Brian K. Coombes, PhD

Professor and University Scholar


Chair, Department of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences


Canada Research Chair in Infectious Disease Pathogenesis

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

Elizabeth Chau, PhD Student

Ontario Graduate Scholarship, Fred & Helen Knight Enrichment Award

Elizabeth completed a BSc at the University of Toronto in human biology and animal physiology, and did research on innate immunity and neutrophil NETosis. In the Coombes lab, she is working on the mechanisms of regulatory evolution in bacterial pathogens. 

Aline Comyn, Research Technician

MSc (Biochemistry), McMaster University

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.

Dr. Wael Elhenawy, Postdoctoral Fellow

CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship

Wael joined the Coombes lab in January 2016 after completing his PhD studies at the University of Alberta with Dr. Mario Feldman. There, he studied the secretion of outer membrane vescicles by Gram-negative bacteria.  In the Coombes lab, Wael is studying how pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli contribute to the pathology of Crohn's disease.

Angelica Giansante, Senior Thesis Student

Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization Program

Angelica is an undergraduate student in the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization Program, completing her thesis in the Coombes Lab.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Angelica will be completing her thesis remotely by conducting a review on modern approaches in antibiotic discovery, with the hopes of returning to the lab in the new year.  Outside of the lab, Angelica enjoys cooking, hiking, running, and playing sports.  

Marie-Ange Massicotte, PhD Student

CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship

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. 

Jody Mohammed, M.Sc. student

Chemical Biology

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.

Alexandra Parco, M.Sc. student

CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship

After completing her B.Sc. in Biochemistry, Alexandra has joined the lab as a Masters student to continuing her research on the role of AIEC in Crohn's disease.  Outside the lab, Alexandra enjoys singing and has performed with groups such as Cirque du Soleil and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Jordyn Perry, Senior thesis student and Summer Research Assistant

Ontario Graduate Scholarship

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.

Victoria Schofield-Zioba, Senior Thesis Student

Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization

Victoria is a fourth-year student in the Biomedical Discovery and Commercialization program, completing her senior thesis in the Coombes Lab. COVID-19 has moved this project online, where she will be reviewing literature surrounding the impact of Crohn's disease risk factors on the gut microbiome.

Dr. Ryan Shaler, Postdoctoral Fellow

CIHR Postdoctoral Fellow

Ryan joined the Coombes lab in November 2017, after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in the lab of Dr. Mansour Haeryfar at Western University. During his time at Western, Ryan looked at the mechanism by which bacterial superantigens shaped innate T immunity. Before this, Ryan completed his Ph.D. in the lab of Dr. Zhou Xing at McMaster where he studied immune regulation in the context of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. In the Coombes lab, Ryan is uncovering alterations in the intestinal innate immune response in models of murine colitis.

Caressa Tsai, PhD student

NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship, Ontario Graduate Scholarship; CIHR Canada Graduate Scholarship

Caressa joined the Coombes lab in 2016 after completing a BSc at the University of Toronto, where she studied molecular evolution and genetics of host-pathogen interactions. In the Coombes lab, Caressa will be working on the dynamics of host-pathogen interactions and bacterial adaptations contributing to pathogenicity. Caressa holds a Canada Graduate Scholarship from NSERC.

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