Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Dr. Shannon Dunn

Scientist, Toronto General Research Institute

Dr. Shannon Dunn is currently a scientist at the University Health Network and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto. She was awarded her doctoral degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2002 after which she conducted post-doctoral training in the field of neuroimmunology at Stanford University under the supervision of Dr. Lawrence Steinman from 2002-2009. She leads a research program that focuses on how various risk factors for multiple sclerosis (MS) development impact biology to modulate autoimmune risk in an animal model of MS called experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). She has been exploring the roles of female sex, early onset of puberty, and obesity on EAE development.Her MS Society funded grant focuses on defining sex-specific factors that regulate the incidence of MS.

Learn more about Dr. Dunn

How did you become interested in MS research? What inspires you to continue advancing research in this field?

My mother was affected by MS. I have been inspired by the major advances made in MS research over the past 25 years. Because of this success, I know that we (the research community) can make more advances in understanding and treating the disease.

What do you enjoy most about doing research and what are some of the challenges you face?

I enjoy planning creative experiments that can really get to the answers of questions that I have. I enjoy revealing biology that is new and exciting. The major challenges that I face is keeping money flowing in to conduct the research (especially the new risky projects and experiments) and to keep my trainees as motivated and as excited as I am.

Describe the importance and level of collaboration in your research?

Collaboration is essential to getting all of the work done. It used to be that most of the work could be done by one lab and all experiments were within the expertise of the lab. Now publications require complete stories with mechanisms and not all of this expertise exists "in-house". In many cases, it does not make sense to develop this expertise within a lab when the experiment in question only needs to be done to answer one particular question for one project. This is where collaborations become crucial to the more rapid completion of projects and to save financial resources.

How important is the support from the MS Society in enabling you to conduct research?

This funding is critical to supporting my projects that are relevant to MS. My MS grant is the core source of research funding that supports my research program in MS.

If you could ask any question(s) to a person living with MS that would help you design your study, what would it be?

I have one study where I am recruiting MS patients and having their blood drawn for immune studies. I think that it would help for me to hear from the patients what makes them want to participate in MS research studies and what they hope to gain from participation. This would help me better able to recruit subjects for my research study.

Dr. Dunn’s MS Society supported project:

Sex and Central Nervous System Autoimmunity