James Cotton

James Cotton is an MD/PhD student at the University of Calgary. He completed the PhD portion of his degree under the supervision of Dr. Andre Buret in June 2014 and was funded with grants from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions. During this time, his research received several awards including the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology student prize, in 2012, and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada student prize, in 2013. His PhD research is now published in the International Journal for Parastiology, Infection and Immunity, and PLoS One. Currently, James is a second-year medical student at the University Of Calgary Cumming School Of Medicine. In addition, he is involved in additional research projects examining the immunomodulatory mechanisms of Giardia-bacterial co-infections. For his upcoming research project in collaboration with the University of Gondar, he has received grants from Alberta Innovates Health Solutions and the University of Calgary, Department of Medicine.

Project: "Giardia duodenalis modulates host inflammatory responses to other gastrointestinal pathogens during co-infection"
July 1, 2015 - August 2, 2015


What does the Kean Fellowship mean to you?

I was extremely surprised and grateful to receive the Benjamin H. Kean fellowship for 2015. During my medical school education, this summer was my only opportunity to go away on an international elective for a medical research project. Prior to my medical education, I completed a PhD investigating the immunomodulatory capabilities of Giardia duodenalis in a basic science lab under the supervision of Dr. Andre Buret. For this project, I am extremely excited to translate basic science observations that I made during my PhD into clinical observations. Finally, I was extremely thankful to receive email notification of this award when I was in the company of my family, as they were present to share in my excitement. This award means a great deal to me and I feel truly honored and humbled to have received the Benjamin H. Kean fellowship from the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene for 2015.

What do you anticipate learning?

I have several learning objectives for this fellowship. First, I want to develop a better understanding of polymicrobial gastrointestinal infections and their ability to affect systemic host immune responses. Specifically, I want to learn whether Giardia infections are capable of modulating immune responses to co-infecting gastrointestinal pathogens. Second, I am interested in pursuing a career as a clinician scientist. I believe this research fellowship will help me learn how to establish a clinical research project that I can undertake as a clinician and help me understand how to translate basic science research observations into a clinical research project. Third, I am interested in learning how to create research partnerships between two universities. This project will allow me to help establish a partnership between the University of Calgary and the University of Gondar.

What interests you about tropical medicine and what problems are you interested in solving?

My research interests focus on the ability of gastrointestinal infections to modulate host pro-inflammatory immune responses and whether this alters susceptibility to co-infecting pathogens. I am also interested in how gastrointestinal infections may result in the development of chronic disease. In particular, my research has focused on the protozoan parasite Giardia duodenalis. Work from the PhD portion of my degree has demonstrated this certain genetic variants of this parasite decreases acute intestinal pro-inflammatory responses to a variety of host- or pathogen-derived stimuli in inflamed human tissues and in vivo models of infection. I am currently interested in investigating whether Giardia infections are capable of modulating systemic pro-inflammatory cytokine levels and acute phase response proteins in human patients co-infected with various pro-inflammatory gastrointestinal pathogens and whether this parasite alters susceptibility to co-infection. Moreover, I am interested in whether decreases in pro-inflammatory cytokine and acute phase response protein levels are associated with specific parasite genotypes. I believe this would help increase our understanding of polymicrobial gastrointestinal infections.