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About Sickkids
About SickKids

Freda Miller, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Department of Molecular Genetics

Other Positions
International Research Scholar
Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 301434
Fax: 416-813-2212
Email: freda.miller@sickkids.ca

For more information, visit:

Freda Miller / David Kaplan Lab

Brief Biography

Dr. Freda Miller is a cell and molecular developmental neurobiologist at The Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute and Professor at the University of Toronto.  She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Research Scholar, Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurobiology, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  She has authored more than 140 scientific papers, reviews and book chapters and has 15 patents (issued and pending).  

Dr. Miller is best known for her studies of neural and dermal stem cells and of neuronal growth, survival and apoptosis.  Major findings from her lab have provided evidence that adult mammalian skin contains an accessible multipotent dermal stem cell that can generate peripheral neural cells, that the p75 and p63 play a critical role in determining the life, death and degeneration of mammalian neurons, and that one way genetic disorders cause cognitive dysfunction  is by perturbing embryonic neurogenesis.

Dr. Miller obtained her B.Sc. in Biochemistry at the University of Saskatchewan, her PhD in Medical Sciences from the University of Calgary and completed her postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Foundation.  She then held faculty positions at the University of Alberta and the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University prior to moving to her current position in 2002.  Dr.  Miller was also a founder of Aegera Therapeutics Inc., a Canadian biotechnology company. 

Research Interests

  • Neural stem cells
  • Neurotrophin regulation of neuronal survival, growth and connectivity
  • Role of p53 family in the nervous system
  • Molecular regulation of neurogenesis

Research Activities

During embryonic development the nervous system is confronted with a problem of enormous complexity; to progress from a thin sheet of neuroepithelial cells to a network of neuronal circuitry that is able to process sensory information and generate an appropriate motor output. One of the ways that the mammalian nervous system achieves this end point is by overproducing both neurons and neuronal connections, and then eliminating those cells and/or connections that are not appropriate. However, this is not something that is limited to the developing nervous system. Many of the same cellular mechanisms remain "in place" in adult animals, thereby allowing structural and/or functional remodeling in response to physiological stimuli, and providing repair mechanisms for the injured and traumatized mature nervous system.

These complex developmental processes are determined by an intimate interplay between intrinsic cellular programs and environmental cues. Within this broad context, my laboratory is interested in understanding how growth factors and neural activity regulate the genesis, survival and growth of developing neurons and regulate the establishment of appropriate neuronal connectivity.

External Funding

  • 2012-2017: HHMI International Research Scholar grant, $100,000/yr CAD. F.D Miller.
  • 2011-2016: CIHR Operating Grant, "SKPs: Their role in tissue maintenance, repair and regeneration."  $176,000/yr CAD. F.D Miller.
  • 2011-2015: Canadian Stem Cell Network, "Regeneration networks: recruiting adult stem cells for tissue repair." $857,000/yr CAD. F.D. Miller, P.I., D.R. Kaplan, F. Rossi, J. Biernaskie, C. Morshead, D. Van der Kooy, P. Zandstra, coinvestigators.
  • 2010-2015: CIHR Operating Grant, "Aging and degeneration in the mammalian nervous system: role of the p53 family."  $181,000/yr CAD.  F.D. Miller, D.R. Kaplan, coinvestigator.
  • 2008-2013: CIHR Emerging Team Grant, "Stem cells to treat spinal cord injury."  $590,000/yr CAD.  F.D. Miller, D.R. Kaplan, coinvestigator.


  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
  • International Research Scholar, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


For a complete list of publications, please see PubMed

Tsui D, Vessey JP, Tomita H, Kaplan DR, Miller FD.  (2013) FoxP2 regulates neurogenesis during embryonic cortical development. Journal of Neuroscience. 33(1):244-58.

Wang J, Gallagher D, DeVito LM, Cancino GI, Tsui D, Keller GM, Frankland PW, Kaplan DR, Miller FD. (2012) Metformin activates atypical PKCs to promote rodent and human neurogenesis and enhance spatial memory formation. Cell Stem Cell. 11(1):23-35.

Vessey JP, Amadei G, Burns S, Kiebler MA, Kaplan DR, Miller FD. (2012) An asymmetrically-localized Staufen2-dependent RNA complex regulates maintenance of mammalian neural stem cells.  Cell Stem Cell. 11(4):517-528.  

Miller FD, Kaplan DR. (2012) Mobilizing endogenous stem cells for repair and regeneration: are we there yet? Cell Stem Cell. 10(6):650-2.

Wang J, Weaver I, Gauthier-Fisher A, Wang H, He L, Yeomans J, Wondisford F, Kaplan DR, Miller FD.  (2010) CBP histone acetyltransferase activity regulates embryonic neural differentiation in the normal and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome brain. Developmental Cell. 18(1):114-125.  

Park KJ, Ayala-Grosso C, Aubert I, Kaplan DR, Miller FD.  (2010) p75NTR-dependent, myelin-mediated axon degeneration regulates neural connectivity in the adult brain.  Nature Neuroscience. 13(5):559-566.  

Gauthier-Fisher A, Lin DC, Greeve M, Kaplan DR, Rottapel R, Miller FD.  (2009) Lfc and Tctex-1 regulate the genesis of neurons from cortical radial precursors. Nature Neuroscience. 12(6):735-744.   

Su X**, Paris M**, Gi YJ, Cho MS, Lin Y, Lin L, Biernaskie JA, Sinha S, Prives C, Miller FD, Flores ER. (2009) Tap63 prevents premature aging by promoting adult stem cell maintenance. Cell Stem Cell. 5(1):64-75. 

Biernaskie J, Paris M, Morozova O, Fagan BM, Marra M, Pevny L, Miller FD. (2009) SKPs derive from hair follicle precursors and exhibit properties of adult dermal stem cells.  Cell Stem Cell. 5(6):610-23.  

Singh KK, Park KJ, Hong EJ, Kramer BM, Greenberg ME, Kaplan DR, Miller FD.  (2008) Developmental axon pruning mediated by BDNF:p75NTR-dependent axon degeneration. Nature Neuroscience. 11(6):649-658.  

Wetzel MK, Naska S, Laliberte CL, Rymar, VV, Fujitani M, Biernaskie JA, Cole CJ, Lerch JP, Spring S, Wang SH, Frankland PW, Henkelman RM, Josselyn SA, Sadikot AF, Miller FD, Kaplan D.R. (2008) p73 regulates neurodegeneration and phospho-tau accumulation in aging and Alzheimers disease.  Neuron. 59(5):708-721.

Intellectual Property

F.D. Miller, A. Gloster, J.G. Toma "Multipotent neural stem cells from peripheral tissues and uses thereof." U.S. Patent No. 6,787,355 B1, issued in 2004.

F.D. Miller, R. Slack. "Post-mitotic neurons containing adenovirus vectors that modulate apoptosis and growth." U.S. Patent No. 6,060,247, issued in 2000.

F.D. Miller, A. Gloster, CG. Causing, J.G. Toma. "Tubulin promoter regulates gene expression in neurons. " U.S. Patent No. 6,000,772, issued in 1999.

F.D. Miller, J.G. Toma, A. Gloster, C. Causing. "T.alpha.1 .alpha.-tubulin promoter and expression vectors ." U.S. Patent No. 5,661,032, issued in 1998.