After training in Oxford as a post-doctoral fellow, and spending 5 years at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Dr. Letarte joined the SickKids Research Institute in 1980, recruited by Dr. Erwin Gelfand to the Immunology Division. Her research has been focused on the characterization of cell surface antigens and led to the discovery of a new endothelial cell glycoprotein named endoglin (CD105). The corresponding gene was later shown to be mutated in a disease called Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia type 1 (HHT1). Research in this disease and its underlying mechanisms and working closely with physicians to find affected patients for this so-called rare disease, became the focus of Dr. Letarte for the next 20 years.
She has been a very active board member of the International HHT Foundation and participated in several physician/scientist/patient meetings and was instrumental in establishing an HHT treatment centre in Toronto.
Dr. Letarte was Professor of Immunology, Medical Biophysics and Paediatrics at the University of Toronto. For the last 12 years, she has been organizing Immunology courses in the developing world as Chair and now Past-Chair of the Education Committee of the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS).
Dr. Letarte's research focused for several years on the identification of surface proteins of normal and leukemic cells by production of monoclonal antibodies and isolation of the corresponding proteins. Entering the molecular era, her team cloned CD10 (the common ALL antigen) and identified it as neutral endopeptidase 24.11. Dr. Letarte’s research led to the identification of CD105, endoglin, which turned out to be an endothelial cell marker. Cloning of the corresponding gene led to the identification of endoglin as a TGF-beta surperfamily co-receptor. Subsequently they discovery that endoglin mutations were associated with Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia type 1 (HHT1). This marked a pivotal point in the research which for the next several years focused on establishing a molecular diagnosis for the disease, studying umbilical vein endothelial cells from HHT1 newborns, identifying underlying mechanisms.
Education and experience
- 1964–1968: B.Sc., Biochemistry, Laval University, Quebec City, QC
- 1968–1972: PhD, Biochemistry, Ottawa University, Ottawa, ON
- 1972–1975: Post-doctoral Fellow, Immunochemistry, Oxford University, Oxford, England
- 1975–1980: Senior Investigator, Ontario Cancer Institute, Toronto, and Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, ON
- 1980–2013: Senior Scientist, SickKids, Toronto and Associate and Full Professor of Immunology and Paediatrics, University of Toronto, ON
- 2001–2013: Faculty Member, Heart and Stroke/Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence, University of Toronto, ON
- 2014–Present: Senior Scientist Emerita, SickKids, Toronto and Professor of Immunology Emerita, University of Toronto, ON
- 1975–1980: Research Scholar of the National Cancer Institute of Canada
- 1980–1985: Research Scientist of the National Cancer Institute of Canada
- 1985–2000: Terry Fox Research Scientist of the National Cancer Institute of Canada
- 1990–2002: Councillor, Vice-President, President and Past-President, Canadian Society of Immunology
- 1995–2013: Member of the Scientific and Advisory Board of HHT International Foundation
- 2005–2017: Chair, Education Committee, International Union of Immunological Societies
- 2011: CSI – Hardy Cinader Award, Canadian Society of Immunology
- 2017: The John D Reynolds Award, Canadian Society of Immunology
- 2017–2022: Past-Chair, Education Committee, International Union of Immunological Studies