Hayden Lab

Michael R. Hayden

Genetics has allowed medicine to move beyond treating symptoms and start treating the underlying causes of disease.

“No diseases are hopeless anymore,” says Dr. Hayden. “The way I see them is that their secrets have just not yet been identified.”

Dr. Hayden’s work focuses on understanding the genetic roots of illness and using that understanding to develop better approaches to treatment for patients. He researches diabetes, coronary artery disease, and is part of a large collaboration to determine the genetic basis for adverse drug reactions in children. Much of his career has also been dedicated to understanding the development of Huntington disease and finding a way to cure it.

“When we started working on Huntington disease, the future was dark and patients and families felt hopeless,” says Dr. Hayden. “Today, that has all changed.”

Researchers in the Hayden laboratory have found a critical pathway in the development of juvenile forms of Huntington’s disease. Blocking the action of caspase-6 prevents the progression of the disease in mice. This finding could lay the groundwork for an effective approach to therapy for Huntington disease.


Induction to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame– 2017

One of 100 most inspirational and influential persons in Pharma, Pharmavoice – 2015

Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Gottingen – 2014

Luminary Award, Personalized Medicine World Conference – 2014

Named one of 50 Canadians born in the 20th century who have changed the world (along with Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Leonard Cohen, Oscar Peterson and John Kenneth Galbraith) – 2013

The Diamond Jubilee Medal, on behalf of HRH Queen Elizabeth II – 2012

Champions of Genetics, The Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF) – 2011

Aubrey J. Tingle Prize, Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research – 2011

Killam Prize, Canada Council of the Arts – 2011

Margolese National Prize, University of British Columbia – 2011

Canada Gairdner Wightman, Gairdner Foundation – 2011

Genome BC Award for Scientific Excellence, LifeSciences British Columbia – 2011

Order of Canada – 2010

Order of British Columbia – 2009

Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year: Canadian Institutes of Health Research Michael Smith Prize in Biomedical and Clinical Research – 2008

Prix Galien (Canada) – 2007

Kay C, Collins JA, Caron NS, Agostinho LA, Findlay-Black H, Casal L, Sumathipala D, Dissanayake VHW, Cornejo-Olivas M, Baine F, Krause A, Greenberg JL, Paiva CLA, Squitieri F, Hayden MR. A Comprehensive Haplotype-Targeting Strategy for Allele-Specific HTT Suppression in Huntington Disease. Am J Hum Genet. 2019; 105(6):1112-1125. PMID: 31708117

Wright GEB, Collins JA, Kay C, McDonald C, Dolzhenko E, Xia Q, Bečanović K, Drögemöller BI, Semaka A, Nguyen CM, Trost B, Richards F, Bijlsma EK, Squitieri F, Ross CJD, Scherer SW, Eberle MA, Yuen RKC, Hayden MR. Length of Uninterrupted CAG, Independent of Polyglutamine Size, Results in Increased Somatic Instability, Hastening Onset of Huntington Disease. Am J Hum Genet. 2019; 6;104(6):1116-1126. PMID: 31104771

Wright GEB, Carleton B, Hayden MR*, Ross CJD*. The global spectrum of protein-coding pharmacogenomic diversity. Pharmacogenomics J. 2018; 18(1):187-195 doi:10.1038/tpj.2016.77 PMID: 27779249 *These authors jointly supervised this work

Southwell AL, Smith-Dijak A, Kay C, Sepers M, Villanueva EB, Parsons MP, Xie Y, Anderson L, Felczak B, Waltl S, Ko S, Cheung D,  Dal Cengio L, Slama R, Petoukhov E, Raymond LA, Hayden MR. An enhanced Q175 knock-in mouse model of Huntington disease with higher mutant huntingtin levels and accelerated  disease phenotypes. Hum Mol Genet. 2016; (17):3654-3675. PMID: 27378694

Kay C, Collins JA, Miedzybrodzka Z, Madore SJ, Gordon ES, Gerry N, Davidson M, Slama RA, Hayden MR. Huntington disease reduced penetrance alleles occur at high frequency in the general population. Neurology. 2016; 87:1–7. PMID: 27335115

Aminkeng F, Bhavasar AP, Visscher H, Rassekh SR, Li Y, Lee JW, Brunham LR, Caron HN, van Dalen EC, Kremer LC, van der Pal HJ, Amstutz U, Rieder MJ, Bernstein D, Carleton BC, Hayden MR, Ross CJD. The Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety Consortium. A coding variant in RARG confers susceptibility to anthracycline-induced cardiotoxicity in childhood cancer. Nat Genet. 2015; 47(9):1079-84. PMID: 26237429

Southwell AL, Smith SEP, Davis T, Caron NS, Villanueva EB, Xie Y, Collins JA, Ye E, Sturrock A, Leavitt BR, Schrum AG, Hayden MR. Ultrasensitive measurement of huntingtin protein in cerebrospinal fluid demonstrates increase with Huntington disease stage and decrease following brain huntingtin suppression. Sci Rep. 2015; 15(5):12166. PMID: 26174131


CBC News, Glybera: World’s most expensive drug gets second chance, Vancouver, BC, 10/19
CBC News, The million-dollar drug, Vancouver, BC, 11/18