Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities
As both antibiotic producers and deadly pathogens, necessary members of ecosystems and invasive species, understanding the complexity of the Fungal Kingdom demands a multidisciplinary approach. CIFAR’s team includes diverse experts who interrogate the unique facets of fungal biology to mitigate the threats posed by fungi and harness their extraordinary potential.
RESEARCH AND SOCIETAL IMPACT HIGHLIGHTS
Addressing global challenges and fundal threats
The program partnered with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund in November 2021 to hold a Future of Mycology Workshop. The meeting united program members with experts from industry and academia to identify priorities to global challenges and fungal threats. An engaged discussion culminated in the development of recommendations on connections between fungi and climate change; fungal threats to humans; fungal threats to food security; fungal threats to animals; and opportunities presented by the fungal kingdom.
A leap forward in antifungal discovery
Program Co-Directors Leah Cowen (University of Toronto) and Joseph Heitman (Duke University), along with Fellows Charles Boone (University of Toronto), Christina Cuomo (Broad Institute), and Gerard Wright (McMaster University) have launched a vibrant collaborative program that focuses on innovative strategies to address the urgent need for novel antifungals. Together, the team has screened powerful and diverse chemical libraries, including natural products and derivatives, to identify molecules that kill fungal pathogens or abrogate resistance to the leading antifungals used in the clinic. The team has leveraged structure-guided approaches to optimize potency and fungal selectivity of lead molecules and has developed deep learning approaches for antifungal discovery. In the past year, team members have published several papers with a transformative impact on thwarting antimicrobial resistance.
Improving health through fungal diagnostics
Program members explored opportunities to improve human health through a virtual multi-sector meeting convening almost 50 participants. The meeting included select industry guests as well as Fungal Diagnostics Laboratory Consortium members, who represent North America’s top-tier clinical laboratories conducting fungal diagnostics — including health agencies, universities and research hospitals as well as Canadian national and provincial labs (public health agencies of Canada, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec). Together with program members, they explored shared challenges and opportunities in fungal diagnostics to identify the potential for new, multi-centre collaborations.
Applications Now Open: CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars Program
The Fungal Kingdom spans as many as six million eukaryotic species, and is remarkable in terms of the breadth and depth of impact on global health, agriculture, biodiversity, ecology, manufacturing, and biomedical research. CIFAR's Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities program seeks to address the fundamental challenge of understanding the unique facets of fungal biology that impart a range of remarkable properties, with the goal of developing new strategies to mitigate threats posed by fungi and to harness their extraordinary potential; the urgency and magnitude of these threats and opportunities are further amplified in the context of climate change. The program’s interdisciplinary team encompasses exceptional strength in fungal genomics, infectious disease, food security, biodiversity, and chemistry, and is dedicated to bringing together state-of-the-art approaches in functional genomics, chemical biology, computational biology, cell biology, and experimental models of infection in a sustained collaborative research network. The program is tackling four grand challenges: 1) understand forces driving the emergence, evolution, and spread of fungi impacting plants, animals, and human health and society; 2) identify mechanisms of fungal adaptation and interactions with hosts and other microbes; 3) understand the evolution of resistance to fungicides and antifungals across the fungal kingdom; and 4) develop novel strategies to thwart fungal disease. The program will explore these themes with scholars from diverse areas of expertise, ranging from ecology and field work and epidemiology to genetics, genomics, and biology of fungal threats to the health of our planet and its resident species.
This new report, One Health: Fungal Pathogens of Humans, Animals, and Plants, highlights the remarkable advances in the field and provides updated recommendations to address scientific and public health challenges today.
Program member authors: Arturo Casadevall, John W. Taylor, Joseph Heitman, and Leah Cowen
Burroughs Wellcome Fund
Fellows & Advisors
CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars
Accelerating Progress in Fungal Diagnostics
Accelerating progress in diagnostics to mitigate the rising health threat posed by fungal infectionsOctober 20, 2021
The secret wars of plants and fungi
CIFAR fellow Hailing Jin has uncovered the details of a chilling plot to silence opposition and subvert resistance in th...November 05, 2019
CIFAR is a registered charitable organization supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Quebec, as well as foundations, individuals, corporations and Canadian and international partner organizations.