Associate Professor, Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
Immunology, T Cell Biology, Vascular Biology, Transplant Rejection, Autoimmune Responses
Dr. Choy’s research program is driven by his overriding interest in understanding how the human body’s inflammatory and immune responses develop inappropriately to cause organ transplant rejection and some rheumatological diseases. His research group is committed to making discoveries that will make people healthier. They aim to understand the mechanisms and effectiveness of certain treatments, with an ultimate goal of developing or informing strategies for tackling a range of health conditions.
What life experiences led you to pursue a career in research?
As an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University, my engagement in research through the Science Co-operative Education (Co-op) program had a large impact on me. I had great mentors who were passionate about research and discovery, and they gave me autonomy in my projects. Through research experiences in academic laboratories and pharmaceutical companies I became passionate about making discoveries that have a positive impact on human health.
What is the motivation behind your research program?
Organ transplants save lives but eventually almost all transplants will fail because the immune system of the recipient rejects the grafted tissue. There are also diseases – called autoimmune diseases – in which the immune system inappropriately mounts a response against the individual’s own cells. If we could understand the components of the immune response that cause the rejection and initiate the response to an individual’s own cells, then we could potentially target these components specifically to prevent rejection and autoimmune diseases.
What is the main challenge in treating immunological diseases?
The most challenging aspect is finding specific immunological processes that can be affected in a way that controls the undesirable part of the immune response (i.e., rejection or tissue injury), maintains the immune response to pathogens, and does not cause undesirable side effects. This is not easy because the immune system has evolved to protect against infections, yet the same processes also cause rejection and autoimmune diseases.