FoMD faculty member renewed as Canada Research Chair

Todd Alexander discusses his vision for the next five years as a renewed CRC

12 January 2022

The Government of Canada has released its list of Canada Research Chairs (CRC) for fall 2021 and the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry’s Todd Alexander has had his term renewed as the CRC of Epithelial Transport Physiology.

The Canada Research Chairs Program was created in 2000, part of the Government of Canada’s strategy to make our nation a world leader in research and development. Approximately $295 million per year is invested to support 2,285 CRCs, each seeking to achieve research excellence in their respective fields.

Todd Alexander is a professor of Pediatrics, the associate director of the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute, and a Stollery Science Lab Distinguished Researcher.

Learn more about his research and vision for the next five years in this Q&A.

What did it mean to you to be renewed as the CRC of Epithelial Transport Physiology?

I’m absolutely delighted! An investment like this really validates that our research program is top notch, and it helps to deal with my imposter syndrome.

What are some key research priorities that you plan to focus on?

I'm keen to understand the fundamental mechanisms enabling calcium absorption from the intestines and the renal tubule—essential structures in the kidneys. Together these processes are essential to building healthy bones. 

There are several pathways enabling calcium to be absorbed from the gut that we know exist, but they have yet to be clearly delineated at the molecular level. In my lab we are using DNA sequencing and research into cellular pathways to unravel these molecular mysteries.

How do you envision this work contributing to patient impacts or improved patient outcomes?

Hypocalcemia—also known as low calcium in the blood, and disease of calcium deficiency—occurs due to a variety of reasons including genetic defects. Symptoms can include muscle spasms, cramps, arrhythmias and seizures. 

By trying to understand why some children have altered blood-calcium levels, we are able to not only give them and their families a diagnosis, but also learn about the molecular pathways that mediate calcium absorption from the intestine and the kidney. This will help inform new and better therapies for these children.