Affiliation(s): University of Toronto
PhD Professor and Canada Research Chair in Tissue-specific Immunity Department of Immunology, Temerty Faculty of Medicine University of Toronto
Jen received her Ph.D. (Immunology) at the University of Toronto in 1998. She went on to do a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School studying the complement pathway and then joined Biogen Inc. as a Staff Scientist in 2000. During her tenure at Biogen, she became interested in B cells, Multiple Sclerosis and the TNF superfamily of molecules. After 3 years in Industry, she returned to Academia as an Assistant Professor (Immunology) at the University of Toronto in 2003, in 2015 was promoted to full Professor, and in 2020 was awarded a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Tissue Specific Immunity. Jen's basic research continues to focus on how members of the TNF superfamily of molecules regulate immunity and autoimmunity. Her team has uncovered a novel gut-brain axis that regulates neuroinflammation. With respect to translational work, Dr. Gommerman has been examining the role of B lymphocytes in Multiple Sclerosis patients and in animal models of MS. More recently she has been studying the antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in saliva samples from patients with COVID-19.
How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?
I have been interested in MS research since my time at Biogen where I worked on an MS therapeutic candidate. I am inspired to learn about what causes MS progression.
What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?
I love unexpected findings that inform our research. Science is a demanding discipline - one can never be over-confident as science will always surprise us. This is both a challenge and a lure that keeps me coming back.
Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?
Collaboration, with local, national and international colleagues is the backbone of my research. Without collaborations, our findings would not have the same impact.
How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?
If you could ask one question to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?
If you are an MS patient who has had the disease for a couple of decades, but has kept the disease under control, I would want to know about your diet and other lifestyle practices that might affect your gut microbiome.