Dr. Nigil Haroon

2016 Young Investigator Award

After his clinical training in Medicine and Rheumatology, Nigil completed a PhD in Immunology at the University of Toronto. His PhD thesis was focused on the biological basis of the interaction of HLA-B27 and ERAP1. His studies were the first to demonstrate specific subtype interaction with ERAP, and laid the groundwork for new understandings of the basic immune mechanisms underlying ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Nigil has 57 peer-reviewed publications, with over 850 citations. These publications have appeared in high impact journals including Annals of Internal Medicine, Nature Genetics, Nature Communications, Nature Reviews Rheumatology, Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, and Arthritis and Rheumatology.  He was the lead author on the landmark study, conducted in over five North American centers, that demonstrated that TNF-inhibitors have important effects on delaying radiographic progression in AS. This paper has significantly changed the narrative around biologics in AS and has transformed clinical care in this disease. More recently, Nigil has published another landmark study on vascular mortality in AS in Annals of Internal Medicine. This is already changing the approach to primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in AS patients.

Nigil has had excellent success in obtaining research funding, with over one million dollars as a principal investigator in addition to being co-principal investigator in other grants. His research grants have come from both CIHR and The Arthritis Society. During his research training, he was named a Vanier Scholar by CIHR, one of the most prestigious research awards conferred by CIHR.  He is also the first Canadian Rheumatologist to be awarded the Bruckel Award by the Spondylitis Association of America, which recognizes outstanding contributions to care and understanding of AS.

Moreover, he has already adopted an active role as a supervisor for trainees, including several clinical fellows, medical students, and graduate students in the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto. His leadership qualities are reflected in a number of his achievements. He made a key contribution to the Wait Time Alliance, which was a breakthrough achievement for the CRA in being the first professional association to establish these benchmarks in the world. He is co-author on the CRA/SPARCC guidelines for the management of spondyloarthritis, and was one of only four non-American Rheumatologists invited to be co-author on the recently published ACR guidelines for the management of spondyloarthritis. He was also an invited speaker at the EULAR 2013 annual meeting in Madrid. These achievements reflect the high profile which he has on the international as well as the national scene.