Immunity and Viral Infections

Microbiome and Mucosal Defence

Under the direction of Emilia Liana Falcone

Research Unit

Primary immune deficiencies (PIDs) are a group of rare and chronic disorders that are caused by inherited or genetic defects. The prevalence of PIDs worldwide is estimated at 1 in 2000 live births and encompasses a growing list of over 350 PIDs. Affected individuals may show signs of a PID anytime from birth to adulthood. PIDs are characterized by defects in the immune system that lead to increased susceptibility to infections and/or dysregulated inflammatory responses which can affect several organs. Inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is one of the most common complications in patients with PIDs, yet little is known about its pathogenesis. 

Interestingly, the surface area of the gut averages about 30 square meters (the size of half a badminton court) and a large proportion of this area is in constant contact with a community of microbes that inhabits our gut known as the intestinal microbiota. The composition of the microbiota gets established during the first 1000 days of life. This coincides with an ongoing dialogue between the microbiota and various components of the immune system, which helps shape or “educate” our present and future immune responses. Thus, the intestinal microbiota may play a significant role in modulating inflammatory responses, especially in the context of PIDs, where a specific component of the immune system may be defective from birth.

The research unit focuses on the study of the role of the microbiota in driving local and systemic immune responses in patients with specific PIDs. The team believe that a greater understanding of this interaction may help better define the contribution of specific arms of the immune system to the development of inflammation, especially in the GI tract, in both individuals with and without PIDs. As result, team members will be able to develop diagnostic and predictive biomarkers, as well as uncover targets for therapeutic interventions that may extend beyond the care of patients with PIDs.

Emilia Falcone

Research Unit Director

  • Director, Microbiome and Mucosal Defence Research Unit
  • Assistant Research Professor, IRCM
  • Physician, Primary Immunodeficiency Clinic, IRCM
  • Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, Université de Montréal
  • Canada Research Chairholder in the Role of Microbiome in Primary Immunodeficiency
  • Adjunct Investigator, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Other affiliations

  • Investigator, Primary Immune Deficiency Treatment Consortium (PIDTC), Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN)
  • Member, Clinical Immunology Society (CIS)
  • Member, European Society for Immunodeficiencies (ESID)
  • Member, Society for Mucosal Immunology (SMI)
  • Fellow, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
  • Member, American Board of Internal Medicine
  • Member, Cambridge Union Society

Awards and honors

  • NIAID Performance Award (2017, 2016, 2015, 2014), NIH
  • NIAID Merit Award (2014, 2012), NIH
  • 2013 NIH-Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Award
  • 2009 Young Investigator Award, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI)
  • 2002 Anatomy and Cell Biology Achievement Award, McGill University
  • 1997 Canadian Governor General’s Academic Medal

Degrees and relevant experience

  • Assistant Clinical Investigator, Laboratory of Clinical Immunology and Microbiology (LCIM), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD, USA
  • Clinical and Research Fellowship in Infections Diseases, NIAID, NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA
  • Internship and Residency in Internal Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA
  • Ph.D. in Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  • M.D.C.M., McGill University School of Medicine, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • M.Sc. in Experimental Medicine, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  • B.Sc. in Anatomy and Cell Biology (Minor in Music), Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada 
Emilia Falcone
Research Unit Director
Amina Boubekeur
Clinical Research Coordinator
Emma Darbinian
PhD student
Alehandra Desjardins
PhD Student
Charlotte Dusablon
Junior Research Coordinator
Swarali Joshi
Research Assistant
Chantal Massé
Research Assistant
Maryam Nayyerabadi
M. Sc. Student
Marie-Lorna Paul
Research Assistant
Shahrzad Soheili
Technical Support
Suganthini Faynel
Administrative Assistant


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Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM)
110, des Pins Avenue West
Montréal, Québec  H2W 1R7

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Immunity and Viral Infections