Leah E. Cowen

Leah Cowen


  • Program Co-Director
  • Fungal Kingdom: Threats & Opportunities


  • University of Toronto
Department of Molecular Genetics


  • Canada


Postdoc, Whitehead Institute/MIT
PhD, University of Toronto
BSc, University of British Columbia


Leah E. Cowen, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto.

She received her undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia, a PhD from the University of Toronto, and pursued postdoctoral studies at the Whitehead Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her laboratory takes an interdisciplinary approach to understand what allows some microbes to exploit the host and cause disease, and to develop new strategies to treat life-threatening infectious disease. Dr. Cowen has an outstanding track record of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. She has published over 80 high impact research articles, and delivered over 85 invited lectures. She has been recognized with a myriad of awards including a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award, Grand Challenges Canada Star in Global Health Award, Merck Irving S. Sigal Memorial Award, E.W.R. Steacie Award, Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease, and Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology. Dr. Cowen has cultivated a network of international excellence through her extensive team of over 70 collaborators, and is advancing knowledge translation as a co-founder of Bright Angel Therapeutics, a company that leverages state-of-the-art technologies for development of novel antifungal therapeutics.


Canada Research Chair in Microbial Genomics & Infectious Disease (Tier II, 07-17; Tier I, 17-22)

Elected to Fellowship of the American Academy of Microbiology, 2018

NSERC E. W. R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship, 2015

Grand Challenges Canada Star in Global Health, 2013 – 2014

Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, 2007 – 2012

Relevant Publications

L. Whitesell, N. Robbins, D.S. Huang, C.A. McLellan, T. Shekhar-Guturja, E.V. LeBlanc, C.S. Nation, R. Hui, A. Hutchinson, C. Collins, S. Chatterjee, R. Trilles, J.L. Xie, D.J. Krysan, S. Lindquist, J.A. Porco, Jr., U. Tatu, L.E. Brown, J. Pizarro and L.E. Cowen. "Structural Basis for Species-Selective Targeting of Hsp90 in a Pathogenic Fungus." Nature Communications (2019): 10:402

J.L. Xie, L. Qin, Z. Miao, B.T. Grys, J. De La Cruz Diaz, K. Ting, J.R. Krieger, J. Tong, K. Tan, M.D. Leach, T. Ketela, M.F. Moran, D.J. Krysan, C. Boone, B.J. Andrews, A. Selmecki, K.H. Wong, N. Robbins and L.E. Cowen. The Candida albicans Transcription Factor Cas5 Couples Stress Responses, Drug Resistance, and Cell Cycle Regulation. Nature Communications 8 (2017): 499.

Shekhar-Guturja, T., G. M. K. B. Gunaherath, E.M.K. Wijeratne, J.-P. Lambert, A.F. Averette, S.C. Lee, T. Kim, Y.-S. Bahn, F. Tripodi, R. Ammar, K. Döhl, K. Niewola-Staszkowska, L. Schmitt, R.J. Loewith, F.P. Roth, D. Sanglard, D. Andes, C. Nislow, P. Coccetti, A.-C. Gingras, J. Heitman, A.A.L. Gunatilaka and L.E. Cowen. "Dual Action Small Molecule Potentiates Antifungal Efficacy, Blocks the Evolution of Drug Resistance, and Renders Resistant Pathogens Responsive to Therapy via Modulation of Multidrug Efflux and TOR Signaling." Nature Chemical Biology 12 (2016): 867-75.

O'Meara, T. R.*, A. Veri*, T. Ketela, B. Jiang, T. Roemer and L.E. Cowen. "Global Analysis of Fungal Morphology Exposes Mechanisms of Host Cell Escape." Nature Communications 6 (2015): 6741.

Cowen, L. E. and S. Lindquist. "Hsp90 Potentiates the Rapid Evolution of New Traits: Drug Resistance in Diverse Fungi." Science 309 (2005): 2185-89.