Principal Investigator

Dr. McFarland obtained her PhD in Chemistry at the University of California San Diego (1996-2003), where she focused on the control of excited state dynamics for luminescent chemosensing. During this time, she integrated aspects of synthetic and coordination chemistry, photophysics and photochemistry, and laser spectroscopy in order to create new design principles for producing better diagnostic imaging agents.

Building upon this work, Dr. McFarland completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Dalhousie University (2003-2005) in ultrafast spectroscopy and inorganic photophysics, using femtosecond laser techniques to construct molecular snapshots of the fleeting events that follow photon absorption. These early processes dictate the overall photophysical profile of a molecule that, in turn, determines its potential for use in various applications, such as photosensitizers for photodynamic therapy, and luminescent indicators for diagnostic imaging.

Dr. McFarland continues to expand these core areas of expertise through a multidisciplinary research program aimed at developing new photoactive drugs (in combination with light sources and protocols) as anticancer agents and as antibiotics. Some of the most promising compounds have been licensed to a Toronto-based company and are undergoing preclinical testing for Phase I clinical trials to treat non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. These compounds outperform current FDA-approved photoactive drugs by orders of magnitude, exploiting unique mechanisms that are the subject of four patent applications. 

Dr. McFarland is also President and CEO of a company that develops natural product-based photoactives, with particular focus on improving oral health. She has raised over $1.8M in research and development funding and has co-authored more than 80 scientific works as journal articles, communications, and conference proceedings and abstracts. Dr. McFarland is a strong advocate of multidisciplinary undergraduate research and education, and her team includes undergraduate students from physics, chemistry, and biology that contribute heavily to her research program.

Lab Manager

Susan Monro has worked as a research assistant and then the lab manager in the McFarland lab since 2007. Her interest in natural products is longstanding, having received her Chartered Herbalist certificate from Dominion Herbal College in 1999. She earned her B.Sc. (2008) and M.Sc. (2011) in Chemistry from Acadia University under the direction of Dr. Sherri McFarland. Her projects include the extraction of natural products from bioactive plants using various extraction methods (e.g., Soxhlet, microwave, chromatography), coordination compound synthesis, identification and characterization of bioactive constituents (UV-Vis absorption spectroscopy, fluorescence emission spectroscopy, NMR, HPLC), and the testing of these compounds and extracts for biological activity in different contexts (e.g., DNA, cancer cells, bacteria). Her current project involves the design of bacterial biofilm models to test the photodynamic inhibition potential of the vast library of compounds and extracts in the McFarland lab. She has been a member of the Chemical Institute of Canada and United Plant Savers since 2008. Her hobbies include community theatre, genealogy, movies, cooking, reading, and enjoying fine wine.

Current Trainees

tl_files/sites/mcfarland/images/About Us Page/Lab Group/Current/anderson_fuller.jpgName: Anderson Fuller
Program: BSc Chemistry
Research: Photophysics and photochemistry of PS for PDT
Tenure: 2016-current