Turning Passion into a Profession

Reposted with permission from McMaster University’s Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute.

Dr. Parvez Vora was recently named a Mitacs Elevate fellow. This fellowship focuses on an industry-academic research collaboration, providing participants with an opportunity to take their professional development to the next level.

Read on for Parvez’s take on the most exciting part of this fellowship, and what it will mean for his future as a researcher.

Q: Give us some brief background about yourself

A: I am a post-doctoral fellow in Dr.Sheila Singh’s lab, with 3+ years of research experience working with brain tumours. I completed an undergraduate degree in India, and a Master’s degree in the UK before coming to Canada to pursue a PhD at the University of Manitoba. My primary research interest is translational neuro-oncology, with a focus on using novel targeting strategies to specifically seek out the cancer stem cell fraction of brain tumours.

Q: What motivated you to become a stem cell researcher?

A: Neuroscience has intrigued me since my school days. I passionately explored Cajal’s imagination of brain biology, which has informed the very complex picture of the brain that we understand today.

Following my dream, I pursued a Master’s degree at the University of London, where my research was focused on cell signaling of glial-cell derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), a growth factor that is vital in the development and maintenance of central and peripheral neurons. My research experience at the University of London inspired me to continue my studies and join the doctoral program at the University of Manitoba. While at the University of Manitoba, I investigated how dysregulation of various growth and transcription factors in glial stem cells led to neurological disorders.

While reviewing the literature for my thesis, my PubMed searches led me to read more about “Gliomas”- the most common primary brain tumour in adults. My burgeoning interest in studying brain disorders directed me to pursue postdoctoral training with Dr. Sheila Singh at McMaster University’s renowned Stem Cell and Cancer Institute (SCC-RI). Here at the SCC-RI, I have used cutting-edge research techniques and critical thinking skills to explore the role of stem cells in brain tumor development, which has laid the foundation for my future endeavours in the field of neuro-oncology. My current research project aims to elucidate the role of various neural stem cell genes in brain tumour development. I am interested in identifying the molecular pathways that brain tumor stem cells (BTSC) employ, which may ultimately provide opportunities to develop novel BTSC-specific therapeutics, an invaluable resource for brain tumor patients.

Q: What are you most looking forward to as a Mitacs Elevate fellow?

A: The Mitacs Elevate fellowship is a unique training program for postdoctoral fellows, in which participants lead an industry-academic collaborative research project. Working with Arch Biopartners Inc. (Toronto), my goal is to develop peptide-based probes as imaging and targeting agents for brain tumour therapy.

During the two-year fellowship I will divide my time between the industrial and academic partners; I will also have the opportunity to spend about 1-2 days per month exploring a variety of leadership, business and R&D management topics that are relevant to Canada’s current professional climate. I am especially looking forward to learning and implementing those leadership & management skills, and developing my business acumen through the program’s training curriculum.

Q: How will this fellowship impact the trajectory of your career? Where do you see yourself after completing this fellowship?

A: The Mitacs Elevate fellowship is for scientists who are seeking a research career in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries. The fellowship kick-starts this process by providing a ‘foot in the door’ at a company. In addition, this opportunity will allow me to further develop my network and build worldwide collaborations by attending more scientific meetings. These advantages will help me realize my goal of launching an international, research-intensive career in industry.

By the end of my fellowship, I want to become an oncology researcher; leading a small team of motivated scientists in a medium-sized biopharma company that is committed to changing the lives of patients.

Mitacs Elevate supports postdoctoral fellows and Canadian companies/partners collaborating on cutting-edge research projects. The program develops and builds on the skills and experience of the next generation of R&D management leaders. For more information about Mitacs fellowships, please click here. The next Mitacs Elevate call for proposals opens in February 2016.


Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to our most pressing problems. By driving economic growth and productivity, we create meaningful change to improve quality of life for all Canadians.