarding.”

In addition, the McGill AIDS Centre at the LDI has evolved to become part of the McGill Centre for Viral Diseases, in order to expand the scope of its efforts to combatviral diseases, including COVID-19.

The Cancer Axis, the largest at the LDI, enhanced its national stature under the leadership of Dr. Gerald Batist as Axis Head and Dr. Josie Ursini-Siegel as Head of Molecular Oncology.

The emphasis on personalized approaches to care, together with clinical trials of novel therapeutics, advanced knowledge of cancer biology, and cancer genetics have combined to improve patient outcomes. The emergence of sophisticated genomic and proteomic explorations in oncology, as well as virology, promise to bring exponential benefits to cancer care.

The Clinical Epidemiology Axis, led by Dr. Samy Suissa, estabIished the LDI as a national hub for sophisticated pharmaco-epidemiological inquiry. The LDI became the headquarters for the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effects Studies (CNODES) and a key member of the McGill Ludmer Centre for Neuroinformatics and Mental Health. The LDI’s growing capacity in computational bioinformatics was led by this axis, a growth that has benefited the entire institution.

The Psychosocial Research Axis, led previously by Dr. Phylis Zelkowitz and now by Dr. Ashley Wazana, has also thrived. New faculty have been recruited and the research program has expanded to examine mental health across the lifespan, developmental psychopathology and novel approaches to mental health.

These include pioneering telehealth options and digital health initiatives to improve access to care. Long a world leader in cultural psychiatry, the axis is also developing a new theme, Social and Cultural Neuroscience, that will include neuroimaging, computational methods and artificial intelligence.

In 2015, Dr. McInnes also assembled an International Scientific Advisory Board of renowned experts to review the Institute’s operations and output. The Board’s assessments of the LDI’s science have been glowing.

To his great credit, Dr. McInnes was tapped by the Canadian government to serve as Acting President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in 2017-2018. In that role, he oversaw the national health research funding agency through a challenging transition.

For this and his other contributions to health research, he received the 2018 Award of Honour from the Friends of the CIHR; Research Canada’s 2019 Leadership in Advocacy Award; and the 2019 Paul Armstrong Lecture Award of the Canadian Academy of Health Scienceswhich recognizes “leadership and commitment to advance academic health sciences…through achievements that are … extraordinary.”

Throughout his time at the LDI, Dr. McInnes maintained an active lab research program and supervised trainees as a Professor of Human Genetics and Biochemistry at McGill.

Last year, his Alva Chair in Human Genetics was renewed for a second term and he will continue to pursue his researchand other academic activities at the LDI, McGill and nationally.

Source: JGH News

April 19, 2021