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Brian K. Coombes, Ph.D., FAAM

Professor and Chair

Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology


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 and host-pathogen interactions. The lab's major focus is on drug-resistant 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, in 2016 received the title of University Scholar, and in 2023 was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.


  • 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)

  • Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology (2023)



Meet the team

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Andrei Bogza
Undergraduate Student

Andrei is a RA in the lab for summer 2023. His interests involve studying host-pathogen interactions on a population and single-cell scale using high-content screening methods.

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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.

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Isha Masood
Undergraduate Thesis Student

Isha is an undergraduate student in the Biomedical Discovery & Commercialization program and joined the lab in the summer of 2023 as part of her fourth-year thesis. Her project focuses on studying E. coli-host-interactions in various cell types. Outside the lab, Isha enjoys swimming, playing football, and watching movies.

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Melissa Speagle
MSc Student

Melissa is joining the lab as an RA for the summer after completing a BHSc in Biochemistry and will begin graduate studies in Fall 2023. She is interested in understanding how enteric pathogens gain increased invasiveness during an infection while identifying compounds with unique antimicrobial activity against them. Outside the lab, Melissa enjoys teaching or taking dance classes, thrifting, and visiting her favourite spots in Hamilton

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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
M.Sc. Student

Katie completed her undergraduate thesis in the lab and joined the lab as a graduate student in May 2023. Her project explores how host processes and xenobiotics influence behavior of enteric pathogens in the gut. Outside the lab, Katie is a member of McMaster's recreational dance team and enjoys reading and hiking.


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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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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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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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.


Lab Alumni

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