Diabetes: Combining modern science and traditional medicine

Time and Date: 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., Wednesday February 23, 2011
Location: 220 Laurier Avenue West, Ste. 1400, Ottawa, ON

Dr. Pierre S. Haddad
Director, Canadian Institute of Health Research Team  in Aboriginal Anti-diabetic Medicines



Pierre Sélim Haddad obtained a BSc in Physiology from McGill University in 1981 and a PhD in Pharmacology from the Université de Montréal in 1986. He then carried out two postdoctoral fellowships; the first at the Institute for General and Experimental Pathology of the University of Vienna, in Austria, and the second at the Liver Center at the Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut.

In 1990, he established his independent laboratory in the Department of Pharmacology of the Université de Montréal, where he currently holds the position of a Full Professor with tenure. Dr. Haddad received uninterrupted research scholarships from the Quebec Health Research Fund (FRSQ) between 1990 and 2007 that culminated with an award as National Research Scholar in 2002. His research interests were initially centered on two major themes: 1) insulin action on ion movements in liver cells and 2) cellular and molecular bases of cold ischemia-warm reperfusion injury in the liver.

He has been funded without interruption since 1991 by the Medical Research Council of Canada (now the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – CIHR) and by other funding agencies such as the Canadian Liver Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Quebec Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie. In 1998, he became interested in Natural Health Products (NHP), particularly medicinal plants used to treat diabetes.

He applied his expertise in cell- and animal-based insulin and diabetes research to study the mechanisms of action of several suspected antidiabetic plants, including the Canadian lowbush blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium, black seed Nigella sativa and argan oil Argania spinosa from Moorocco and products of the cashew tree Anacardium occidentale from Cameroun.

In 2003, he successfully built a multidisciplinary team of researchers to study the antidiabetic potential of plants used by the Cree Nations of Northern Quebec in their traditional medicine, through the support of a New Emerging Team grant funded jointly by CIHR and the Natural Health Products Directorate of Health Canada. Funding was renewed from 2006 to 2011 to create the CIHR Team in Aboriginal Antidiabetic Medicines, which Dr. Haddad still leads today.

The project extended previous activities (ethnobotany, phytochemistry, pharmacology, nutrition) to include toxicology as well as clinical studies and a health systems research component dealing with integration/inclusion of Cree traditional medicine into the health care system offered to Cree diabetics.

Dr. Haddad is also a member of several research center/groups, notably the Nutraceuticals and Functional Foods Institute (INAF) at Laval university and the NCE Advanced Foods and Materials Network. Dr. Haddad was one of the founding members of the Natural Health Products Research Society of Canada (NHPRSC) that was instated in 2003 and acted as Vice-President until 2006.

Between 2003 and 2007, he acted as a research consultant in complementary and alternative medicine for the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation, the largest philanthropic organization in Canada. In 2007 and half of 2008, Dr. Haddad was Vice-President Research and Development of the company PharmAfrican Inc., a biotech seeking to develop botanical drugs from African medicinal plants.

He also sits on the Research committee of the Guild of Herbalists of Quebec since 2004. On several occasions, Dr. Haddad acted as an expert advisor for the Natural Health Products Directorate as well as for the Office of Biodiversity of Environment Canada. Finally, Dr. Haddad was appointed in 2009 to the Scientific Advisory Board of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples Health.

With over 90 peer-reviewed publications more than half on NHPs in the course of the last 6 years, Dr. Haddad has become a leading figure in NHP research in Canada and is actively involved in several aspects of this rapidly growing field of interest.