Early in my career, I realized that I wanted to perform research that is relevant to healthcare providers and services. The foundation for my research endeavors were forged from my BSc (Health Sciences), MSc (Biochemistry), and my interests in molecular pathogenesis during my PhD (Microbiology and Immunology). Afterwards, during my training in clinical microbiology, I was on the frontline during a large mumps outbreak and a busy influenza virus season. With expertise in molecular microbiology, I helped develop rapid diagnostic tests to help meet the demands of the clinical laboratory and public health. These experiences solidified my research career path. After becoming a board certified Clinical Microbiologist, I was employed by Nova Scotia Health (NSH) [formerly the Nova Scotia Health Authority and Capital District Health Authority]. I now act as Director of Virology, Immunology, and Molecular Microbiology for NSH, and currently run a large diagnostics laboratory responsible for COVID-19 diagnostic testing in Nova Scotia. Be able to blend my clinical and research laboratories has created many collaborative opportunities that bridge the overlapping interests of academic collaborators, clinical laboratories, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and other national and international stakeholders. My research interests focus on molecular diagnostics, molecular epidemiology, and molecular pathogenesis, with application to the fields of vaccine-preventable diseases and emerging respiratory bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19.
Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN). Over the years, interests in prevention of respiratory disease has lead me to become an active investigator for CIRN; a national network of hospitals spanning several Canadian provinces. My research laboratory provides reference molecular and serological testing for the CIRN Serious Outcomes Surveillance (SOS) Network. By developing laboratory tools to help support vaccine-related research, we can better our understanding of the burden of vaccine-preventable respiratory illnesses caused by pathogens such as pneumococcus, influenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). For example, since 2009 the CIRN SOS Network has been performing prospective surveillance in Canadian adults hospitalized with community acquired pneumonia (CAP). Molecular serotyping tools developed in my laboratory were instrumental in establish the burden of pneumococcal disease that is vaccine-preventable in Canada, and other assays were used to characterize the burden of influenza and RSV. This research provides valuable information to help the make informed recommendations on the use of vaccines. My interactions with the CIRN SOS Network has helped create opportunities for research dissemination both nationally and internationally to stakeholders such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), the World Health Organization (WHO), and global industry collaborators.
Public health research. Since identifying the first cases of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) in Canada, our clinical and research laboratories collaborate regularly with the National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on emerging viruses and vaccine-preventable illnesses. Being well versed in molecular biology and clinical microbiology has helped develop novel diagnostic tests for the detection and surveillance of emerging diseases, and this has provide data to help guide health care providers and policy makers. My research on microorganisms of public health concern like ebola virus, influenza virus (including H7N9), Streptococcus pneumoniae, enterovirus D68, measles, and mumps has helped PHAC and frontline diagnostic laboratories in the identification and preparedness for these respiratory pathogens. More recently, as co-Chair of the PHAC Canadian Public Health Laboratory Network (CPHLN) Respiratory virus (ReVi) working group, we have recently discussed many aspects the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) form development and assessment of diagnostics, surveillance strategies, biosafety considerations, and developed best practice guidelines to help healthcare providers.
1. Patriquin G, Davis I, Heinstein C, et al....LeBlanc JJ. (2020) Exploring alternative swabs for use in SARS-CoV-2 detection from the oropharynx and anterior nares
2. LeBlanc JJ, Patriquin G, Pettipas J, et al., (2020). Look before diving into pooling of SARS-CoV-2 samples on high throughput analyzers, medRxiv 2020.08.17.20176982; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.08.17.20176982. Submitted to the J. Clin. Microbiol.
3. LeBlanc JJ, Heinstein C, MacDonald J, et al. (2020). A combined oropharyngeal/nares swab is a suitable alternative to nasopharyngeal swabs for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. Journal of Clinical Virology, 128:104442.
4. LeBlanc JJ, Bastien N, Li Y, et al. (2020) Molecular detection of SARS-CoV-2 in Canadian Laboratories. J. Clinical Virology, 128:104433.
5. Gale J, Clark D, Bohm C, Canney M, Davis I, LeBlanc JJ, Shorter A, Suri R, Vinson A, West K, Tennankore K. (2020). COVID-19 status, symptom burden and characteristics of dialysis patients residing in areas of community transmission. Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease (accepted)
6. LeBlanc JJ, ElSherif M, Ye L, et al. (2020). Age stratified burden of pneumococcal community acquired pneumonia in hospitalized Canadian adults. BMJ Open Resp Research. 7(1):e000550
7. LeBlanc JJ, ElSherif M, Ye L, et al. (2019) Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 3 is masking PCV13-mediated herd immunity in Canadian adults hospitalized with community acquired pneumonia: A study from the SOS Network of the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN). Vaccine 37(36):5466-5473.
8. LeBlanc JJ, ElSherif M, Mulpuru S, et al. (2019). Validation of the Seegene RV15 multiplex PCR for the detection of influenza A subtypes and influenza B lineages during national influenza surveillance in hospitalized adults. J Med Microbiol. 69(2):256-264.
9. Gillis HD, Demczuk WHB, ..., LeBlanc JJ. (2018). PCR-based discrimination of emerging Streptococcus pneumoniae serotypes 22F and 33F. Journal of Microbiological Methods; 144:99-106.
10. Schembri J, Gillis HD, Lang ALS, … LeBlanc JJ (2018). Multi-target plasmid controls for conventional and real-time PCR-based serotyping of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Plasmid; 98:45-51.
11. LeBlanc JJ, ElSherif M, Ye L, et al. (2017). Burden of vaccine-preventable pneumococcal disease in hospitalized adults: A CIRN SOS Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) Serious Outcomes Surveillance (SOS) Network Study. Vaccine, 35(29):3647-3654.
12. LeBlanc JJ, Heinstein C, MacDonald J, et al. (2016). Pushing the limits of point-of-care testing for the management of patients under investigation for Ebola virus disease. Ann. Clin. Biochem.53:288-291.
13. LeBlanc JJ, Pettipas J, Gaston D, et al. (2016). Outbreak of norovirus GII.P17-GII.17 in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Can. Journal of Infectious Diseases and Medical Microbiology. 2016: 1280247-1280253
14. Hatchette TF, Drews SJ, Grudeski E, et al., …LeBlanc JJ. (2015). Detection of enterovirus D68 in Canadian laboratories. J Clin Microbiol. 53(5):1748-1751.
15. Hatchette TF, Drews SJ , et al., ...LeBlanc JJ. (2013). Detection of influenza H7N9 virus: all molecular tests are not equal. J Clin Microbiol. 51(11):3835-3838.
16. LeBlanc JJ, Li Y, Bastien N, et al., (2009). Switching gears for an influenza pandemic: validation of a duplex reverse transcriptase PCR assay for simultaneous detection and confirmatory identification of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza virus. J Clin Microbiol. 47(12):3805-3813.