• Print
Samantha Kasloff

By MYRON LOVE

Samantha Kasloff is living the scientist’s dream. The still relatively young Winnipegger is on staff at one of the world’s top research facilities – and the cherry on the top is that the Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health (AKA “the Virology Lab”) is right here in Winnipeg, her hometown.

“On a global scale, our lab is the only one in the world that focuses on both public and animal health,” she points out. “It makes for an excellent collaboration.”
The Canadian Science Centre for Human and Animal Health on Arlington (just south of the Arlington Bridge) has been in operation since the spring of 1998. The state-of-the-art infectious disease laboratory facility houses the only Containment Level 4 (also known as Biosafety Level 4) operational laboratories in Canada. With maximum containment, scientists are able to work safely with pathogens ranging from the most common to the most serious including ones such as Ebola, Marburg and  Hemorrhagic Fever.


One of Kasloff’s current roles – as of mid-August – is training new Biosafety 4 Lab staff members. “I will be leading orientation sessions, familiarizing new researchers with our building and teaching them how to work and maneuver in their inflatable pressure suits. It can take people a couple of weeks to adjust. It requires a totally different spatial awareness.”
The daughter of Ted Kasloff and Michele Lerner says that she has always had a passion for biology. A 2001 graduate of Gray Academy, Kasloff gravitated to the field of infectious diseases in her second and third years at the University of Winnipeg.
After earning her B.SC. from the University of Winnipeg and Masters degree at the University of Manitoba, Samantha relocated to Italy –  in 2009 – where she enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Padua.


Samantha describes her time in Padua working out of the university’s Department of Microbiology as “some of the best and most frustrating experiences she has ever had”.
“It was really exciting experiencing a different culture and learning a new language,” she says. “I forged a lot of close relationships while I was there.”
Her focus in Italy was primarily on studying the influenza virus. She also spent some time at Imperial College in London and the University of Marburg, one of Germany’s oldest universities.
As a Masters student – before going to Italy – Kasloff had been involved in research at the Virology Lab. In late 2016, she was invited to come back to the lab as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow working for the National Food Inspection Agency, National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease in the Special Pathogens Unit.


I had kept in touch with my Masters supervisor over the years,” she says. “She knew that I was looking for a post-doctoral position. She had an opening in her lab and had recently received a large grant.”
Kasloff had been doing research mainly on Nipah Virus, a level 4 virus, which was first identified in 1999. Nipah has been found in Malaysia and Singapore among pig farmers and results in encephalitis and respiratory problems. “Nipah virus is a biosecurity issue,” she explains. “We have to be prepared if the virus should appear in Canada.”
In addition to her new responsibilities, Kasloff continues to do research at the Virology Lab. As well, she takes on assignments for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) visiting research labs in underdeveloped countries – most recently in Ghana last spring – observing how the labs function and recommending small changes that could improve safety and efficiency.


“I am really proud to be working at the Virology Lab,” she says. “I am proud of the work we do. And it’s really nice to be working in the city in which I grew up.
“While I enjoyed living in Europe, I missed my family. As well, Italy’s economy is rather unstable,” Samantha adds.
Samantha is also looking forward to being around to celebrate the Virology Lab’s 20th anniversary next year. A big open house is being planned, she reports.
“We are also planning a number of conferences with national and international collaborative researchers. People will have an opportunity to see the kind of work we do here.”