Dr. Marc-André Sirard
Animal Genomic Research, Network Co-Director, Bovine Node

The Principal Investigator of the NSERC Strategic Network application and Co-Director of the proposed network, Dr. Marc-André Sirard has an established reputation as a leader in animal genomic research. His work on animal reproduction has enriched the medical arsenal available to tackle animal and human infertility. His method developed to produce the first cows conceived in vitro is now used around the world. Since 2000, he has held the Canada Research Chair in Animal Genomics applied to reproduction. An international grant was awarded to Dr. Sirard to organize an international task force on embryo genomics, resulting in the organization of the First International Meeting on Embryo Genomics held in Quebec City (July 2002). As a follow-up, the international group created the Bovine Embryo Gene Collection (BEGC), a website to share results on gene expression in bovine pre-implantation embryos. He also obtained an NSERC grant to create a blueprint of the genes expressed in early bovine embryos. This collaboration between the universities of Guelph, Western Ontario, and Laval has resulted in the creation of the BlueChip, a cDNA microarray containing 1,200 unigenes. This bovine microarray contains an enriched population of genes not present in other tissues and potentially important to normal early embryogenesis. This unique tool was presented to the international community at the IETS meeting in January 2005.

Dr. George Foxcroft
Swine Reproductive Physiology Network Co-Director, Porcine Node

George Foxcroft was appointed to an NSERC-Industry Research Chair in Swine Reproductive Physiology at the University of Alberta in 1988, and the research program he established was supported by over $4M of funding from Alberta Pork, provincial government agencies, and other industry partners over the next 10 years. In 2001 Dr. Foxcroft was one of the first individuals from the University of Alberta appointed to a Senior Canada Research Chair (in Swine Reproduction Physiology) and is recognized as a world leader in the application of basic research to improving breeding herd management at the production level. Dr. Foxcroft’s core expertise includes endocrinology, embryology, and the application of a range of state-of-the-art technologies to the improvement of breeding management in swine. Most recently, a major CFI/ISRIP grant to establish an Agricultural Livestock Genomics/Proteomics Unit at the University of Alberta, will allow members of the Swine Reproduction-Development Program, led by Dr. Foxcroft, to rapidly increase the study of early embryonic and fetal development in swine at the genomic level.

Dr. Claude Robert – Theme Leader (Bovine ART)
Genomics of Embryonic Development

Dr. Claude Robert is a young researcher, nonetheless recognized as a specialist in the genomics of embryonic development, and especially in the effects of culture conditions on embryos. He has developed an expertise in different technical approaches for the global comparison of transcriptomes. Dr. Robert has now gained international reputation for developing new molecular methods to apply to small tissue samples such as oocytes, embryos, or biopsies. His publications and technical methods are becoming the standard for most animal reproduction scientists entering this field. His current research program is based on genomics and functional genomics in bovine embryo development. Dr. Robert will act as a Theme Leader for the Network related to the bovine ART and the technological platforms sub-theme. Dr. Robert has been awarded an important CFI young investigator award to establish a functional genomics platform.

Dr. Michael Dyck – Theme Leader (Porcine ART)
Reproductive Physiology and Molecular Biology

Dr. Michael Dyck brings expertise in the areas of reproductive physiology and molecular biology. Having previously worked in the livestock production, human infertility, and biotechnology fields, Dr. Dyck has several years of industry experience. During that time he  oversaw the development and application of various applied reproductive technologies and novel gene expression systems in swine including embryo culture, manipulation and transfer, gamete cryopreservation, production and evaluation of DNA constructs for in vitro and in vivo studies and the generation and physiological evaluation of transgenic animals. As Director of Transgenics and Cells Biology for the Quebec City-based TGN Biotech Inc., he orchestrated R&D activities related to the generation of transgenic pigs for the production of biologically active recombinant proteins for the pharmaceutical industry. A recent successful CFI award to Dr. Dyck to establish a Porcine Embryo and Gamete Manipulation/Evaluation Facility at the University of Alberta Swine Research and Technology Centre, will allow for the study of oocyte quality and early embryonic development in swine. He will act as Theme Leader of the porcine ART component of the Network.

Dr. Gregg Adams
Folliculogenesis and Ovarian Physiology

Dr. Gregg Adams is a renowned expert in folliculogenesis and ovarian physiology. His pioneering use of 2-D and 3-D ultrasonography transformed the diagnostic interpretation and therapeutic protocols used in the control of ovarian function, in particular in cattle. Comparative studies conducted in his laboratory have led to a better understanding of folliculogenesis in both animals and humans. His discovery of the link between oocyte developmental competence and ovarian follicular status allows for optimal super-stimulatory responses and higher rates of fertilization.

Dr. Guylain Boissonneault
Male Reproductive Genetics

Dr. Boissonneault is a molecular and cell biologist with a strong interest in the field of male reproductive genetics. Over the past five years Dr. Boissonneault’s team focused on the haploid spermatids as they undergo a striking change in chromatin structure. Dr. Boissonneault’s team has generated evidence that this important transition represents a major source of genetic instability that has probably been overlooked by reproductive biologists. Dr. Boissonneault first demonstrated that elongating spermatids display DNA strand breaks that are part of the developmental program of these cells. Double-stranded breaks are being generated, and, given the haploid character of spermatids, these endogenous breaks cannot be repaired by homologous recombination but by an error-prone end-joining process. Hence, chromatin-remodeling steps in spermatids may be intrinsically mutagenic creating a slight genetic drift from one generation to the next without the need for exogenous genotoxic factors therefore adding a new component of evolution. Several molecular biology tools are being developed to assess the genetic instability associated with this important transition.

Dr. Vilceu Bordignon
Nuclear and Cytoplasmic Transplantation

Dr. Vilceu Bordignon is an expert in nuclear and cytoplasmic transplantation, and cloning of domestic animal species. He has participated in the development of improved protocols for embryo reconstruction and generated several cloned cattle derived from somatic cell nuclei. His research in cattle and mice has revealed that the interactions occurring between the cell cycle stages of nuclear donor cells and host oocytes have dramatic effects on the developmental potential of the reconstructed embryos, and on chromatin reprogramming of the transplanted nuclei. His current research is focussed on the application of nuclear transplantation in pigs and cattle to obtain additional information on the mechanisms controlling cellular reprogramming, embryonic development, and survival in these species.

Dr. Walter Dixon
Swine Reproduction-Development Program

Dr. Walter Dixon has considerable experience in a broad range of activities directed at analysis of gene expression in livestock animal species. He has successfully used a wide variety of molecular biology techniques to quantify levels of mRNA for known genes in tissues derived from animals on a variety of experimental treatments, and to detect the expression of novel genes. Dr Dixon is a founding member of the University of Alberta Swine Reproduction-Development Program, which is internationally recognized as a leader in the study of the influence of the maternal environment on embryonic survival, fetal development, and subsequent post-natal growth potential.

Dr. Sarah Kimmins
Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Spermatogenesis

Dr. Sarah Kimmins is a young researcher working on the molecular and cellular mechanisms of spermatogenesis. Her work on post-translational modifications of histone proteins in the context of chromatin represents an invaluable addition to EmbryoGENE with regard to the epigenetic aspects of the Network. Her expertise in the use of the mouse as a model organism will allow for rapid validation of the epigenomic assessment tools that are needed in order to adapt the tools to cattle and swine.

Dr. W. Allan King
Embryo-based Technologies

Dr. W. Allan King is an expert in embryo-based technologies such as transgenesis, somatic cell cloning, and stem cell propagation. Holding a Canada Research Chair in Animal Reproductive Biotechnology at the University of Guelph, he studies the impact and use of reproductive technology on embryo gene expression and chromosomal variation, sex chromosome-influenced development, and animal models for biomedical research.

Dr. Lyne Létourneau
Ethics in the fields of animal biotechnology and animal protection

Lyne Létourneau is Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Laval University. She holds a Doctorate degree in Law (2000) from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, as well as a Masters degree in Law (1993) and Bachelor degree in Law (1998) for the University of Montreal. Combining her legal background with an expertise in applied ethics, her research interests currently relate to the constitutive structures of the relationship between regulation and ethics in the fields of agriculture biotechnology and animal protection. Her research interests also extend to ethics and professionalism in research through her graduate course on scientific integrity. In addition to having published on animal protection law, animal ethics, and ethical issues raised by the genetic engineering of animals and plants, she is the author of L’expérimentation animale : l’homme, l’éthique et la loi (1990) and director of Bio-ingénierie et responsabilité sociale (2006). Lyne Létourneau was a member of the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee (CBAC) from 2002 until 2007.

Dr. Julang Li
In vitro Oocyte Maturation

Dr. Julang Li has expertise in in vitro oocyte maturation, early embryo development, somatic stem cell isolation, nuclear transfer, and transgenesis. Her group has made contributions to the improvement of the porcine oocyte in in vitro maturation systems. Her team is currently further identifying factors and environments that are important for oocyte developmental competence, as well as trying to understand the involvement of epigenetic regulation in germ cell-specific gene expression.

Dr. Bruce Murphy
Ovarian Biology in Domestic Animals

Dr. Bruce D. Murphy is a senior scientist with a history of investigating ovarian biology in domestic animals. He has made major contributions to the understanding of the mechanisms of steroidogenesis, particularly on the role of cholesterol transport. He has made further contributions in the area of embryonic diapause by establishing the mechanism of environmental, pituitary, and ovarian control of this phenomenon in model species. He has expertise in endocrinology, cell and molecular biology, and embryology.

Dr. François Pothier 
Production of Transgenic Mouse Models

Dr. François Pothier brings 20 years of experience in the production of transgenic mouse models expressing relevant reproductive dysfunctions to better understand diverse testicular and ovarian functions. More specifically, his research program focusses on the role of IGF-I in the recruitment of follicles and the induction of polycystic ovary syndrome. 

Dr. François Richard
Reproductive Physiology

Dr. François J. Richard has expertise in reproductive physiology, mainly on nuclear maturation and cyclic nucleotide signalling pathways in oocytes. He has been involved in elucidating the function of PDE4D in the female, demonstrating decreased fertility of null PDE4D animals with impairment in the ovulation process. He has shown that type 3 phosphodiesterase controls nuclear maturation in rodent porcine oocytes. Recently, his team demonstrated the role of activators of AMPK involved in controlling nuclear maturation in both the bovine and porcine oocytes. He is currently investigating the role of phosphodiesterase in response to FSH observed in granulosa cells.

Dr. Jaswant Singh
Oocyte Competence and Follicular Status

Dr. Jaswant Singh is a world-class expert in oocyte competence and follicular status. His research group pioneered the use of ultrasound image characterization for detection of follicular and oocyte competence, leading to increased efficiency of in vitro fertilization procedures. His work on  female reproductive physiology, hormonal stimulation, folliculogenesis, and superovulation will provide a solid basis for experiments to be conducted within the EmbryoGENE Network.

Dr. Lawrence Smith
Nucleo-cytoplasmic Interactions in Bovine Embryos

Dr. Lawrence Smith’s research is oriented toward the following fields: Nucleo-cytoplasmic interactions in bovine embryos, mitochondrial DNA replication, segregation and transmission patterns in mammals, and development of new techniques of assisted reproduction. He has also developed an interest and an expertise in the analysis of epigenetic modifications. This last aspect is important not only in cloned embryos but also in cultured bovine embryos, in which Dr Smith’s findings indicate a clear difference in epigenetic programming in embryos induced by culture conditions.

Dr. Benjamin Tsang
Ovarian Follicular Development and Atresia

Dr. Benjamin Tsang is an established ovarian biologist with international recognition for his work on ovarian follicular development and atresia. He has contributed significantly to our current understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the gonadotropic and intra-ovarian regulation of ovarian follicle growth and oocyte health, and is renowned for his research contributions on cell-cell interactions in the control of follicular cell fate and follicle destiny. He has also established in vitro follicle cultures to assess the role of various genes in follicular maturation, oocyte health, and developmental competence. He is a member of the “Program on Oocyte Health” and the “Healthy Oocyte and Great Embryos” CIHR-funded Strategic Initiative.

Dr. Christopher Price
Cattle follicle growth and differentiation

Dr. Christoper Price completed his Bachelor of Science at the University of Nottingham, where he became interested in the research while working on an undergraduate project blood sampling lactating sows under the guidance of Dr. George Foxcroft. He later completed a PhD focussing on the role of steroids and inhibin in the control of gonadotrophin secretion and follicle growth in the cow at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Professor Robert Webb. His post-doctoral work was completed in New Zealand with Professor Ken McNatty’s lab exploring the effect of the Booroola fecundity gene on the reproductive axis in rams. Following a second post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Montreal, Christopher stayed on to become full professor in the Centre de recherché en reproduction animale, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire. His research interest is in the growth and differentiation of follicle in cattle, with an emphasis on granulosa cells. He is currently exploring the roles of the fibroblast growth factor superfamily.

Dr. Carl Lessard
Spermatogenesis, fertilization processes, embryology and genetics

Carl Lessard received his B.Sc in Biochemistry from University of Sherbrooke in 1994. He completed a master degree in Experimental Medicine at University Laval in 1998. After receiving his PhD in Physiology and Endocrinology (University Laval) in 2003, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the field of genetics of reproduction at The Jackson Laboratory (Maine, USA). In 2006, he joined Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) to start a new program to preserve the Canadian Animal Genetic Resources (CAGR). This program is a join initiative between AAFC and University of Saskatchewan and the mission of this program is to ensure the genetic diversity of Canadian livestock and poultry, support environmentally friendly livestock and poultry production, and maintain food security, by acquiring, evaluating, and cryopreserving tissue and germplasm. His lab facilities are currently located at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr Lessard is also an Adjunct Professor at the department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences. His interests are related to spermatogenesis, fertilization processes, embryology, and genetics. He is currently working to improve the in vitro production of pig embryos. Also, he is developing new methods to improve sperm banking and identify essential genes important in the bovine fertilization processes.

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