2020 Election candidate: Michael Downey

Candidate for the position of councilor

Michael DowneyMichael Downey

Associate Professor, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa

Candidacy Statement:

I am applying for the open position on the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) Executive Board as Councillor. I have had significant involvement with the CSMB since I started my independent position in late 2014. I have enjoyed working with diverse scientists at all levels of training to strengthen the Canadian molecular biosciences community. As such, I am looking to increase my involvement and my capacity to make a lasting impact.

I was a member of the organizing committee for CSMB2017 conference held in Ottawa, which attracted over 400 participants. In particular, I took the lead in conference advertising and organization of a poster session for over 200 trainees. Subsequently, I joined the CSMB Conference Committee in 2018 as an at-large member. My role on this committee has been to help develop resources for meeting organizers. We aim to facilitate annual meetings that appeal to our broad membership. I was also recruited to the Membership and Diversity Committee in 2019. This committee is focused on recruiting new members to the CSMB, ensuring equity, diversity, and inclusion, and supporting all members throughout the entirety of their careers.

In 2019 and early 2020, I was the lead organizer of the CSMB2020 meeting entitled “Metabolic Regulation of Cell Signalling”. While we have cancelled this meeting due to COVID-19, I am eager to host the event in Ottawa sometime in the future. My additional leadership qualifications are exemplified by a broad range of service activities at the University of Ottawa, with a focus on graduate student recruitment and faculty wellness. I also developed and coordinate an interdepartmental seminar series for trainees to share their latest research. Finally, I was recently appointed Associate Director of the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology (OISB). The OISB aims to stimulate collaboration between researchers with diverse expertise and backgrounds, and to provide a platform for the development of world-class trainees.

I am particularly passionate about model systems biology and trainee development and will work to prioritize initiatives related to these areas. Being part of the executive will also afford me the opportunity to advocate for fundamental science at the National level. I am confident I can bring my enthusiasm for these and other areas to the CSMB as a member of the Executive.



BSc Hons. (University of Guelph, 2002)

PhD (Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto 2008)


Career Summary:

Associate Professor (May 2020-present, University of Ottawa, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

Assistant Professor (2014-2020, University of Ottawa, Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine)

Post-doctoral researcher (2008-2014, UCSF, Lab of D. Toczyski)

Topic – Non-histone protein acetylation.

Graduate student researcher (2002-2008, UofT/LRTI, Lab of D. Durocher)

Topic – DNA damage Response and Telomere Biology

Undergraduate researcher (2001-2002, University of Guelph, Lab of K. Yankulov)

Topic – Transcription regulation


Professional activities relevant to this position:

 Lead organizer of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences CSMB2020 Conference (cancelled due to COVID-19):

  • Planning of international meeting to be held in Ottawa, with over 350 attendees, entitled ‘Metabolic Regulation of Cell Signalling’
  • Chair and speaker recruitment, finances, venue selection, promotion and organization
  • Ensuring Gender and Diversity inclusion

Canadian Society for Molecular BiosciencesConference Committee, at large member (2018-Present)

  • Planning and support for annual CSMB meetings
  • Adjudication of travel awards for CSMB meetings

Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences – Membership & Diversity Committee, at large member (2019-Present)

  • Defining recruitment strategies and promotion of diversity
  • Supporting CSMB trainees
  • Promotion of CSMB

 Co-organizer of the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences CSMB2017 Conference:

  • Planning and execution of international meeting held in Ottawa, with over 400 attendees
  • Responsible for recruitment of speakers and advertising for the conference
  • Organized poster session with over 200 posters
  • Co-applicant of successful CIHR dissemination grant providing conference funding

Associate Director, Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology: (2020-Present)

  • Strategic planning and partnerships
  • Trainee development
  • Branding and social media


Major Research Interests:

My research focuses on two main areas. The first area is protein lysine acetylation. In particular, we are interested in selection of non-histone substrates by the Gcn5 acetyltransferase and sirtuin deacetylases. This work is supported principally by NSERC. Second, we are interested in molecules called polyphosphates, which are long chains of inorganic phosphates with diverse functions relevant to disease. We are mostly interested in its synthesis, storage, and role in a new non-enzymatic lysine modification called polyphosphorylation. This work is funded principally by CIHR. Both projects use budding yeast and cell culture.

Keywords: functional genomics, polyphosphate, acetylation, model systems, post-translational modifications

Website: thedowneylab.org

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View Michael Downey’s CV