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Understanding and Responding to Infectious Disease

The impact of infectious disease is woven throughout history. Today, infectious diseases are the leading killer of children and adolescents worldwide, and one of the leading causes of death for adults. Globalization, increased drug resistance, and climate changes are compounding the problem. Many of our existing medical practices—routine and elective surgeries, and chemotherapy, for example—will no longer be an option, for fear of infection. Experts predict that by 2050, drug-resistant infections will kill more people than cancer and cost the world $100 trillion in lost economic output.

How does human behaviour influence the spread of infectious disease and what modelling tools are needed for further investigation? How can we harness new technologies to address the threat of viral, bacterial and other pathogens? How will we combat the global crisis of antimicrobial resistance? What can we do to ensure safe drinking water and adequate sanitation to prevent infectious disease in underdeveloped countries? How do we protect our citizens against the migration of emerging diseases like Zika, ensure the anti-vaccine movement doesn’t eradicate the progress we’ve made, and protect our most vulnerable populations from death due to influenza? What are the related ethical, social, and economic implications and how can our research influence the required public policy decisions?

McMaster is already coming up with some of the answers. Over the past two decades, we have amassed an impressive group of world-class researchers from around the globe—scientists with expertise in the social determination of infection, in new emerging infections, bacterial immunology and the study of bioactive small molecules—who are bridging the divide between basic research and the clinic and community to develop life-altering drugs, vaccines, and prevention strategies to address the most pressing global health challenge of our time.

McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research has become a magnet for the next generation of infectious disease specialists, fostering groundbreaking research in antibiotic resistance mechanisms, new drug discovery, and innovation in therapeutic alternatives to antibiotics. Researchers within the McMaster Immunology Research Centre are designing universal flu vaccines and running clinical trials on new TB vaccines.

Key to these successes are McMaster’s facilities: a world-leading Centre for Microbial Chemical Biology that links pressing medical and biological questions with advanced chemical technology; a High Throughput Screening Lab outfitted with cutting-edge robotics, instrumentation, and research staff; the Robert E. Fitzhenry Vector Facility, a certified Good Manufacturing Practices facility for clinical drug production; and a Biosafety Level 3 lab with dedicated animal facilities and space for current and future projects.

Together, these facilities have positioned McMaster as an internationally recognized centre for excellence and allowed our researchers to develop better science and translate it into new products, changes in clinical practice, and innovative community supports and policies.