Roger Lévesque, Département de microbiologie-infectiologie et d'immunologie
My research interest was stimulated by an undergraduate degree in biology with a major in ecology at the Université de Moncton, New Brunswick. In the last year, I took a course in microbiology and realized that microorganisms live in all parts of the biosphere and maybe could “do anything and everything” in all ecosystems. The role of bacteria as the key element in many cycles including carbon, nitrogen, biogeochemical and in plant, animal and human health and disease made a lasting impression. A stiff learning curve was my first experience in graduate studies at the Université de Montréal in bacterial ecology. I studied interactions between Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans to understand changes in virulence in chemostat culture and in a mouse model of infection. A Ph.D. at Université Laval led to a major interest in antibiotic resistance and enzymes capable of hydrolyzing penicillins, cephalosporins and next generation antibiotics. With an award from MRC, I then did postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard University in bacterial genetics and in molecular biology studying multiresistance transposable elements, identified new beta-lactamase enzymes and learned the tricks of the trade such as grant writing and manuscripts, thanks to George Jacoby, Brian Ward and several others. A stint at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in the Delbruck lab convinced me that bacterial genetics and sophisticated tools and methods would yield exciting research in (micro) biology. Asking key questions in research using integrative and systems biology and based upon knowledge at the edge of various disciplines and complementary approaches are my main interests.
Our research is mainly focused on integrative biology using genomics, bioinformatics, structural biology and molecular and cellular biology applied to microbiology in understanding the biology of bacterial infections, new antibacterial targets and novel molecules of high therapeutic value.
My laboratory is studying bacterial pathogenesis of lung infection in Cystic Fibrosis and the human host response using genomics and transcriptomics aiming for personalized medicine. We are focusing on an animal model of chronic lung infection and using bacterial genetics and genomics to identify genes and their products from Pseudomonas aeruginosa essential for initiating and maintaining a long term infection.
An example of integrative biology is studying various life forms and the quest for antimicrobials. The next generation sequencing and functional genomics of the lepidopteran insect spruce budworm Choristoneura fumiferana is an emerging model organism in insect genomics. The budworm complex, major insect pests of the Canadian boreal forest, is a fascinating problem in biology in understanding speciation with hybrids and in cyclic epidemiology. Data mining and bioinformatics analysis has revealed a plethora of antibacterial, antifungal and anticancer peptides linking with the P. aeruginosa projects.