By Blake Dillon
Matthew Miller has been named Scientific Director of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR) at McMaster University.
Miller, a long-time member of the IIDR, transitioned into his new role on July 18, 2022, marking the first time that the Institute has been under new leadership since Gerry Wright served as its inaugural director upon its establishment by an endowment from Michael DeGroote in 2007.
For Miller, an associate professor of Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences, being named Wright’s successor is the honour of a lifetime.
“I have such a profound admiration and respect for Gerry and the way that he consistently rises the tide for others around him,” says Miller, who joined McMaster in 2014 following the completion of his postdoctoral studies at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “His mentorship has been so important for me, and I hope that I can embody many of the same leadership qualities that he has throughout his run as Director.”
While Miller says he and Wright already share lot of similarities in style and approach, he acknowledges that their research interests differ considerably. Indeed, where Wright’s focus has largely orbited around antimicrobial resistance (AMR), Miller specializes in viral pandemics, including those caused by influenza and SARS-CoV-2.
This, Miller believes, will allow the IIDR to expand its foci in the years to come.
“AMR will always be a central priority for the IIDR, not only because it is one of the most important global health challenges of our time, but also because the international profile of the IIDR has, to a large extent, been built on the back of our success in AMR research,” he explains. “That said, we cannot rest on our laurels. Part of being an innovative and world-leading institute is evolving and being forward-looking, and I believe that my experience studying virology and viral pandemics will allow us to advance new priority research areas for the Institute going forward, as we continue to support our core strength in AMR.”
Wright, too, believes that Miller’s unique expertise will only serve to strengthen the IIDR’s research profile.
“Matthew Miller is an outstanding scientist and person, and his important research — like that into next-generation COVID-19 vaccines — will no doubt propel the IIDR to new heights,” says Wright, who stepped down from his post at the IIDR to focus on establishing Canada’s Global Nexus for Pandemics and Biological Threats. “It is bittersweet moving on, but knowing that Matthew is stepping in fills me with great confidence and great pride.”
Through the Nexus, Wright will remain a key collaborator for the IIDR — a partnership Miller believes will create immense opportunity for the Institute.
“One of the really exciting opportunities for the IIDR going forward is its association with Canada’s Global Nexus,” Miller explains. “While it is important for the Institute to maintain its own unique priorities, the landscape at McMaster has shifted toward having a stronger strategic focus on infectious diseases, which will open new doors for the IIDR.”
Being named scientific director has been a full-circle experience for Miller, who notes that it was actually the opportunity to work within the IIDR that attracted him to working at McMaster all those years ago.
“This Institute is very near and dear to my heart, and I’m both grateful and excited for the opportunity ahead,” he says.