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About the Institute

Profile of John Parkinson

Dr. John Parkinson
Dr. John Parkinson

Dr. John Parkinson, PhD

  • Scientist, Molecular Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, Biochemistry, Molecular and Medical Genetics, University of Toronto

Where are you from and where did you study?
England, "near London". I did my undergraduate studies at the University of Bath and received my PhD from the University of Manchester. I then spent a year in sunny Winnipeg, before a six year stint as a “post doc” in much less sunny Edinburgh.

What are you researching right now?
Parasites! Using comparative genomics and systems biology approaches, we aim to identify and characterize genes in parasites that allow them to survive and persist in their human hosts and may ultimately be exploited for the development of novel drugs.

Who is your all-time favourite scientist, and why?
The physicist Mitchell Feigenbaum. He'd blow his travel budget on domestic flights to look at clouds but then developed fundamental mathematical concepts underlying Chaos Theory.

What in your opinion is the single most important scientific breakthrough, and why?
The Theory of evolution. A logical and elegant framework that has laid the foundation for modern biology.

What are your major interests outside the lab?
I used to play a half decent game of Bridge and a really terrible game of golf. Now I have two kids and the emphasis is more on studying the nuances of the Backyardigans. Why does Austin get such a bad rap?

Why science?
I blame Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke for over stimulating my imagination in my formative years. Where are those robots we were promised back in the 70's that were supposed to make the world a better place by freeing us from menial chores such as marking students exams and writing grants?

Why SickKids?
It's not just the incredible spectrum of research going on here; it’s also the collegiality shown by my fellow researchers that makes SickKids such a great research environment. Since arriving here in 2003, I've been constantly impressed at the number of people genuinely interested in contributing to each other’s science, from developing novel collaborations to devoting hours of their time to help others improve their grants. It's a very welcoming and encouraging environment.

What is the most controversial question in your field right now?
To what extent have parasite infections influenced human evolution, particularly their ability to regulate the immune response? There is some evidence that links a decline in parasite infections with an increase in the incidence of diseases associated with the immune system such as MS and IBD. This has led to an increased interest in using parasitic worms as a treatment for certain immune conditions such as IBD and hay fever. On the other hand, parasite infections are thought to play a major role in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection in Africa and other developing areas.

November 2008

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