Affiliation(s): Dalhousie University
Dr. George Robertson, Dalhousie University
Dr. George S. Robertson was jointly appointed as Professor and CIHR-Rx&D Chair in the Departments of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Dalhousie University on October 1, 2002. His laboratory employs cell-based and animal models for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders to identify the mechanisms that regulate neural cell function, death, survival, and repair. Dr. Robertson's doctoral studies were completed in the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie University under the supervision of Dr. Harold A. Robertson from 1985-1989. He then performed postdoctoral studies in the Division of Neurological Sciences at the University of British Columbia with Dr. Chris Fibiger from 1989-1992. This was followed by his appointment as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Ottawa in 1992 and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor in 1996. During his tenure at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Robertson demonstrated that virally mediated over-expression of the anti-apoptotic proteins NAIP and XIAP preserved neuronal cell survival and function in animal models of ischemic stroke and Parkinson’s disease. The therapeutic implications of these findings led to his recruitment to the Merck Frosst Centre for Therapeutic Research in Kirkland (Quebec) where he served as Head of the Department of Pharmacology from 1998-2002. A major goal of his research is the development of nanoparticle drug delivery systems designed to improve the safety and efficacy of promising new therapeutic candidates for multiple sclerosis. He has published 122 peer-reviewed papers of which 25 have been cited at least 100 times (h-index 54). His research has been supported by grants and training awards from Genome Canada, Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Atlantic Canada Innovation Fund, Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Canadian Stroke Network, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada (Ontario and Nova Scotia), Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's disease, Parkinson Canada, Ontario Mental Health Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.
What is the focus of your research? How did you become interested in MS research?
The goal of my research program is to develop drugs that increase the survival and repair of various cell types in the brain. In addition to multiple sclerosis (MS), such drugs would revolutionize the treatment of many other neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and Parkinson’s disease. I became interested in MS research at an early age because my father lived with MS.
What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
The achievements in the diagnosis and treatment of MS have been remarkable. Over the last forty years, MS has been transformed from a disease that was difficult to diagnose to one for which we have effective treatments. This progress has resulted from strong leadership, excellent mentorship, and consistent research funding in the MS field. I therefore consider it a privilege to be able to work in this exciting field and train the next generation of MS researchers.
How do you hope to change the lives of people living with MS through your research?
In the short term, I strive to improve the lives of people living with MS by participating in local meetings sponsored by the MS Society of Canada. My former, and current, students are also closely involved with the MS communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. In the long-term, I hope that my scientific contributions will enable the development of better treatments for MS.
What do you enjoy most about your research?
The most rewarding part of my job is supervising students. In this regard, I have been very fortunate in attracting excellent students that have gone on to become successful MS researchers. In my view, the greatest achievement an academic can attain is to have a student that eclipses one’s career.
How important is the support from the MS Society of Canada in your research?
In a word – essential. Without funding from the MS Society of Canada, much of the training and research performed in my laboratory would not be possible.