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Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Collage of various model systems that our scientists use to study stem cell biology, disease, and development.

We're pushing the boundaries of stem cell biology. We're focused on understanding molecular genetic mechanisms affecting embryonic development, organ formation, tissue homeostasis and regeneration.

The Developmental & Stem Cell Biology program is making an impact on paediatric health-care by translating our research into treatments for associated developmental disorders like childhood cancer, birth defects, and other paediatric diseases. We continue to develop new therapeutic approaches for children and youth through a better grasp of developmental genetics, genomics, and stem cell biology.

Research team

Program head Dr. Brian Ciruna and the scientists that lead DSCB labs and core facilities are supported by over 225 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, technicians, and administrative staff. 

You'll find our lab work regularly published in top peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. Our scientists and trainees receive consistent funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), March of Dimes Foundation, Canada Research Chairs, NIH, Genome Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and several other national and international organizations, illustrating the importance and impact of DSCB research.

We always welcome new trainees and staff that are eager to improve the health outcomes of children through cutting-edge biomedical research.

Amy Wong

Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Ashish Deshwar

Staff Physician, Division of Clinical & Metabolic Genetics

Augusto Zani

Neonatal and Paediatric Surgeon, Division of General and Thoracic Surgery

Headshot of Binita Kamath

Binita Kamath

Staff Physician, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Brent Derry

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Brian Ciruna

Senior Scientist and Head, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Chi Chung Hui

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Donna Wall

Section Head, Blood and Marrow Transplant/Cellular Therapy, Division of Haematology/Oncology

Eyal Grunebaum

Co-director Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Program, Division of Immunology and Allergy

Gabrielle Boulianne

Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

Ian Scott

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

James Ellis

Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

  • Dr. Herman Yeger 

  • Dr. Ben Alman
  • Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez 

Program Manager

Dr. Najeeb Siddiqui

Administrative Assistants

  • Vidya Rambali
  • Janice Cheng
  • Tirhas Okubazghi
  • Nalma Uy
  • Celeste Alora
  • Meera Kamal
  • Michelle Turpin

Latest news

Purple, white and turquoise flecks of colour against a black backgorund.

June 13, 2024

Genetically altering proteins could inform treatment development for children with epilepsy

By genetically altering specific proteins, scientists may be able to restore functions associated with variations in the PTEN gene and provide treatment options for neurodevelopmental conditions. 

An exterior view of the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning where windows are curved like waves.

March 13, 2024

SickKids-led projects receive $17.9 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

The funding will support SickKids research into understanding memory formation, increasing genomics capacity in Canada and advancing precision child health.

Two people sitting at a desk working on a computer.

February 29, 2024

Overcoming barriers to conducting clinical trials in childhood rare disease research

SickKids researchers use novel approach to show that a medication reduces the rate of liver disease progression in children with Alagille syndrome.

Research themes

Our team works across a number of research themes and labs. See what child health challenges we're tackling at each facility by pushing our understanding of stem cells.

Genetic models of human development and disease

We utilize diverse experimental organisms in their research, including C. elegans, D. melanogaster, zebrafish, planaria, and mice. By developing genetic models of numerous human diseases and cancer, we provide an unmatched platform for interrogating pathogenic mechanisms and performing genetic modifier and therapeutic drug screens.

Mechanisms of tissue patterning and organ development

Developmental signaling pathways – including BMP, Hh, FGF, Notch, TGFb, PCP, and Wnt, – play key roles in pattern formation and organogenesis. We examine the roles of these signaling pathways, as well as other regulatory factors in the development of diverse tissues and organs (e.g. blood, bone, brain, heart, gut, kidney, limb, lung, and skin). 

Molecular regulation of cell fate decision, cell differentiation and cell death

We aim to answer a fundamental question in developmental biology - How do cells adopt their fate? Our team studies molecular switches that regulate a cell's fate, as well as mechanisms that program cells to die. 

Stem cell biology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

We study the molecular genetic regulation of stem cell states, including embryonic, induced pluripotent, cancer, and multiple tissue stem cell models. Stem cells offer tremendous potential for repair and/or regeneration of damaged tissues and organs. We unlock how stem cells and organoids can be used in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, such as spinal cord injury and bladder regeneration.


Browse a list of DSCB labs to learn more about the exciting research taking place in our program.

Core facilities

Centre for Advanced Single Cell Analysis

CASCA provides comprehensive training and expert consultation services to enable researchers to use the Fluidigm Helios Mass Cytometry (CyTOF), Fluidigm Hyperion Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) and BD Rhapsody single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) platforms.

Flow Cytometry Facility

The FCF provides academic and corporate clients access to state-of-the-art analytical flow cytometers and high-speed cell sorting services. It offers comprehensive training and education as well as expert consultation services to enable users to enhance the scope and quality of their research using the FCF's technology.


Najeeb Siddiqui, Research Program Manager
686 Bay St, Toronto, ON M5G 0A4

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