Valerie Wallace, PhD

Dr. Valerie Wallace obtained her PhD in the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto (UT) and completed postdoctoral studies in developmental neuroscience at University College London. From 1998-2013 she was at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (University of Ottawa) where she was Senior Scientist and Director of the Vision Research Program. A molecular and developmental biologist by training, she is recognized for her work on the role of Hedgehog signalling in neural progenitor proliferation in the central nervous system.

Dr. Wallace joined the Krembil Research Institute in September 2013, where she is Director of Vision Sciences and Chair of the Vision Science Research Program. She holds appointments in the Departments of Opthalmology and Vision Sciences and Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology at the University of Toronto. Dr. Wallace holds peer-reviewed grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Foundation Fighting Blindness Canada and Brain Canada.

My research program consists of two parts: 1. Development and repair of the retina and 2. Developmental signaling in brain tumour initiation.

Degeneration of photoreceptors, the light-sensitive neurons in the retina, results in irreversible vision loss associated with conditions such as age-related macular degeneration. Our investigations of photoreceptor transplantation as a potential therapeutic strategy to treat this type of vision loss led to our discovery of “material transfer”, where cells engage in the horizontal transfer of intracellular material, such as proteins and organelles. Understanding the mechanism of this phenomenon will shed light on cell communication in the retina and has the potential for new therapies to treat blindness.

Tumour progression is frequently associated with deregulated activity of normal signals that guide development. Defects in Hedgehog signaling can induce medulloblastomas, tumours of the cerebellum, which are the most frequent solid malignancy in children. We have shown that Norrin (an atypical Wnt ligand) signaling to the stroma has a potent antitumour effect on tumour initiation and latency in mouse models of Hedgehog medulloblastoma. Our efforts are focused on characterizing Norrin-regulated stromal development and signaling on tumour progression. These studies have the potential to uncover general roles of stroma in brain tumour progression.

Related Links

For a list of Dr. Wallace's publications, please visit Pubmed or Scopus.

Professor, University of Toronto, Laboratory Medicine & Pathobiology