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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


Lena Darwish

Undergraduate Student

Lena is an undergraduate student in the Biochemistry program at McMaster University and has joined the Coombes lab as a laboratory assistant for the summer of 2021. Lena will be completing her senior thesis in the lab, where she will be studying the immunomodulatory host-microbe interactions with adherent invasive E. coli (AIEC) in Crohn's disease.

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Marie-Ange Massicotte

PhD Student

Marie-Ange completed an MSc in Microbiology at Laval University, where she studied the role of mobile genetic elements in the adaptation of a pathogenic bacterium to its host and its environment. 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.


Dr. Astha Pokhrel
Postdoctoral Fellow

Astha is originally from Nepal and came to the United States to pursue higher education including a B.Sc. in Biomolecular Sciences and an M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Chemistry and Biochemistry. Her PhD research was on stringent response mechanisms in Clostridioides difficile with Dr. Erin B. Purcell at Old Dominion University. For her postdoctoral research, Astha is interested in bacterial transcriptional reprogramming that dictates infection outcomes. On a personal note, she loves reading novels and cooking, and hiking and camping, occasionally. 

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Yasser Dimassi

Undergraduate Student

Yasser is an undergraduate student completing his BSc in Biochemistry at McMaster University. He joined the lab in 2021 and, studies a novel and putative antibacterial therapeutic for Crohn’s disease. Outside the lab, he enjoys spending time with his family, fishing and kayaking

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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. There, as part of the DeLisa lab, she performed research on glycosylation pathway engineering and screening in E. coli. Outside of the lab, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her friends and family, and going to concerts. Jody is excited to join the Coombes Lab and the McMaster University family.


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. Claudia is starting her PhD in Biochemistry at McMaster University in January 2022.


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.


Jordyn Perry

MSc Student

Jordyn completed her senior thesis in the Coombes lab and is now a graduate student in the Biochemistry program and holds an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Jordyn is studying the bacterial response to host environments in order to identify unique vulnerabilities that can be targeted for drug development. Jordyn received the Canada Graduate Scholarship for her graduate studies.


Lab Alumni