Jean-Paul Motta

Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship Recipient

University of Calgary

The complex interaction of genetic, microbial, and environmental factors may result in continuous activation of the mucosal immune system leading to periodical flare-ups and remissions, characteristic of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis). Instability in the composition of gut bacterial communities (dysbiosis) has been linked to IBD. But the effectiveness of antibiotics to treat IBD patients is still inconsistent. In the digestive tract, normal microbiota grow as biofilms structure. Established biofilms consist of millions of cells, many layers deep, encapsulated in polysaccharide matrix. That retention in such a matrix benefits the host by promoting functions dependent of the microbiota, including digestion of luminal contents and fortification of host defenses. However, altered gut biofilms may contribute to many chronic inflammations that lead to allergies, autoimmune diseases, nosocomial and persistent infections. The composition and structure of normal biofilms could be altered by diet, drug treatment, but also inflammatory and infectious history.

My research is to understand how these external factors leads to formation of pathogenic biofilm, but also leads to chronic inflammation in a genetically predisposed background. To target pathogenic biofilms in humans may thus provide revolutionary strategies for the treatment of IBD. And conversely, the identification of hitherto unknown beneficial components of microbiota biofilms may lead to innovative probiotic approaches to control intestinal inflammation, and disorders at other non-sterile organs (e.g. lung and skin).

What does it mean to be a Killam Laureate?
I am truly honored to have been to been acknowledged for my research work and future potential by the 2013 Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship of the University of Calgary. I knew the Killam Trusts as a prestigious Canadian organization with history of funding world-class researchers among various domains.

Being a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow is synonymous for me with professional excellence, and a commitment to improving our world. For these reasons I want to succeed even more to perform good work and contribute to improving the health of patients through basic research discoveries.

How has the Killam funding benefited you?
Moving from France to Canada for my post doctorate has been an exciting and key step for me, and receiving a Killam fellowship is a wonderful assistance in pursuing my career development. This allows me to focus on my research without financial concerns. My postdoctoral research allowance will also allow me to attend international conferences, which is the best opportunity to get involved and develop my professional network. I am also confident that having achieved this recognition will greatly facilitate future applications for research grants and academic or industrial positions.

Why did you choose the University of Calgary?
The University of Calgary was the perfect place for me when I decided to pursue a postdoctoral training after my PhD completion in Toulouse, France.

I was looking forward to working with my future mentor, a worldwide expert in the field of gastroenterology and parasitology.  In addition, my faculty supervisor, Professor André G. Buret, is a 2012 Killam Annual Professorship honoree.

I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to work with the University of Calgary which has the ambitious vision to become one of the top five research universities in Canada. Through their “Eye’s High” Postdoctoral Program and Research Office I was also persuaded to receive all the support I could expect for my career development.


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