Dr. Jessica Fortin

Dr. Jessica Fortin received a combined DVM-PhD (veterinary medicine, pathology) degree in 2015 from the University of Montreal, a MSc with honors in medicinal chemistry (2008), and baccalaureate degrees in Pharmacy (2004) and chemistry (2007) from Laval University. Prior to her training in veterinary medicine, she worked for two years with Dr. Laurence H. Hurley at the University of Arizona on the design and synthesis of small molecules to stabilize DNA secondary structures called G-quadruplexes. After completing her dual training in veterinary medicine (DVM/PhD), she entered a residency program in veterinary anatomic pathology at the University of Missouri, with special focus in neuropathology.

In 2018, she joined the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation. She has an abiding interest in the intersections of medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, and pathology, and shortly after, transitioned to a 75% research position to become a pathologist-scientist. In her research program, she is interrogating and modifying the chemical structures of small molecules for their ability to inhibit aggregation of hyperphosphorylated tau and alpha-synuclein, and the neurotoxicity this aggregation caused. Unlike amyloid plaques, hyperphosphorylated tau is associated with loss of cognitive ability in Alzheimer’s. In addition, her research program involves mechanistic studies to provide insight on the misfolding and to identify novel therapeutics. So far, they have worked with 7 different prone-to-aggregate proteins that are relevant to human and veterinary medicine through large-scale arrays of physiologically-relevant assays. Her goal is to become an independent investigator in protein misfolding disorders with a special focus in drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Honors and awards (most recent):

  • 2021 Fred Sanfilippo-ASIP Visiting Lectureship award for 2021 (ASIP)
  • 2020 PISA 2020 Dani and Erik Zander Junior Faculty Scholar Award
  • 2019 MSU Academic Communications Fellow to engage with media (15 Fellows were selected by MSU Communications)
  • 2018 ACVP Harold W. Casey Scholarship Award
  • 2018 Society of Toxicologic Pathology Student Travel Award
  • 2017 ACVP Young Investigator Award, Experimental Disease, 3rd place
  • 2017 ACVP/ICPI Trainee Travel Award
  • 2017  Resident, American College of Veterinary Pathologists Travel Award
  • 2017 Society of Toxicologic Pathology Young Investigator Award, 3rd place
  • 201 Society of Toxicologic Pathology Student Travel Award

Special research funding
Current Research Support:
June 2021-June 2022
Support: PhRMA Research Starter Grant – Drug Discovery
Title: Characterization of new inhibitors of p-tau aggregation and cytotoxicity
Role: Principal Investigator

August 2020-August 2022
Support: Winn Feline Foundation
Title: In Vitro Characterization of Small Molecule Inhibitors of Pancreatic Amyloidosis for Diabetic Cats.
Role: Principal Investigator

March 2020-March 2022       
Support: Endowed Research Funds (ERF) Project Grant, Committee on Graduate Studies and Research (CGSR)
Title: Defining the molecular basis of Feline Islet Amyloid Polypeptide Fibril Inhibitors
Role: Principal Investigator

Research pending:

Sept 2021-Sept 2023
Support: NIH R21
Title: Small molecule inhibitors of hyperphosphorylated tau aggregation and cytotoxicity for the development of Alzheimer’s therapeutics
Role: Principal Investigator

Dec 2021-Dec 2026
Support: NIH K08
Title: Small Molecule Inhibitors of Hyperphosphorylated Tau Aggregation in Alzheimer’s Disease: Lead Optimization and Proof of Concept in a Rodent Model
Role: Principal Investigator

Research completed:

June 2019-Jan 2021   
Support: ACVIM Resident Research Grant Proposal, Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction project in horse
Role: Co-mentor
Principal Investigator: Harold Schott

June 2019-July 2020  
Support: Endowed Research Funds (ERF) Project Grant, Committee on Graduate Studies and Research (CGSR)
Title: Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID): Is abnormal protein accumulation associated with degeneration of hypothalamic dopaminergic neurons?
Role: Co-Principal Investigator
Principal Investigator: Harold Schott

Lab website:

Fortin Drug Discovery Laboratory

The Fortin Drug Discovery Laboratory is working to discover small molecules to treat protein-folding, neuropathologic, and neurotoxicologic disorders. Current investigations include therapeutic strategies for neurodegenerative diseases and type 2 diabetes, neurotoxicity and dysfunction in basal ganglia pathways, and diagnostic investigation of protein-folding disorders. My research team is comprised of oligomer and fibril exterminators!

Fortin Drug Discovery Laboratory | College of Veterinary Medicine at MSU