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Brian K. Coombes, PhD

Professor and Chair


Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences

Brian Coombes received his BSc in Biochemistry (1997) and his PhD in Medical Sciences (2002) from McMaster University. From 2002-2006 he was a CIHR and Michael Smith Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Michael Smith Laboratories in Vancouver working in the lab of Dr. Brett Finlay, a world leader in microbial pathogenesis. There, he trained in molecular and cellular microbiology, investigating the mechanisms by which bacteria use virulence factors to modify the host environment.


In 2006 he joined the Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences and established an active research program in infectious diseases. The lab's major focus is on enteric bacteria associated with acute and chronic human diseases including Crohn’s disease. He is the past recipient of the CIHR New Investigator Award (2007-2011), the Scientific Merit Award from the Public Health Agency of Canada (2007) and the Fisher Scientific Prize (2012). In 2010 Brian was inducted into Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, and in 2016 received the title of University Scholar.


  • American Society for Microbiology Young Investigator Award (2006)

  • Most Promising Researcher Merit Award, Public Health Agency of Canada (2007)

  • CIHR New Investigator Award (2007)

  • Early Researcher Award, Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (2008)

  • Boehringer Ingelheim Young Investigator Award (2010)

  • Canada Top 40 Under 40 (2010)

  • Canada Research Chair (2011, 2016)

  • Fisher Scientific Award (2012)

  • University Scholar (2016)

  • Board of Directors, Association of Medical and Graduate Departments of Biochemistry (2019)



Meet the team

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Daniel Akinremi
Undergraduate Student

Daniel is an undergraduate student in the Biochemistry - Research Spec. program at McMaster University. He joined the lab in 2022 as a summer RA and for his senior thesis. His interests are in the fields of microbiology and immunology. Outside of research, Daniel enjoys involvement with the Red Cross, tutoring, and music/art from Ghibli movies.

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Lena Darwish
MSc Student

Lena completed a BSc in Biochemistry and is now a graduate student in the lab studying immunomodulatory host-microbe interactions with adherent invasive E. coli (AIEC) in Crohn's disease models. 

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Katie Iacobucci
Undergraduate Student

Katie is an undergraduate student in the Biochemistry co-op program. She joined the lab in 2022 as a co-op student and is interested in exploring the interactions between host immune defenses and enteric pathogens. Outside the lab, Katie is a member of McMaster's recreational dance team and enjoys reading and hiking.

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Ethan Michalenko
Undergradaute Student

Ethan is an undergraduate student in the Health Sciences program at McMaster University. He joined the lab in 2022 and is a member of the BBS Summer Scholars Program. Outside of the lab, he enjoys spending time with family and friends, swimming, and practicing Karate."

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Claudia Rodriguez
PhD Student

Claudia completed her B.Sc. in Microbiology at the University of Havana and then worked for three years as a researcher at the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Cuba. Later, she completed her Masters in Microbiology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she evaluated the protective efficacy of a passive immunization therapy against A. fumigatus.

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Andrei Bogza
Undergraduate Student

Andrei is an undergraduate student in the Biomedical Discovery & Commercialization program and joined the lab in the summer of 2022 with the Robert Alan Kennedy Global Nexus Research Experience Award. His interests involve studying host-pathogen interactions in the gut microbiome. Outside the lab, Andrei enjoys going to the gym, hiking, and cooking.

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Aline Fiebig
Research Technician

Aline is a Research Technician in the Coombes lab who joined the group in 2015. Prior to joining the lab, she worked abroad at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry near Munich and at the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster.

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Marie-Ange Massicotte
PhD Student

Marie-Ange completed an MSc in Microbiology at Laval University studying mobile genetic elements in the adaptation of a pathogenic bacteria. In the Coombes lab, Marie-Ange is studying the mechanisms by which intracellular bacteria can evade the host immune response. Marie-Ange holds a Canada Graduate Scholarship from CIHR and a doctoral award from Fonds de recherche du Québec.

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Jody Mohammed

MSc student

Jody completed her B.Sc. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering with a minor in Infectious Disease Biology at Cornell University. In the Coombes Lab, Jody is investigating biomedical solutions to wound infections and novel drug delivery techniques. Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her friends and family, and going to concerts. 

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Dr. Megan Zangara
Postdoctoral Fellow

Megan is originally from the United States and received her B.S. in Biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University and Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine. Her dissertation research examined the role of diet as a modifiable factor of inflammatory bowel disease pathogenesis. Outside of the lab, Megan enjoys reading, going to the gym, and hiking.

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Dr. Elizabeth Chau

Liz completed her PhD in the Coombes Lab investigating how bacteria respond to the host environment. She transitioned to the Sunnybrook Research Institute where she did postdoctoral work in clinical virology and has returned to McMaster to support the group’s research on understanding bacterial pathogenesis.

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Kendall Hupp
PhD student

Kendall completed her BSc and MSc at Queen’s University on organophosphonate natural products and is transitioning into preclinical research and microbiology. In her spare time she likes to train for triathlons, walk her puppy Luna and go camping.


Madie McKellar
Undergraduate Student, iSci

Madie is an undergraduate student in Integrated Science with a concentration in Biochemistry. Madie joined the Coombes lab in 2021/22 as part of her third-year independent project investigating adherent invasive E. coli transcriptional reprogramming in Crohn’s disease models and will be staying on for a joint thesis project with the Sloboda lab

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Jordyn Perry
Research Assistant

Jordyn completed her senior thesis and MSc in Biochemistry in the lab and is now a Research Assistant. Jordyn is studying the bacterial response to host environments in order to identify unique vulnerabilities that can be targeted for drug development.


Lab Alumni