Luda Diatchenko

Luda Diatchenko

Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics

McGill University

“We are proud to have such a prominent and distinguished scholar in pain research as Dr. Diatchenko join McGill’s renowned Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain. Dr. Diatchenko’s extensive work on the impact of genetic variability on human pain will augment and complement McGill’s strengths and help Canada play a leading role in the development of personalized analgesic treatment.”

― Suzanne Fortier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University


Dr. Luda Diatchenko is a world-renowned expert in the genetic basis of pain in humans and the development of personalized medicine approaches. Prior to becoming the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics, she was a professor in the Center for Neurosensory Disorders at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Diatchenko has authored and published dozens of peer-reviewed research papers and has invented several commercially relevant patents. Her most significant papers relate to the psychological, molecular, cellular, and genetic pathways that mediate both persistent pain states and initial pain reactions. Her recent research focuses on determining the biological ways that genetics impact someone’s pain perception, and their risk of developing chronic pain.

In addition, Diatchenko brings vast industry-based experience to McGill University’s Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain. She is co-founder and chief scientific officer of Algynomics, a company creating novel approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of chronic pain conditions. Previously, she co-founded and then served as director of gene discovery at Attagene, Inc. During this time, Diatchenko was actively involved in the development of several widely used molecular tools for the analysis of gene expression and regulation.

Personalized Treatments for Chronic Pain

Approximately 20 per cent of Canadians suffer from chronic pain, making it not only the number one reason that people seek health care, but also the number one concern of patients with long-term illnesses. This is why Dr. Luda Diatchenko, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Human Pain Genetics, is identifying the critical genetic mechanisms at the roots of pain.

Chronic pain drains more than $10-billion annually in lost productivity and health-care services from the Canadian economy, which is more than the cost of heart disease, cancer, or diabetes. Moreover, there is a personal toll associated with chronic pain that cannot be measured in dollars and cents. Patients living with this condition face challenges such as social isolation, increased risk of suicide, and greater mortality rates.

Working with her team at McGill University’s Alan Edwards Centre for Research on Pain, Diatchenko aims to facilitate the development of individualized treatments and therapies for conditions related to chronic pain.

Her primary objective is to better understand the genetic mechanisms at the roots of chronic pain as a basis for developing new pain-relief drugs and personalized pain therapy strategies.

To accomplish this goal, the team is studying chronic pain mechanisms and risk factors though genetic analysis of well-characterized populations of pain patients. The data, collected by Diatchenko and her team over the past decade, maps out the molecular mechanisms that mediate the biological, psychological, and genetic factors that contribute to the onset and persistence of chronic pain.

The team is using genotyping and DNA sequencing, among other methods. The findings are then validated through biological approaches, animal behaviour studies, and clinical trials.

By using approved drugs that are currently being used for conditions other than pain, the team can accelerate development of new treatments, which results in improved quality of life for pain patients.



Release date

October 11, 2011

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Howard Wheater, University of Saskatchewan

My name is Howard Wheater and I'm the newly appointed CERC Chair in Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan. My aim is to do world-class research but research that makes a difference. And we have the challenge in water security of a set of issues, which actually affect everybody.

There are real stresses throughout the world, but there are also a whole range of important issues that affect Canada and Western Canada in particular. So we'll be looking at several of those. So one area is natural resource development, the issues of mining, of oil sands, the water needs, the wastes that are generated, the need for remediation, pollution control.

A second area is looking at the issue of land and its interaction with water and particularly nutrients and the associated water quality issues that arise, for example, from human sewage and agricultural pollution.

And then finally, I guess the big one is climate change and its affect on water resources. So Canada is really at the forefront of global warming and all around us the environment is changing. Glaciers are retreating in the Rocky Mountains, permafrost is thawing. Really dramatic and quite rapid changes.

You know, with the additional funding available from the CERC Chair, then, I think we can really make some powerful new developments in the science and technology that we need to address issues of water security.

In addition, we have outstanding leadership in the university who have taken water as an issue and seen the challenge both in Canada and globally, and been prepared to lead and invest in the area.