Study of ALS pathogenesis and drug discovery

  • Master
  • Doctorate
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • With scholarship

Project description

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is caused by the breakdown of upper and lower motor neurons leading to the progressive weakness and atrophy of muscle, often resulting in respiratory failure and death within 2-5 years of diagnosis. Yet we still do not have any effective treatments for this devastating disease. Synapse loss is a critical early step in disease, occurring at each connection point throughout the motor system; the brain, spinal cord and neuromuscular junction (NMJ). The Patten lab has been working to identify the synaptic pathways and proteins that are disrupted in ALS to gain insights in the pathogenesis and to discover novel therapeutic targets, which are desperately needed for ALS. To do this, we use zebrafish models of ALS and a variety of approaches such as confocal imaging, cellular neurophysiology, genome editing and molecular biology.

The graduate student will be involved in (i) the functional characterization of selected synaptic genes that we recently identified to be dysregulated in our zebrafish ALS model and (ii) to perform drug screens to discover small molecules that can restore their synaptic function in ALS models. The candidate will benefit from brand-new and state-of-the-art imaging and fish facilities of the Institute.

You will gain skills in molecular biology, genetics, imaging and drug discovery. The Patten lab works closely with ALS labs at CRCHUM and The Neuro/McGill University working with human IPSCs, mice and C. elegans. The candidate will benefit from an intellectual environment, friendly and interactive culture of the ALS community in Montreal, including shadowing experience at an ALS clinic.

Research fields

  • Molecular biology
  • Neurosciences
  • Motoneurons
  • Genetics

Research advisor

Kessen Patten, professor

Research chair holder of Chaire philanthropique Anne Sforza Djoukhadjian (SLA) (French website)

Starting date

Fall 2020 or Winter 2021

Study program

Master’s degree in applied microbiology (French description) or doctorate in biology (French description)

Financial support

INRS offers many scholarship programs. Every student-researcher benefits from a grant during their higher education studies.


  • BSc or MSc in Biology, Molecular Biology, neurosciences or allied sciences.
  • Good academic record.


Armand Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre
531, boulevard des Prairies
Laval, Québec G3X 1S2

How to apply

Interested persons can submit their application to Kessen Patten in a single PDF file by using the online form. The application must include:

  • Motivation letter (maximum 1 page) describing their research interests
  • Complete CV, an official transcript
  • The name as well two contact information for further reference.
Project Kessen Patten - Study of ALS pathogenesis and drug discovery

Project title : Study of ALS pathogenesis and drug discovery

Curriculum vitæ *
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Academic transcript *
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Motivation letter *
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Kessen Patten