Affiliation(s): University of Calgary
Dr. Yates completed his Bachelor of Science with a major in microbiology in 1999 and a Bachelor of Veterinary Science with first class honors and a University Medal in 2001. In 2002 he undertook a small animal veterinary medicine internship at the Queensland Veterinary Specialist Centre with a focus in emergency medicine and critical care. With a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, Robin completed a Ph.D. with Prof. David G. Russell in the field of Comparative Biomedical Science at Cornell University, New York, USA. He continued working with Dr. Russell as a postdoctoral associate until April 2008 when he started on the faculty at the University of Calgary with a joint appointment to the Department of Comparative Biology and Experimental Medicine in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Yates has been awarded an Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) Independent Investigator Award and a CIHR New Investigator Award. His research group currently focuses on the enzymatic processing of antigens and cytokines by macrophages and dendritic cells—processes that are central to autoimmunity and inflammation.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
My group initially became interested in MS research through our work investigating how antigens are processed in macrophages and dendritic cells. We were primarily looking through the lens of basic scientific discovery when we found something that is relevant to MS. We initially teamed up with an MS researcher, Dr. Frank Jirik, and with the assistance of the MS Society of Canada, have now dedicated a large portion of our research efforts into MS. What inspires us… MS is not only a devastating disease, it is also a complex disease (or collection of diseases), but has a dedicated and collaborative group of researchers in Canada and around the world who will collectively “cure MS” one day. We are continually challenged and privileged to be part of the international team working on this problem.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
In research, you never have the same day twice. Constant problem-solving on small and large scales might get frustrating at times, but it never gets boring. Plus the excitement of creating new knowledge or new approaches to disease management is addictive.
Challenges. Finding young new, talented biomedical scientists is becoming extremely difficult. It is a tough and underpaid job. Hence, the majority of young intelligent students interested in biomedicine, want to become MD practitioners. While we need MD practitioners to treat patients, we need the most talented and intelligent individuals to dedicate their careers to creating new therapies and novel approaches to disease management as biomedical scientists.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Simply, without collaboration, research as we know it would grind to a halt. We rely on several local, national and international collaborators for us to perform our research.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
Without early funding by the MS Society, it is unlikely that my lab would be engaged in MS research at all. The MS Society is well known for encouraging scientists from different fields to work collaboratively on MS research—and we are proof. Since then, not only have we contributed to the research effort on MS and continue to do so, with the help of the training programs of the MS Society, my lab has trained several highly skilled post-graduates and post-doctoral fellows in MS research who will join the next generation of MS researchers.