Affiliation(s): University of British Columbia
Dr. Marc Horwitz is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Sauder Chair of Pediatric Virology at the University of British Columbia. He is a co-leader of the Infection, Inflammation and Immunity (I3) Research Group at the Life Sciences Institute at UBC and Academic Director working under the VP Research to enhance and maintain biomedical research models at UBC. His current research is focused on identifying, characterizing and determining the mechanisms of viral-induced immune disease in a variety of complex chronic disorders. These include, but are not limited to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes (T1D), and autoimmune myocarditis, as well as autism, immunosuppression induced by viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Coxsackie B virus (CBV), and HIV. The primary goal of his research is to interconnect the changes affecting the ability of the immune system to respond to infection. For his Ph.D. research in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Minnesota, he studied endogenous retroviruses related to HIV. During his postdoctoral research, he modeled the mechanistic role of virus infection in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis in mice, earning awards from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Diabetes Association.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
I have always been interested in how virus infection could cause chronic and/or autoimmune diseases such as MS. During my postdoctoral studies, my interest focused on MS as there was a great deal of interest in virus etiology, and the role of the anti-viral response. The nature of oligoclonal bands of antibodies specific to viruses such as EBV as a unique hallmark of MS, is still quite intriguing from a scientific point of view. Along the way, I have been inspired by those with MS and their stories. Many of these incorporate an infection.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
The most enjoyable part is discovering novel concepts that increase our understanding. Observing experiments give successful results at defining these concepts. Research is frustrating on a daily basis. The greatest challenge is recovering from a failed experiment that took months of preparation to come to fruition.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Developing collaborations is incredibly important. It not only adds ideas to the mix and positive critique to the work and hypothesis development, it extends the work to incorporate more techniques, measurements and/or answers than a single lab can find on their own. Collaborations extend one's abilities, questions, and ability to find important biomarkers or therapies.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
Essential. Clearly, there is a failure in the last few years in Canada to get national support for basic research. Prior to this, other than the MSSC, there wasn't a priority for MS research in any form. MSSC not only sets a mandate for research that benefits the MS community, but provides programs like endMS that bring MS researchers together to develop collaborations and discuss their results. This is phenomenal and I am proud and grateful to be associated with the MSSC.