Julia Mills, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology
I am an Associate Professor within the Biology Department at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia with an Adjunct and Associate Membership at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia, respectively. 

Julia Mills received her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of British Columbia and her MSc in Pharmacology and Toxicology at Queen’s University.  After graduate studies, she undertook two consecutive postdoctoral fellowships, one at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Toronto and the other at the BC Cancer Research Centre at the University of British Columbia.  In 2007, she spearheaded TWU’s new Biotechnology Program, an applied program within Life Science.  In addition to her teaching and administrative duties, Julia maintains an active biomedical research program in the areas of neuroscience and cancer research.

See: Biotechnology at TWU

  • PhD (Neuroscience), Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine (University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, British Columbia) - Thesis Title: Regulation of Amyloid Precursor Protein Secretion In Vitro
  • Master of Science (Pharmacology and Toxicology), Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario) - Thesis Title: Glutamate Neurotoxicity in Basal Forebrain Cholinergic Neurons In Vitro
  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Biology), Biosciences Complex (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario)


Cancer Biology, Chemotherapeutics and Drug Mechanisms, Cancer Therapy, Cell Cycle, Mitotic Catastrophe, Cell Adhesion, Integrins, Solid Tumours, Cytoskeleton, Cell Signalling, Alzheimer’s, Lissencephaly, CNS

    My research has focused on cellular medicine as it relates to cancer, developmental neurobiology and neurodegenerative disorders.  My graduate and early post-doctoral studies included pharmacological studies to determine how altered neurotransmission and cell signaling underlies Alzheimer Disease processes.  My later post-doctoral studies focused on how adhesion-based events alter developmental processes within the central nervous system (CNS).  During these studies, I discovered a novel role for integrin-linked kinase (ILK) in neuronal differentiation, precursor proliferation and lissencephaly.  I am continuing my studies on ILK as a chemotherapy target for various cancers of the CNS including retinoblastoma and glioblastoma.  These studies indicate that cancers respond differently to these anti-ILK therapies depending on whether or not they express the tumour suppressor retinoblastoma.  Presently, I am exploring novel chemotherapeutic drug combinations that target ILK and another oncogenic kinase in order to develop therapeutic strategies for aggressive glioblastomas or other solid tumours that have become drug-resistant.

    • Cancer Biology
    • Chemotherapeutics and Drug Mechanisms
    • Cancer Therapy
    • Cell Cycle
    • Mitotic Catastrophe
    • Cell Adhesion
    • Integrins
    • Solid Tumours
    • Cytoskeleton
    • Cell Signalling
    • Alzheimer’s
    • Lissencephaly
    • CNS

    Awards & Honors

    • Provost Research Grant, TWU (2019)
    • M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Science Research Initiation Grant (2016, 2017 and 2018)
    • Internal Research Award, TWU (2016, Fall 2010 and Spring 2010)
    • Murdock College Research Program for Life Sciences Award (2013 - 2015 and 2011 - 2013)
    • Diabetes Research Endowment Fund, TWU (2009)
    • Medical Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship, UBC (2000 - 2002)
    • Medical Research Council Post-Doctoral Fellowship, University of Toronto (1999 - 2000)
    • Alzheimer Society of Ontario Post-Doctoral Fellow Award, University of Toronto (1998 - 1999)
    • Alzheimer Society of Canada Doctoral Award, UBC (1993 - 1997)
    • Graduate Student Travel Fund, UBC (1993 - 1994)
    • Friends of the Scottish Society Award, Queen’s University (1989 - 1991)
    • Eldon Boyd Fellowship, Queen’s University (1989)
    • Leonard Foundation Award, Queen’s University (1983)

    Recent Publications

    Refereed Publications

    • *Tan J., Digicaylioglu M., Wang S.X.J., Dresselhuis J., Dedhar S. and Mills J. (2019) Insulin Attenuates Apoptosis in Neuronal Cells by an Integrin-Linked Kinase-Dependent Mechanism.  Heliyon 5 e02294.
    • *Noble J., Hunter D.V., Roskelley C.D., Chan E.K.L., and Mills J. (2016) Loukoumasomes are Distinct Subcellular Structures from Rods and Rings and are Structurally Associated with MAP2 and the Nuclear Envelope in Retinal Cells. PLoS One Oct 31;11(10): e0165162.
    • *Duminuco R., Noble J., Goody J., Sharma M., Ksander B.R., Roskelley, C.D., Cox M.E., and Mills J. (2015) Integrin-Linked Kinase Regulates Senescence in an Rb-Dependent Manner in Cancer Cell Lines.  Cell Cycle 14:18, 2924-2937.
    • *Sikkema K. A. W., Strikwerda A., Sharma M., Assi K., Salh B., Cox M.E., and Mills J. (2014) Regulation of Mitotic Cytoskeleton Dynamics and Cytokinesis by Integrin-Linked Kinase in Retinoblastoma Cells. PLoS One Jun 9;9(6):e98838.
    • *Assi K., Mills J., Owen D., Ong C., St. Arnaud R., Dedhar S., and Salh B. (2008) Integrin-Linked Kinase Regulates Cell Proliferation and Tumour Growth in Murine Colitis-Associated Carcinogenesis.  Gut 57, 931-940. *McDonald P. C., Oloumi A., Mills J., Dobreva I., Maidan M., Gray V., Wederell E. D., Bally M. B., Foster L. J., and Dedhar S. (2008) Rictor and Integrin-Linked Kinase Interact and Regulate AKT Phosphorylation and Cancer Cell Survival.Cancer Res 68, 1618-1624
    • *Niewmierzycka A., Mills J., St-Arnaud R., Dedhar S., and Reichardt L.F. (2005) Integrin Linked Kinase (ILK) Deletion From Mouse Cortex Results In Cortical Lamination Defects Resembling Cobblestone LissencephalyJ Neurosci 25, 7022-31.
    • *Attwell S., Mills J., Troussard A., Wu C., and Dedhar S. (2003) Integration of Cell Attachment, Cytoskeletal Localization, and Signaling by Integrin-Linked Kinase (ILK), CH-ILKBP, and Tumor Suppressor PTEN. Mol Biol Cell 14, 4813-4825.
    • *Chen F., Yang D.-S., Petanceska S., Yang A., Tandon A., Yu G., Rozmahel R., Ghiso J., Nishimura M., Zhang D. M., Kawarai T., Levesque G., Mills J., Levesque L., Song Y.-Q., Rogaeva E., Westaway D., Mount H., Gandy S., St. George-Hyslop P., and Fraser P. E. (2000) Carboxyl-terminal fragments of Alzheimer -Amyloid Precursor Protein Accumulate in Restricted and Unpredicted Intracellular Compartments in Presenilin 1-Deficient Cells. JBC 275, 36794-36802.

    (*=First authors; Bolded Names=Undergraduate research students or myself)

    Affiliations & Memberships

    Committee Memberships

    • Program Developer and Co-Director of the Institute of Chronic Conditions and Aging (ICCA), TWU (2011 - present)
      • Worked with proposed ICCA founding members to develop and substantially revise several drafts of a précis prepared for the Office of Provost
      • As the primary contact, liaised with the Vice President of Research to develop and edit the précis that was accepted by the Office of Research in 2012
      • Continue to work with ICCA founding members to promote collaborations and partnerships for interdisciplinary health research and knowledge exchange with the ultimate goal to improve the health and quality of life of people living with chronic conditions and our aging population.
    • Founding Member and Committee Member of the Institutional Animal Care Committee, FNAS, TWU (2009 - present)
      • Involved in TWU’s certification by the Canadian Council for Animal Care
      • Collaborated with veterinarian consultant in the architectural design of a mouse vivarium
      • Ensured that the teaching and research activities involving live vertebrate animals complied with Good Animal Practices (including regular reviews of Standard Operating Procedures and Animal Use Protocols)
    • Work-Integrated Learning Committee, TWU (2019)
      • Worked with members of the learning commons to better define work-integrated learning on campus and to ensure compliance with Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (CEWIL) Canada
    • Tier 2 Canada Research Chair Steering Committee, TWU (2017 - 2018)
      • Reviewed Tier 2 Canada Research Chair applications
      • Ranked and nominated applicants for external chair applications
    • Ad hoc Committee Member for the New Research Science Vivarium Design and Completion, FNAS, TWU (2010 - 2016)
      • Coordinated with the architectural design team to design and construct the animal vivarium (a mechanically and regulatory complex facility)
      • Applied for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation Leaders Opportunity Fund in 2012 ($107,386) that was used in the design plan for Phase II of this facility
      • Liaised with TWU’s Scientific Advisory Council, the development team, faculty Dean and Vice President of Research to seek funding for Phase II of this facility

    Other Memberships

    • 2014 - present Member, Centre for Cell Biology Development and Disease
    • 2007 - 2019 Member, Life Sciences BC
    • 2012 - 2013 Member, American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB)
    • 2011 - 2012 Member, Alzheimer's Association International Society

    • BIOL 223 Cell Biology
    • BIOL 343 Human Histology
    • BIOL 345 Vertebrate Physiology
    • BIOT 100 Biotechnology Practicum I
    • BIOT 200/300/400 Biotechnology Practica II, III, IV
    • NATS 481 Christian Perspectives in the Sciences
    • NATS 490 Christianity and Natural Sciences