Christian McIntire
, masters student in biochemistry and Katherine Labbé, doctoral student in microbiology and immunology are the co-winners of the Fonds Santé, one of the three Fonds awards of the Fonds de recherche du Québec. Their winning article “Cellular Inhibitors of Apoptosis Proteins cIAP1 and cIAP2 Are Required for Efficient Caspase-1 Activation by the Inflammasome” is published in Immunity, Volume 35, Issue 6, p. 897-907, 23 December 2011.

In this article, they demonstrate that the cellular inhibitors of apoptosis proteins (cIAPs) are fundamental to the immune response triggered when danger signals are sensed by the cytosolic complex known as inflammasome. Molecular mechanism studies reveal the major role of the cIAPs in the inflammasome-dependent activation of caspase-1, a key effector protein in inflammation and cell death, which lead to pathogen elimination and cell repair.

Clinical studies on the use of pharmacological cIAPs inhibitors to treat certain types of cancer are currently underway. The work of the two student-researchers in animal models shows that the compounds weaken the innate immune response. With a significant potential for immunosuppressive effects, these inhibitors should be used with caution. However, certain inflammatory diseases stem directly from inflammasome overactivation in response to endogenous signals (gout) or genetic mutations (familial cold autoinflammatory syndrome, Muckle-Wells syndrome, familial Mediterranean fever, CINCA/NOMID, etc.). Pharmacological cIAPs targeting could therefore prove to be an effective therapeutic alternative to treat these diseases. In addition, the compounds could be used to treat multifactorial diseases with an inflammatory component involving inflammasome (diabetes, malaria, silicosis, etc.).

The Étudiants-chercheurs étoiles Award is a competition spearheaded by the three Fonds de recherche du Québec.

In addition to promoting careers in research, the competition aims to recognize the exceptional research contributions of college and university students, postdoctoral fellows and members of professional bodies who are enrolled in advanced research training programs in the areas covered by the three Fonds.

Every month, each Fonds will award $1000 to a student researcher. An overview of the recipient’s project and a photo of the recipient will be featured on their website at