Behzad Imanian

  • Research Assistant Professor
  • Leader of IFSH HTS Initiative

Behzad Imanian worked as a computational biologist and research fellow in the Genome Sciences Center, BC Cancer Agency, Canada prior to acquiring his doctorate degree. He contributed to the quality control of sequencing of the Bovine and Spruce genome and transcriptome sequencing and the Pleiades Promoter Projects. His PhD and postdoctoral research explored the genomic consequences of a long-term endosymbiosis in dinotoms.

Since March 2016, he has been leading the High-Throughput Sequencing (HTS) Initiative in Illinois Institute of Technology's Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH). The IFSH HTS laboratory he helped to establish is equipped with advanced HTS sequencers, and it offers a variety of services that include Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS), metagenomics (16s rDNA and shotgun sequencing) for environmental monitoring, transcriptomics (RNA-seq) and other HTS applications. In addition to directing the HTS laboratory, Dr. Imanian has established the bioinformatics center in IFSH. The center houses four High Performance Computers (HPCs), and a large data storage and backup system. The IFSH bioinformatics Center is capable of providing analytical services from quality control, genome and transcriptome assembly, SNP analysis, to annotation and much more to all the researchers in the IFSH, IIT, the food industry as well as outside collaborators. The center also provides direct access to the IFSH HPCs for all our collaborators who desire to conduct the analytical work on their data themselves.


PhD in Botany 2008 - 2013 

Department of Botany, University of British Columbia 

M.Sc. in Genetics 2005 - 2006 

Department of Botany, University of British Columbia 

B.Sc. in Cell Biology and Genetics & Minor in English Literature 1998 - 2002 

University of British Columbia

Research Interests

  • Gene and genome evolution
  • Gene transfers (HGT & EGT)
  • Organelle genome, transcriptome, proteome
  • Organelle metabolism
  • Evolution of biochemical pathways
  • Endosymbiosis
  • Reductive evolution
  • Evolutionary history of eukaryotes
  • Evolution of pathogenicity
  • Food safety and microorganisms

Professional Affiliations & Memberships

International Association for Food Protection


NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship PGS D University of British Columbia 2009 – 2012

Four Year Fellowship University of British Columbia 2009 – 2012

Holz-Connor Travel Award International Society of Protistologists 2011

Faculty of Science Graduate Award University of British Columbia 2009

NSERC Undergraduate Scholarship University of British Columbia 2000

Bruce Nicoll Memorial Award Vancouver Community College 1997


Tian, R., Widel, M., Imanian, B2022. The Light Chain Domain and Especially the C-Terminus of Receptor-Binding Domain of the Botulinum Neurotoxin (BoNT) Are the Hotspots for Amino Acid Variability and Toxin Type Diversity. Genes.

Imanian, B., Donaghy, J., Jackson, T. et al. 2022. The power, potential, benefits, and challenges of implementing high-throughput sequencing in food safety systems. npj Sci Food 6, 35.

Tian, R., Imanian, B2022. ASAP 2: a pipeline and web server to analyze marker gene amplicon sequencing data automatically and consistently. BMC Bioinformatics 23, 27.

Smith, Theresa J., Tian, Renmao, Imanian, B., Williamson, CHD, Johnson, SL, Daligault, HE, and Schill, KM. 2021. Integration of Complete Plasmids Containing Bont Genes into Chromosomes of Clostridium parabotulinum, Clostridium sporogenes and Clostridium argentinense. Toxins.13(7):473.

Keeling, PJ, Boscaro, V., Bardell, F., et al. 2020. A letter to Denis Lynn, Aquatic Ecosystem Health & Management, 23:1, 17-18.

Janouškovec J, Gavelis, GS, Burki F, Dinh D, Bachvaroff TR, Gornik SG, Bright KJ, Imanian B, Strom SL, Delwiche CF, Waller RF, Fensome RA, Leander BS, Rohwer FL, Saldarriaga JF. 2016. Major transitions in dinoflagellate evolution unveiled by phylotranscriptomics. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2017 114 (2) E171-E180.

Hehenberger E, Imanian B, Burki F, Keeling PJ. 2014. Evidence for the retention of two evolutionary distinct plastids in dinoflagellates with diatom endosymbionts. Genome Biol Evol. 6:2321-2334.

Imanian B, Keeling PJ. 2014. Horizontal gene transfer and redundancy of tryptophan biosynthetic enzymes in dinotoms. Genome Biol Evol. 6:333–43.

Burki* F, Imanian* B, Hehenberger E, Hirakawa Y, Maruyama S, Keeling PJ. 2014. Endosymbiotic gene transfer in tertiary plastid-containing dinoflagellates. Eukaryotic Cell. 13:246-255. *equal contribution

Imanian B, Pombert JF, Dorrell RG, Burki F, Keeling PJ. 2012. Tertiary endosymbiosis in two dinotoms has generated little change in the mitochondrial genomes of their dinoflagellate hosts and diatom endosymbionts. PLoS ONE. 7:e43763.

Imanian* B, Pombert* JF, Keeling PJ. 2010. The complete plastid genomes of the two “dinotoms” Durinskia baltica and Kryptoperidinium foliaceum. PLoS ONE. 5:e10711. *equal contribution

Imanian B, Keeling PJ. 2007. The dinoflagellates Durinskia baltica and Kryptoperidinium foliaceum retain functionally overlapping mitochondria from two evolutionarily distinct lineages. BMC evolutionary biology. 7:172.



  • Foodborne bacterial community composition and its transitional stages in the cycle of production, processing, packaging, storage, distribution and consumption of different foods
  • Mapping the biogeography of foodborne bacterial communities in crop and animal farms
  • Human gut microbiome and its changes in response to the dietary regimes of interest
  • Toxin production and regulation in model bacteria including Clostridium botulinum
  • Rapid and reliable identification of foodborne microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotic microbes of interest
  • Bacterial resistance against antibiotics, sanitizers, disinfectants, heat, cold and pressure
  • Evolution of pathogenicity in foodborne bacteria


  • Investigating the possible mutagenic effects of manipulating the treatment time, frequency, energy and voltage on a Pulsed Light instrument in the genome of Listeria monocytogenes
  • Evaluating the use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) in linking contaminated seed to sprout in recent Salmonella outbreaks
  • Characterization of more than 100 Group I and Group II Clostridium botulinum strains with a focus on toxin gene clusters
  • Identifying the genes involved in the regulation of botulinum neurotoxin production, using transcriptomics (RNA-seq) of Clostridium botulinum, investigating the role of growth media, pH and temperature
  • Investigating microbial community composition and characterization of transitional stages of this community in conjunction with the biofilm formation in an industrial setting
  • Investigating the effects of select sanitizers on the structure and composition of microbial community in various industrial and laboratory settings
  • Characterization and comparison of soil microbial communities in Detroit city community gardens


Genetics, Genomics, Evolutionary Biology, High-Throughput Sequencing

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