McMaster scientist wins prestigious award for superbug research

A person standing in a laboratory, wearing a white lab coat and holding up a Petri dish

Lori Burrows, a professor of biochemistry & biomedical Sciences, is the recipient of the Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases’ 2023 John G. FitzGerald Award.

McMaster University’s Lori Burrows is the recipient of a major national award for her research into drug-resistant infections, a global health crisis that kills more than one million people every year.

The Canadian Association for Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (CACMID) has named Burrows the recipient of its 2023 John G. FitzGerald Award for her lab’s research into Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a ubiquitous drug-resistant pathogen that causes pneumonia and other hospital-acquired infections.

“There are many big problems in clinical microbiology, but antimicrobial resistance is among the biggest,” says Burrows, associate director of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research.

“My lab is focused on contributing solutions to this global problem, both by identifying potential new antibiotics and by discovering new ways to get old antibiotics to work on gram-negative bacteria, like P. aeruginosa.”

The Burrows Lab, which supports McMaster’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats, is also collaborating with medical microbiologists and infectious disease experts to explore how bacteriophages — viruses that prey on bacteria — could be used therapeutically against antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

“I’m not a clinical scientist, but all of the work that we do has implications across the full microbiology spectrum,” Burrows says.

“Our work spans very basic science all the way to public health policy, and the knowledge that we generate absolutely has downstream medical applications.”

CACMID is also acknowledging Burrows for her tireless efforts to advance the careers of women in microbiology.

Notably, the last time she received a prestigious national award — the 2020 Canadian Society of Microbiologists’ Murray Award for Career Achievement — Burrows used the award funds to establish the Burrows Award for Womxn in Microbiology, which aims to recognize womxn graduate students in microbiology that demonstrate both scientific excellence and a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

“So many people — especially my trainees past and present — deserve credit for whatever recognition I get, so my philosophy is to pay these things forward however I can,” Burrows says.

Burrows joins Bob Hancock, Don Low, Alison McGeer, and a short list of other Canadian microbiology luminaries to receive the FitzGerald Award.

“It’s very humbling to be included in that group,” Burrows says.

Burrows will receive her FitzGerald Award March 29, 2023 at the annual CACMID meeting in Toronto, Ontario.

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