News at Medicine - September 2009 - New biomedical researcher jumps into job with enthusiasm

New biomedical researcher jumps into job with enthusiasm
September 30, 2009
The newest laboratory in the Division of BioMedical Science, Faculty of Medicine is quickly being occupied by Dr. Mani Larijani, assistant professor of Infectious Diseases and Immunology. In moving to St. John’s from Toronto this past spring he filled his car with donated laboratory equipment, and he’s already been successful in receiving a $100,000 research award from the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund of Newfoundland for new infrastructure.


Dr. Mani Larijani

Dr. Mani Larijani in his new lab on the first floor of the Faculty of Medicine, HSC.
Dr. Larijani holds a cross-appointment to the Discipline of Oncology; he’s spent much of his time since arriving at Memorial to meeting as many colleagues as possible in the Faculty of Medicine’s immunology and infectious diseases group, and the cancer research group. He’s particularly pleased to be affiliated with researchers like Canada Research Chair Dr. Thomas Michalak and Dr. Michael Grant, a specialist in HIV and Infectious diseases research.

Dr. Larijani’s specific research interests are in a set of DNA-mutation processes which confer immunity by modifying human and viral genomes, particularly that of HIV. “Due to their mutagenic nature, a sub-set of these processes which act on the human genome are also implicated in cancers, notable leukemia and lymphoma,” he explained. 

The biomedical researcher’s enthusiasm and sheer drive to succeed quickly were evidenced by the piles of paper in his office in mid-September. He had just finished a major grant application to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and three students had just started working in his lab.

The Medical Graduates’ Society (MGS) was so impressed with Dr. Larijani’s potential that he was awarded the 2009 Dr. Wallace Ingram Award for New Faculty at this summer’s MGS reunion.
The $22,000 raised by the reunion classes has been a big help in jump-starting his career at Memorial.
In applying for the Dr. Wallace Ingram Award for New Faculty, Dr. Larijani made a strong case for receiving the bridging funding.

“I have been successful in obtaining funds from several external sources and have the same expectation for the future, “he wrote. “However in view of the fact that our current federal funding climate is particularly challenging for new investigators, the Wallace Ingram award will allow me to implement research that I believe will open up a new avenue of HIV therapy.”

Dr. Larijani’s research has three aims. “First, I want to determine the mechanisms which regulate the particular sub-set of DNA-mutating processes which I am studying. Second, I want to understand the mechanisms of HIV-inactivation by yet a separate set of these processes. And finally, I want to harness this knowledge towards novel HIV therapy.”

Dr. Larijani is also passionate about teaching in medicine.

“I’ve mentored students in the laboratory and taught at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Last fall, I designed and taught a third-year undergraduate course called Survey Immunology at York University. It was rewarding in the end to be ranked top lecturer in the Department of Biology.”

In addition to his research and teaching interests, Dr. Larijani is also interested in the communication of medical research through what is known as “knowledge translation.”  He’s worked with graduate students at York University in a Biomedical Communications Program and he’s excited about establishing similar activities at Memorial.

Mani Larijani earned his PhD in 2003 in the Department of Immunology, University of Toronto, and the Department of Genetics, Harvard University. He holds a B.Sc. (Hons) from U of T and has research experience as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Immunology at U of T. He was a research fellow and visiting scientist from 2001-2002 in the Department of Genetics, Harvard University, and the Department of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.