IBD Genomic Medicine Consortium (iGenoMed)

About IBD and the iGenoMed Consortium

The inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) are characterized by chronic relapsing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Canada has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world, with > 230,000 Canadians living with IBD, >10,000 new cases diagnosed each year, and an annual economic costs of $2.8 billion. Moreover, IBD often presents in adolescents & young adults; critically affecting an individual’s ability to complete their education, and launch their career and family.

As for most common diseases, the development and progression of CD and UC is influenced by a multitude of genetic and environmental factors. Since each patient has different combinations of these factors, there is tremendous patient-to-patient variability in disease-relevant biological functions and hence also in disease attributes and response to therapy. In terms of medical treatment, approximately 50% of IBD patients fail to attain remission on conventional therapies, and 30-50% fail molecularly-targeted therapies. Because patients cannot currently be stratified according to the different underlying biological causes of IBD, physicians have no tools to rationally pair patients with currently-available molecularly-targeted therapies, such as antibodies or proteins that block TNF-a, the a4b7 integrin, or IL-12/23 p40, with many others in advanced stages of development. 

The IBD Genomic Medicine Consortium (iGenoMed) was created in 2012 to identify the key biological functions that underlie patient-specific disease outcomes by using high-throughput functional screens in epithelial and immune cells, and developing assays (genetic, metabolomic, proteomic, immune, microbiome) to test these biological functions in clinical samples. Our primary focus is on longitudinal clinical cohorts of IBD patients undergoing medical therapy, in order to assess associations between biological functions and response to treatment. The main objective is to identify biomarkers of response to therapy and to develop predictive tests to help guide patients and their physicians in their treatment decisions.

Given the many challenges of integrating new technologies within health systems, the iGenoMed Consortium has also been pioneering socioeconomic research as it relates to personalized health approaches in IBD, in order to identify potential barriers and potential solutions to these barriers to favour uptake of our predictive tests.

Collectively, this project will be the next step towards realizing precision medicine in IBD, and will lay the foundation for developing similar biology-based tests to stratify patients with other common chronic inflammatory diseases, for which there is significant clinical and genetic overlap with IBD.


iGenoMed Consortium members

Here is a brief summary of the expertise that the iGenoMed Consortium aims to bring to bear to this project and a brief bio of each iGenoMed Consortium member:

Core members:

John D. Rioux, PhD | Canada Research Chair in Genetics and Genomic Medicine as well as Chair of the International IBD Genetics Consortium. Dr. Rioux has played a major role in the discovery of genetic risk factors for IBD. 

Alain Bitton, MD | Gastroenterologist specializing in IBD, Chief of Gastroenterology at McGill University and McGill University Health Centre and co-author of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada’s Burden of IBD in Canada.

Brian Bressler, MD | Gastroenterologist at False Creek Health Centre and St. Paul’s Hospital, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. His research interests include population based studies focusing on colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease, and clinical trials in inflammatory bowel disease.


Justin Côté-Daigneault, MD | Gastroenterologist at Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal, Clinical Assistant Professor at Université de Montréal. His research interests include inflammatory bowel diseases.

Christine Des Rosiers, PhD | Professor of Nutrition and Biochemistry at Université de Montréal. Dr. Des Rosiers has gained international recognition for her work on metabolic phenotyping. She oversees the Metabolomics Biomarker Project at the Montreal Heart Institute and is responsible for the metabolomic component of the project.
Jean Lachaine, PhD | Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Université de Montréal. Dr. Lachaîne has more than 15 years of pharmaceutical industry experience and is an expert in health economics. He is responsible for assessing the economic impact of the predictive test.
Sylvie Lesage, PhD | Professor of microbiology, infectiology and immunology at Université de Montréal. Dr. Lesage specializes in studying the relationship between immunobiology and immunogenetics of autoimmune diseases. She is responsible for co-leading the testing of clinical samples in collaboration with Drs. Levings and Des Rosiers.
Yvette Leung, MD | Gastroenterologist specialized in IBD and pregnancy, Clinical Assistant Professor at Providence Healthcare, Vancouver. Her research interest is in clinical IBD, including optimization of therapy, smoking cessation in Crohn's disease patients, and women's issues in IBD.
Megan Levings, PhD | Canada Research Chair in Transplantation and Associate Professor of Surgery at University of British Columbia. Dr. Levings has pioneered the study of immunoregulatory cells and is an expert in human immunology. She is responsible for testing cellular processes in IBD patients.
Pierre Poitras, MD | Gastroenterologist at Centre Hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal. Dr Poitras is a Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal since 35 years. He has contributed to the training of many young gastroenterologists.
Sachdev Sidhu, PhD | Professor of Molecular Genetics at University of Toronto and Director of the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre. Dr. Sidhu is responsible for developing synthetic human antibodies (reagent and/or therapeutic grade) against key IBD targets.

Sophie Veilleux, PhD | Assistant Professor of Technology Entrepreneurship at Université Laval. Dr. Veilleux is an expert in innovation and commercialization and leads the knowledge transfer efforts with Dr. Bitton.


Key collaborators:

Fabiano Armellini, PhD | Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Industrial Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal and a researcher in product development. His research interests include technology and innovation management, strategic technology planning as well as open innovation and open business models. He is contributing to GE3LS benchmarking quantitative analysis.

Catherine Beaudry, PhD | Professor of mathematics and industrial engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. Dr Beaudry is an expert in examining current partnerships between university researchers and both private sector and governmental organizations. She aims in her research to take a global look at innovation, following the innovation process from concept to commercialization to demystify it.
Ryan Brinkman, PhD | Professor of Medical Genetics at University of British Columbia. His research is focused on applying bioinformatics techniques to flow cytometry data. He is working with Dr Levings to develop similar automated-gating pipelines for supervised analysis of the flow cytometry panels.

Gabriela V. Cohen Freue, PhD | Assistant Professor of Statistics at University of British Columbia. Her research work is interdisciplinary, merging components from mathematical statistics, genomics and medical sciences. She is contributing to the statistical aspects of study design, data analyses and interpretation.

Mark J. Daly, PhD | Chief of Analytic and Translational Genetics Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a leader in complex trait genetics and has led many large-scale genome sequencing studies in IBD. He contributes his unique computational and statistical expertise and experience as well as whole exome sequencing/whole genome sequencing on the iGenoMed clinical samples.
Romain Ferru-Clément, PhD | Assistant Professor at Université de Poitiers (France). Assistant Professor at Université de Poitiers (France). His research interests focus on how fatty acids are implicated in the etiology of human diseases. He is responsible for investigating data from the high-throughput functional screens to establish metabolomics-related biological processes that are relevant to IBD. 
Dominique Morin, PhD | Associate Professor of Sociology at Université Laval. His interests include science and knowledge sociology as well as social demography. He will help in the survey elaboration and analysis to identify patients subpopulations.

Johanne Queenton, PhD | Associate Professor of management at Université de Sherbrooke. She is specialized in innovation ecosystems and technological evolutionism. She is contributing to the development of the participative design model and the case studies for benchmarking.

Ramnik Xavier, MD | Gastroenterologist specializing in IBD, Chief of Gastroenterology at the Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard University, Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Université de Montréal and co-founder of the Center for Computational and Integrative Biology. He is giving access to samples for metabolomic and proteomic analyses, and is also performing metagenomics analyses on stool samples of patients recruited by the Consortium.