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Ken Dewar

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Ken Dewar

Professor, Department of Human Genetics

Email: ken.dewar@mcgill.ca
Phone: (514) 398-3311 Ext 00089

740 Dr Penfield Ave, Room 7214
Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3A 0G1

Ken Dewar obtained his PhD from Université Laval in 1995 studying the genome structure of the Dutch elm disease fungus, Ophiostoma ulmi. After completing post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania where he participated in the mapping and sequencing of the genome of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, he joined the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research (now the Broad Institute) in 1997. There, as part of the Human Genome Project, he led teams for genome mapping and chromosome closure.

Dr. Dewar has been a member of McGill University’s Department of Human Genetics since 2002, first as Assistant and then as Associate Professor. In 2005, he led the team that sequenced the genome of the deadly C. difficile strain prevalent in Quebec hospitals. From 2007 to 2011, Dr. Dewar served as the Interim Scientific Director of the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre. As a PI, he and his team continue to work on collaborative large-scale multi-institution genomics projects involving biomedically important non-human primates (vervet monkey) and bacterial pathogens (e.g., Clostridium difficile) as well as fungal species with potential industrial and environmental applications.

Research Interests

My research interests straddle advanced DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics. I am interested in strategies for genome assembly and how to use bioinformatics to know that “we have got it right”, then using the assemblies as references to discern genetic variation and to annotate genetic processes. I firmly believe that genomics is not only transforming human biomedical research, but is revolutionizing research across the full breadth of life sciences. The ability to use core instrumentation and expertise throughout biology is underpinning new advances in the fields of research including, but not limited to human and animal medicine, food safety, environmental assessment, and biotechnology.

1. Genome architecture.
I have >20 years of experience studying how genomes are organized. A fundamental aspect of this work has been the continually evolving implementation of strategies to sequence entire genomes, and with that, the development of QA/QC measures to ensure that genomes are assembled properly: from the base accuracy level through to the fidelity of chromosomal length pseudomolecules (contigs and scaffolds) to the actual genome. Over the course of my career I have participated in landmark projects including the sequencing of the Arabidopsis thaliana genome and the human genome project. More recently, my McGill research team, working in close conjunction with the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, have been using massively parallel sequencing for dozens of bacterial genome (2-6 Mb) sequencing projects and a growing number of fungal genomes (20-40 Mb). We are also collaborating with colleagues at the Washington University Genome Center (Drs. W. Warren, G. Weinstock, and E. Mardis) and UCLA (Dr. N. Freimer) on the genome sequencing of the vervet monkey genome, an ambitious project to sequence >120 individuals, including representatives of the major African subspecies.

2. Comparative Genomics.
The overarching objective of investing effort to sequence genomes (and ensuring that they are accurate) is to subsequently use them as references to determine genetic variation across individuals or species and to provide frameworks to measure differential expression of genes, sites of differential methylation, sites of differential transcription factor binding, etc. Our laboratory has led or participated in projects to identify large scale rearrangements in the vervet monkey genome, to assess genetic diversity in pathogenic Clostridium difficile, to decrypt a secondary form of gene transcription in Ciona intestinalis, to identify mutations for laboratory induced antibiotic resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae, and to identify mutations affecting beta-cell generation and its role in diabetes. In many cases, these have been recognized as community resource projects and we have followed early data release guidelines.

3. Expanding the impacts of genomics in non-model systems.
I have been fortunate to be able to merge my personal research interests with my role as Acting Scientific Director of the Innovation Centre (2007-2011) to make genomics technologies and expertise increasingly available to an incredibly wide spectrum of researchers and projects. Our Centre is now a resource for studies that were simply inconceivable only a few years ago. We now participate in projects that literally span the globe (Arctic versus Antarctic microbiomes, PIs Jacques Corbeil and Connie Lovejoy, U. Laval) and extend into outer space (International Space Station water purification system biofilms, PI Shawn Levy, HudsonAlpha Institute). While my own contribution to the vast majority of projects is nonexistent or minimal, I am proud that a mindset of “genomics for life” has taken hold throughout the Innovation Centre.

Recent Publications

  • Cavalcanti, GS, Wasserscheid, J, Dewar, K, Shikuma, NJ. Complete Genome Sequences of Two Marine Biofilm Isolates, Leisingera sp. nov. Strains 201A and 204H, Novel Representatives of the Roseobacter Group. 2020;9 (28):. doi: 10.1128/MRA.00505-20. PubMed PMID:32646902 PubMed Central PMC7348020.
  • Bayega, A, Djambazian, H, Tsoumani, KT, Gregoriou, ME, Sagri, E, Drosopoulou, E et al.. De novo assembly of the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae) genome with linked-reads and long-read technologies minimizes gaps and provides exceptional Y chromosome assembly. BMC Genomics. 2020;21 (1):259. doi: 10.1186/s12864-020-6672-3. PubMed PMID:32228451 PubMed Central PMC7106766.
  • Péan, N, Le Lay, A, Brial, F, Wasserscheid, J, Rouch, C, Vincent, M et al.. Dominant gut Prevotella copri in gastrectomised non-obese diabetic Goto-Kakizaki rats improves glucose homeostasis through enhanced FXR signalling. Diabetologia. 2020;63 (6):1223-1235. doi: 10.1007/s00125-020-05122-7. PubMed PMID:32173762 PubMed Central PMC7228998.
  • Hebert, FO, Freschi, L, Blackburn, G, Béliveau, C, Dewar, K, Boyle, B et al.. Expansion of LINEs and species-specific DNA repeats drives genome expansion in Asian Gypsy Moths. Sci Rep. 2019;9 (1):16413. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52840-z. PubMed PMID:31712581 PubMed Central PMC6848174.
  • Desloges, I, Taylor, JA, Leclerc, JM, Brannon, JR, Portt, A, Spencer, JD et al.. Identification and characterization of OmpT-like proteases in uropathogenic Escherichia coli clinical isolates. Microbiologyopen. 2019;8 (11):e915. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.915. PubMed PMID:31496120 PubMed Central PMC6854850.
  • Minerbi, A, Gonzalez, E, Brereton, NJB, Anjarkouchian, A, Dewar, K, Fitzcharles, MA et al.. Altered microbiome composition in individuals with fibromyalgia. Pain. 2019;160 (11):2589-2602. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001640. PubMed PMID:31219947 .
  • Lypaczewski, P, Hoshizaki, J, Zhang, WW, McCall, LI, Torcivia-Rodriguez, J, Simonyan, V et al.. A complete Leishmania donovani reference genome identifies novel genetic variations associated with virulence. Sci Rep. 2018;8 (1):16549. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-34812-x. PubMed PMID:30409989 PubMed Central PMC6224596.
  • Svardal, H, Jasinska, AJ, Apetrei, C, Coppola, G, Huang, Y, Schmitt, CA et al.. Publisher Correction: Ancient hybridization and strong adaptation to viruses across African vervet monkey populations. Nat. Genet. 2018;50 (11):1617. doi: 10.1038/s41588-018-0124-x. PubMed PMID:30327573 .
  • Teatero, S, McGeer, A, Tyrrell, GJ, Hoang, L, Smadi, H, Domingo, MC et al.. Canada-Wide Epidemic of emm74 Group A Streptococcus Invasive Disease. 2018;5 (5):ofy085. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofy085. PubMed PMID:29780850 PubMed Central PMC5952926.
  • Jasinska, AJ, Zelaya, I, Service, SK, Peterson, CB, Cantor, RM, Choi, OW et al.. Genetic variation and gene expression across multiple tissues and developmental stages in a nonhuman primate. Nat. Genet. 2017;49 (12):1714-1721. doi: 10.1038/ng.3959. PubMed PMID:29083405 PubMed Central PMC5714271.
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