Genetics and Development

One in every 25 Canadians are born with some form of birth defect. These defects may be inherited or the cause of environmental influences. Many more are born with a susceptibility to disease later in life. Our goal is to unravel the mysteries of childhood disorders and to use that information to provide better quality of life through prevention, early diagnosis and treatments.

Research Activities
Educational and Training Opportunities
Our Scientists


Researcher teams within the Division of Genetics and Development focuses on a variety of children's health problems, including:

  • diabetes and other diseases of the pancreas;

  • mental retardation;

  • abnormalities of the reproductive system affecting puberty;

  • abnormal bone formation;

  • growth retardation;

  • skin diseases;

  • heart abnormalities;

  • metabolic diseases; and

  • cancer.

Supported by the Children's Health Foundation, we have several research initiatives including those in stem cells, bioinformatics, and epigenetics. 

Stem cells are those cells that can become any cell type within your body. They can also act as a reservoir from which injured organs can regenerate. The stem cell initiative focuses on understanding what genes are necessary for the development of specific cell types. For example, what makes a stem cell become a heart cell? Or a nerve cell?

Bioinformatics involves computer-based approaches to understand complex disease processes. In many instances, childhood diseases are multifactorial – the results of multiple inherited and environmental factors. Using sophisticated computer programs and a process known as “next generation sequencing” scientists can take millions of data points and understand the effects of gene mutations and environmental changes on global gene expression. 

Epigenetics is a branch of biomedical science aimed at identifying and understanding how environmental events can change the expression of genes without causing mutations in the gene sequence. In some cases, these epigenetic changes can be passed along to the next generation. Epigenetic changes that persist into the next generation can increase the risk to various diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Research Activities

For information on current research activities of all CHRI Scientists and Associate Scientists please refer to their individual webpages via the links in the "Our Scientists" table below.

Educational and Training Opportunities

There are always opportunities at Children's Health Research Institute in the Division of Genetics and Development for undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows. Individual research team leaders should be contacted for more information.

Our Scientists


Dr. Dean Betts 


Dr. Samuel Asfaha
Dr. Dhandapani Ashok
Dr. Frank Beier
Dr. Nathalie Bérubé
Dr. Robert Cumming
Dr. Lina Dagnino
Dr. Rodney DeKoter
Dr. Fred Dick
Dr. Tom Drysdale
Dr. Lauren Flynn
Dr. David Hess
Dr. Shawn Li
Dr. Christopher Pin 
Dr. Chitra Prasad
Dr. Tony Rupar
Dr. Suzanne Schmid
Dr. Cheryle Séguin
Dr. Parisa Shooshtari
Dr. Victoria Siu
Dr. Rennian Wang
Dr. Andrew Watson

Associate Scientists

Dr. Basim Abu Refea
Dr. Tom Appleton
Dr. Peter Ainsworth
Dr. Tugce Balci
Dr. Sash Damjanovski
Dr. Gabe DiMattia
Dr. Qingping Feng
Dr. David Hill
Dr. Lisa Hoffman
Dr. Natalya Karp
Dr. Greg Kelly
Dr. Zia Khan
Dr. Peeyush Lala
Dr. Susan Meakin
Dr. Stephen Renaud
Dr. Bekim Sadikovic
Dr. Maha Saleh
Dr. Katherine Willmore