Dean Befus

Dr. Dean Befus, PhD


Astra-Zeneca Canada Inc., Chair in Asthma Research
Division of Pulmonary Medicine, Department of Medicine
Director, Alberta Asthma Centre

Research Interests

My research is focused in three areas of lung disease:

  1. Functions and regulation of mast cells in allergic and other inflammatory conditions: We study mast cell activation and novel pathways that may be targets for new anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory agents. Our studies are focused on the molecular mechanisms of the regulation of mast cells. In particular, we are investigating the production of nitric oxide production by mast cells and its functions in allergy and innate immunity.  A major focus is on the interaction between mast cells and airway epithelial cells in defense against influenza A.
  2. The neuro-endocrine-immunologic network in inflammation: In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Calgary, we have defined novel peptides derived from a prohormone, that is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system and plays important roles in the regulation of inflammatory responses, such as in asthma.  Novel anti-inflammatory drugs have been developed and completed phase I and phase 2a clinical testing on asthma.  We are translating this work from animal models into humans.
  3. As Director of the Alberta Asthma Centre, I also have broad interests in asthma; ranging from its management to the development, implementation and evaluation of education programs for adults and children, their families and health care professionals.
Mast Cells - Activation and Products Effects of Nitric Oxide on Mast Cell Responses

Highlighted Publication

  • Arrieta MC, Stiemsma LT, Dimitriu PA, Thorson L, Russell S, Yurist-Doutsch S, Kuzeljevic B, Gold MJ, Britton HM, Lefebvre DL, Subbarao P, Mandhane P, Becker A, McNagny KM, Sears MR, Kollmann T, the CHILD Study Investigators, Mohn WW, Turvey SE and BB Finlay (AD Befus, CHILD Study Investigator). 2015. Early infancy microbial and metabolic alterations affect risk of childhood asthma. Sci Transl Med 7:307ra152
  • Azad, MB, Konya t, Persaud RR, Guttman DS, Chari RS, Field CJ, Sears MR, Mandhane PJ, Turvey, SE, Subbarao P, Becker AB, Scott JA, Kozyrskyj AL and the CHILD Study Investigators (AD Befus, CHILD Study Investigator). 2015. Impact of maternal intrapartum antibiotics, method of birth and breastfeeding on gut microbiota during the first year of life: a prospective cohort study. BJOG; doi:10:1111/1471-0528.13601.
  • Subbarao P, Anand SS, Becker AB, Befus AD, Brauer M, Brook JR, Denburg JA, HayGlass KT, Kobor, MS, Kollmann TR, Kozyrskyj AL, Wendy Lou WL, Mandhane PJ, Miller GE, Moraes TJ, Pare PD, Scott JA, Takaro TK, Turvey SE, Duncan JD, Lefebvre DL, Sears MR, and the CHILD Study Investigators. 2015. The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study:  Examining developmental origins of allergy and asthma. Thorax doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-207246
  • Azad, MB, Konya T, Guttman DS, Field CJ, Sears MR, HayGlass KT, Mandhane PJ, Turvey SE, Subbarao, P, Becker AB, Scott JA, Kozyrskyj AL and the CHILD Study Investigators (AD Befus, CHILD Study Investigator). 2015. Infant gut microbiota and food sensitization: associations in the first year of life. Clin Exp Allergy 45: 632-643; doi: 10.1111/cea.12487
  • Monument M, Hart D, Salo P, Befus A, Hildebrand K. 2015. Neuro-inflammatory mechanisms of connective tissue fibrosis: targeting neurogenic and mast cell contributions. Adv Wound Care 4(3): 137-151; March 1.
  • Takaro TK, Scott JA, Allen RW, Anand SS, Becker AB, Befus AD, Brauer M, Duncan J, Lefebvre DL, Lou W, Mandhane PJ, McLean K, Miller G, Sbihi H, Shu H, Subbarao P, Turvey SE, Wheeler AJ, Zeng L, Sears MR, Brook JR. 2015. The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort study: assessment of environmental exposures. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol: 1-13; Mar 25. doi: 10.1038/jes.2015.7. 
  • St. Laurent CD, St. Laurent K, Mathison RD, Befus, AD. 2015. Calcium binding spermatid-specific 1 is expressed in human salivary glands and contains a protein motif with anti-inflammatory activity. Am J Physiol – Regul Integr Comp Physiol: 308: R569-R575; 01/2015; doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00153.2014 
  • Moraes TJ, Lefebvre DL, Chooniedass R, Becker AB, Brook JR, Denburg J, HayGlass KT, Hegele R, Kollmann TR, Macri J, Mandhane PJ, Scott JA, Subbarao P, Takaro TK, Turvey SE, Duncan JD, Sears MR, Befus AD and the CHILD study investigators. 2015. The Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) birth cohort study: Biological samples and biobanking. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 29: 84-92. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12161. 
  • Moon TC, Befus AD, Kulka M. 2014. Mast cell mediators: their differential release and the secretory pathways involved. Front Immunol 5:569. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2014.00569.
  • Persaud RR, Azad MB, Chan RS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Kozyrskyj AL and the CHILD Study investigators (AD Befus, CHILD Study investigator). 2014. Perinatal antibiotic exposure of neonates in Canada and associated risk factors: a population-based study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 14:1-6 doi:10.3109/14767058
  • Moon TC, Campos-Alberto E, Yoshimura T, Bredo G, Rieger AM, Puttagunta L, Barreda DR, Befus AD, Cameron L.  2014. Expression of DP2 (CRTH2), a prostaglandin D2 receptor, in human mast cells. PLoS One 9(9):e108595. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0108595
  • Vliagoftis H, Ebeling C, Ilarraza R, Abel M, Adamko D, Mahmudi-Azer S, Befus AD, Moqbel R.  2014. Connexin 43 expression on peripheral blood eosinophils: role of gap junctions in transendothelial migration. BioMed Res Intl doi:10.1155/2014/803257, 8 pp.
  • Hildebrand KA, Zhang M, Befus AD, Salo PT, Hart DA. 2014. A myofibroblast-mast cell-neuropeptide axis of fibrosis in post-traumatic joint contractures: a mechanistic in vitro component analysis. J Orthop Sci 32: 1290-1296, doi:10.1002/jor.22676
  • Peng J, St. Laurent CD, Befus AD, Zhou R, Li L. 2014. Metabolomic profiling of bronchoalveolar lavage fluids by isotope labeling liquid chromatography mass spectrometry: a promising approach to studying experimental asthma. Metabolomics 10: 1305-1317, doi:10.1007/s11306-014-0667-5 
  • Konya T, Koster B, Maughan H, Escobar M, Azad MB, Guttman DS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Brook JR, Takaro TK, Kozyrskyj AL, Scott JA, the CHILD investigators (AD Befus CHILD study investigator). 2014. Associations between bacterial communities of house dust and infant gut. Environ Res 131:25-30.
  • Azad MB, Konya T, Maughan H, Guttman DS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Brook JR, Takaro TK, Kozyrskyj AL, Scott JA on behalf of the CHILD Study investigators (AD Befus  CHILD study investigator). 2013. Infant gut microbiota and the hygiene hypothesis of allergic disease: impact of household pets and siblings on microbiota composition and diversity. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol 9:15. 
  • Monument JF, Hart DA, Befus AD, Salo PT, Hildebrand KA. 2013. Post-traumatic elbow contractures: Targeting neuro-inflammatory fibrogenic mechanisms. J Orthop Sci 18: 869-877.
  • Jayakumar S, Carbonneau M, Hotte N, Befus AD, St. Laurent C, Owen R, McCarthy M, Madsen K, Bailey RJ, Ma M, Bain V, Rioux K, Tandon P. 2013. VSL#3 probiotic therapy does not reduce portal pressures in patients with decompensated cirrohosis. Liver Int. 33:1470-1477. 
  • Douglas ML, McGhan SL, Tougas D, Fenton N, Sarin C, Latycheva, O, Befus AD. 2013. Asthma education program for First Nations children: an exemplar of the knowledge-to-action framework. Can Respir J. 20:295-300.
  • Azad MB, Konya T, Maughan H, Guttman DS, Field CJ, Chari RS, Sears MR, Becker AB, Scott JA, Kozyrskyj A, on behalf of CHILD Study Investigators (AD Befus CHILD study investigator). 2013. Gut microbiota of healthy Canadian infants: profiles by mode of delivery and infant diet at 4 months. Can Med Assoc J. 185:385-394. 
  • Marcet CW, St. Laurent CD, Moon TC, Singh N, Befus AD.  2013. Limited replication of influenza A virus in human mast cells. Immunol Res. 56:32-43. DOI 10.1007/s12026-012-8377-4.

For a complete list of publications, click here.

Current Sources of Funding

 2015-2017 Primary Care Pathway for Childhood Asthma.
Partnership for Research and Innovation in the Health System (PRIHS), Alberta Innovates: Health Solutions
Co-principal Investigators – Drs. Andrew Cave, David Johnson, Jeremy Grimshaw
Collaborator - Dean Befus
 2015 Identification of Provincial Barriers to Improvements in the Diagnosis and Accessibility of Education and Self-Management Programs for Asthma.
Respiratory Health Strategic Clinical Network
Co-principal Investigators – Drs. Dean Befus and Warren Davidson
 2012-2016 Canadian Health Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.
AllerGen NCE Inc.
Principal Investigator
 – Malcolm Sears
 2012-2013 Physical activity and arterial stiffness in asthmatics.
University Hospital Foundation, University of Alberta
Principal Investigator – Michael Stickland
Co-Investigators – Dean Befus, Mohit Bhutani, Lisa Cameron, Hari Vliagoftis and Eric Wong.
 2011-2014 The Implementation and Evaluation of an Alberta Childhood Asthma Clinical Pathway
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Partnerships for Health System Improvement (PHSI)
Principal Investigators – David W. Johnson
Co-investigators – Dean Befus, Andrew Cave, Robert L. Cowie, Gillian R. Currie, Jeremy M. Grimshaw, Lisa hurtling, Jocelyn Lockyer, Carina M. Majaesic, Alberto Nettel-Aguirre, Martin V. Pusic, Shannon D. Scott, Heather M. Sharpe, Sheldon Spier, Antonia Stang
 2010-2015 Synergy in Microbiota Research (SyMBIOTA)
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Principal Investigators – Anita Kozyrskyj, Allan Becker, David Guttman, Kent HayGlass, Piush Mandhane and James Scott
Co-Investigators - Dean Befus, Radha S. Chari, Catherine J Field, Terry P Klassen, Redwan Moqbel, Stuart Turvey
 2010-2015 Distribution, regulation and function of the prohormone SMR1.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Principal Investigator – Dean Befus
 2009-2014 Regulation of nitric oxide and its effects: A pivotal point of control of mast cell phenotype and function.
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Principal Investigator – Dean Befus
 2007-2013 Canadian Birth Cohort: Indoor Air and the Development of Asthma and Allergy
CIHR and AllerGen NCE Inc.
Principal Investigator – Malcolm Sears
Co-Investigator – Dean Befus

Current Research Personnel

Research Associates


Technical Staff


Graduate Students

2015 Kurtis Ng, MSc student (co-supervised with Dr. Hari Vliagoftis)

Graduate Students

 2005-2010 Candy Tsang Marcet
MD/PhD programme; PhD completed 2010
Present Position: Resident, Family Medicine, U of A
 2004-2007 Rattanjeet Vig (co-supervised with Dr. Hari Vliagoftis)
MSc awarded 2007
Present Position: Medical School, University of Calgary
 2004-2011 Sekar Yokananth
PhD awarded 2011
Present Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta, Prion Institute
 2002-2007 Cory Ebeling
(co-supervised with Dr. Hari Vliagoftis)
PhD awarded 2007
Present Position: Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Alberta
 2002-2009 René Déry
PhD (part-time) awarded 2009
Present Position: Research Scientist, Paladin Biosciences

Postdoctoral Fellows (University of Alberta)

 2012 Yokananth Sekar
Present position:  Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Calgary
 2009-2010 Shinji Takeuchi
Present position: Staff Scientist, Hokkaido Institute of Public Health International Research Training Fellowship Hokkaido Institute of Public Health, Japan
 2008-2010 Tsuyoshi Yoshimura
Present position: Assistant Professor, Dokkyo Medical University, Saitama, Japan
Jikei University Fellowship
 2006-2009 Katherine Morris St. Laurent
Present position: Instructor, Biological Sciences, School of Sustainable Building and Environmental Management, Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT)
 2005-2010 TaeChul Moon
Present position: Research Associate, University of Alberta