Leavitt Lab

Blair R. Leavitt MDCM FRCP(C)

“There is a huge translational gap between breakthroughs made in the laboratory and new treatments in the clinic,” says Dr. Leavitt. “We are working to bridge that gap, and the most common way to accomplish that is by using animal models of human disease.” The Leavitt lab develops new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases by generating and studying mice that have the same symptoms and genetic abnormalities as human diseases. A wide range of therapeutic strategies can be tested in these mice in order to find treatments that will be effective in humans.

“We model our mouse studies on the type of study we do in humans and then we take the most promising hits from there and bring them to human clinical trials,” explains Dr. Leavitt. Most of Dr. Leavitt’s work focuses on Huntington disease, ALS, and frontotemporal dementia, but his laboratory also works on a number of other neurodegenerative diseases that affect children, such as epilepsy and ataxia.

“We also have the clinical infrastructure well established at UBC,” says Dr. Leavitt. “We can bring the most promising therapeutic strategies that we identify in our mouse studies into human clinical trials quite rapidly.”

Brief Biography 

Dr. Leavitt is a full Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics & the Department of Medicine, Division of Neurology (Associate) at the University of British Columbia. Dr. Leavitt completed his medical degree at McGill, medical internship at Columbia-Presbyterian, neurology residency at Cornell and Harvard. While in Boston, he completed a basic neuroscience research fellowship at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital of Boston. Blair is a consulting neurologist and Director of Research at the UBC Centre for Huntington’s Disease. A scientist and physician, Dr. Leavitt’s time (both clinical and research) is dedicated to developing new treatments for genetic brain disorders such as Huntington’s disease. He also works on other neurodegenerative diseases including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Frontotemporal dementia. Dr. Leavitt is currently the Director of the CMMT Transgenic Animal Facility and a founding Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Huntington’s Disease.


Founding Editor and Co-Editor-in-Chief, The Journal of Huntington’s Disease. 2011- present.

Elected Co-Chair and Vice-President, Huntington Study Group. 2014- present.

Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, Specialist in Neurology. June 1998 – present.

Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Career Investigator Award. 2007.

Young Investigator Award, Brain Research Centre. The University of British Columbia – 1999.

De Souza RA, Islam SA, McEwen LM, Mathelier A, Hill A, Mah SM, Wasserman WW, Kobor MS, Leavitt BR (2016) DNA methylation profiling in human Huntington’s disease brain. Human Molecular Genetics. 25 (10): 2013-2030.

Bečanović K, Nørremølle A, Neal SJ, Kay C, Collins JA, Arenillas D, Lilja T, Gaudenzi G, Manoharan S, Doty CN, Beck J, Lahiri N, Portales-Casamar E, Warby SC, Connolly C, De Souza RA; REGISTRY Investigators of the European Huntington’s Disease Network, Tabrizi SJ, Hermanson O, Langbehn DR, Hayden MR, Wasserman WW, Leavitt BR (2015) A SNP in the HTT promoter alters NF-κB binding and is a bidirectional genetic modifier of Huntington disease. Nature Neuroscience. 18(6): 807-16

Petkau TL, Leavitt BR (2014) Progranulin in Neurodegenerative Disease. Trends in Neurosciences. (Invited review) 37(7): 388-98

Park KHJ, Franciosi S, Leavitt BR (2013) Postnatal muscle modification by myogenic factors modulates neuropathology and survival in an ALS mouse model. Nature Communications 4: 2906, 1-12.

Weir DW, Sturrock A, Leavitt BR (2011) Development of Biomarkers for Huntington’s Disease. The Lancet Neurology (Invited review) (6): 573-90.

Magavi SS, Leavitt BR, and Macklis JD. (2000) Induction of Neurogenesis in the Neocortex of Adult Mice. Nature. 405: 951–955.