James (Jim) Davie, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC

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James (Jim) Davie, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC

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Research Discipline(s): Basic

Primary Title: Distinguished Professor

Additional Titles & Affiliations: Distinguished Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Medical Genetics, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba; Senior Scientist, CancerCare Manitoba Research Institute


Epigenetics, Leukemia, Breast Cancer, Chromatin Structure And Function, Epigenetic Regulation Of Gene Expression In Normal And Disease States, Histone Modifications

I study how the epigenome is altered in cancer and ways to correct it. The epigenome decides when and where in the body genes are turned on or off, and is shaped by a person’s environment, diet, and life circumstances.

Research Summary

There is an increasing awareness of the role of chromatin structure (epigenetics) in the regulation of gene expression and in the genesis or suppression of cancer. Dr. Davie’s research program investigates the role of the enzymes that remodel chromatin structure and function. A component of this research is to understand the mechanisms by which a cell transmits signals from its surface to its nuclear interior to effect changes in gene expression. Signal transduction events impact on histone modifications, which in turn remodel chromatin structure and enable gene expression.


DNA contains the genetic information. Each cell type receives instructions from a subset of the genetic information. The turning on and off of genes is critically important in the functioning of the different cell types that make up the human body. Epigenetics refers to a variety of processes that turn genes on or off. In cancer cells the epigenetic processes have been altered such that genes that are turned off are now on and vice versa. My research goal is to understand these epigenetic processes in normal and cancer cells and to use this knowledge to develop new cancer therapies.

Research Biography

Dr. Jim Davie is a recognized leader in chromatin, a rapidly expanding field now known as epigenetics. His several seminal findings resulted in knowledge translation towards improving human health. His early studies set the foundation for development of histone deacetylase inhibitor drugs, which are approved therapeutics for hematologic malignancies and in clinical trials for a broad range of human disorders.

Many of his trainees have landed fellowships in outstanding laboratories at first-tier institutions. His trainees were awarded distinguished fellowships and awards for their work in his laboratory. Twice, his trainees won the Drewry Memorial Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, the highest honor given to a student in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. His doctoral trainees won the University of Manitoba Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation Award, and the University’s Governor General's medal for outstanding achievement at the graduate level.

In addition to his research and mentorship activities, he has contributed significantly to university administration and to scientific knowledge dissemination through his service as editor-in-chief and associate editor on many journals.

He is the founder of the Manitoba Epigenetics Network and represents the epigenetic interests of prairie researchers through his membership on the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium Executive.


  • Distinguished Professor, 2019
  • Canada Research Chair in Chromatin Dynamics, Tier I, 2004-2018
  • Canadians for Health Research, Researcher of the Month, April 2017
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Canada (2015)
  • Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2015)
  • The University of Manitoba Health Science’s Graduate Students’ Association Award for Distinction in Mentorship, 2006
  • Margaret A. Sellers Chair, 2000-2010
  • University of Manitoba Faculty Association Merit Award, 1997
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Senior Scientist Award, 1997 - 2002
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Scientist Award, 1991 - 1996
  • National Cancer Institute of Canada Senior Scientist Award, 1990 - 1991
  • University of Manitoba Faculty Association Merit Award, 1985 - 1986
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Scholarship, 1985 - 1990
  • Manitoba Health Research Council Scholarship, 1984 - 1985
  • Medical Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship, 1979 -1982
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    Featured Publications

    • Bioinformatic Analyses of Broad H3K79me2 Domains in Different Leukemia Cell Line Data Sets. Sharma P, Sattarifard H, Fatemiyan N, Lakowski TM, Davie JR.Cells. 2022 Sep 10;11(18):2830. doi: 10.3390/cells11182830.PMID: 36139405
    • The key role of differential broad H3K4me3 and H3K4ac domains in breast cancer. López C, Barnon MT, Beacon TH, Nardocci G, Davie JR.Gene. 2022 Jun 5;826:146463. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2022.146463. Epub 2022 Mar 28.PMID: 35358653
    • The dynamic broad epigenetic (H3K4me3, H3K27ac) domain as a mark of essential genes. Beacon TH, Delcuve GP, López C, Nardocci G, Kovalchuk I, van Wijnen AJ, Davie JR. Clin Epigenetics. 2021 Jul 8;13(1):138. doi: 10.1186/s13148-021-01126-1.PMID: 34238359
    • Mitogen and stress- activated protein kinase regulated gene expression in cancer cells. Adewumi I, López C, Davie JR. Adv Biol Regul. 2019 Jan;71:147-155. doi: 10.1016/j.jbior.2018.09.010. Epub 2018 Sep 17.PMID: 30243985
    • Targeting class I histone deacetylases in cancer therapy. Delcuve GP, Khan DH, Davie JR.Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2013 Jan;17(1):29-41. doi: 10.1517/14728222.2013.729042. Epub 2012 Oct 15.PMID: 23062071
    • Histone H4-K16 acetylation controls chromatin structure and protein interactions. Shogren-Knaak M, Ishii H, Sun JM, Pazin MJ, Davie JR, Peterson CL. Science. 2006 Feb 10;311(5762):844-7. doi: 10.1126/science.1124000.PMID: 16469925
    • Inhibition of histone deacetylase activity by butyrate. Davie JR. J Nutr. 2003 Jul;133(7 Suppl):2485S-2493S. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.7.2485S.PMID: 12840228
    • A complex containing N-CoR, mSin3 and histone deacetylase mediates transcriptional repression. Heinzel T, Lavinsky RM, Mullen TM, Söderstrom M, Laherty CD, Torchia J, Yang WM, Brard G, Ngo SD, Davie JR, Seto E, Eisenman RN, Rose DW, Glass CK, Rosenfeld MG. Nature. 1997 May 1;387(6628):43-8. doi: 10.1038/387043a0.PMID: 9139820

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