top of page

Tony K.Y. Lim, Ph.D.

Pharmacology, Neuroscience and Immunology

  • googlescholar
  • github
  • orcid
  • White LinkedIn Icon
  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Instagram Icon

I am a scientist with a passion for pharmacology, neuroscience, and immunology. My goal is to discover more about disease mechanisms and to make new therapeutics for the treatment of neurological diseases.

I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia where I gained a passion for pharmacology at the University of British Columbia. When I’m not working on science, you’ll find me tinkering with 3D printing, doling out treats to my canine companions or riding electric unicycles and skateboards.

Recently, I completed a CIHR-funded postdoctoral research project in the Ruthazer lab at McGill University, where I used 2-photon microscopy to record interactions between immune cells and neurons and computer vision-based techniques to study visual-evoked animal behaviour.

Science Lab

I am fascinated by the immune system. In addition to playing essential roles in host defence, the immune system also regulates many processes in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Furthering our understanding of how the immune system contributes to peripheral and central nervous system function in health and disease will help us create new treatments for neurological disease.

Immune cells are highly mobile and dynamic, making them excellent subjects for time-lapse microscopy.


Microglial cells phagocytosing neurons (neurophagy) in the developing brain. Timestamp=HH:MM


Microglial cells (red) responding to a laser irradiation injury. Timestamp=HH:MM

In my postdoctoral work, I study neuron-microglia interactions and have shown that microglia phagocytose living axons, a process called trogocytosis. Microglial trogocytosis of axons is an important regulator of axon morphology.


Microglial cell (red) trogocytosing a pH-stable GFP-labelled axon (green). The colocalization of green and red is shown as white.


Microglial cell (red) trogocytosing a pH-stable GFP-labelled axon (green). The colocalization of green and red is shown as white.

  • 2-photon intravital microscopy


Microglial cells (red) interacting with the neuropil (green) of the Xenopus laevis retinotectal circuit.


Microglial cells (red) extending processes to contact axons (green). Timestamp=HH:MM

  • 3D volumetric data analysis


Left: Microglial cells (red) surveil the brain in the presence of an eGFP-labelled axon (green).

Right: Tracking of the microglial cells on the left panel in 3D.

  • Python programming and computer vision

17-XenLoom-stimpresent (1).gif

Simultaneous presentation of looming stimuli and recording of behavioural responses using Python 3.


Automated tracking of a microglia-depleted tadpole making an escape response to bright looming stimuli.

  • CAD design and 3D printing

During the COVID-19 pandemic, nasopharyngeal swabs were in short supply. I lead a team to design and develop a nasopharyngeal swab that could be made using low-cost FDM 3D printers, making it ideal for manufacturing in low resource settings.

  • Bioinformatics


De novo protein modelling of a Xenopus laevis complement inhibitory molecule using the trRosetta structure prediction tool and pyMOL.

  • Molecular biology

aRCA3,SYP fusion proteins.jpg

Tagging of two proteins with fluorescent proteins for determining localization, and expression of both proteins in a single bicistronic plasmid construct.


Creation of a synapse-localized protein by fusion with a synaptic protein.

  • Immunohistochemistry


Iba1 staining of microglial cells in mouse spinal cord.


GFAP staining of astrocytes in mouse spinal cord.

  • In situ hybridization

dapB_16bit.tif (RGB).tif
polr2a_16bit.tif (RGB).tif
aRC3_16bit.tif (RGB).tif

Left: Bacterial negative control probe in the retina of the Xenopus laevis tadpole retina.

Middle: Positive control probe of a housekeeping gene.

Right: Probe showing expression of a complement inhibitory molecule.

  • Proteomics


Left: Removal of high abundance proteins from human cerebrospinal fluid with immunodepletion before mass spectrometry-based analysis reveals low abundance proteins.

Right: Fractionation of human cerebrospinal fluid by acetonitrile precipitation concentrates low molecular weight proteins for analysis by mass spectrometry.

Researching and Writing

Peer-reviewed publications


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Microglial trogocytosis and the complement system regulate axonal pruning in vivo” eLife, 10:e62167, 2021.

Solek CM, Farooqi N, Verly M, Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Maternal immune activation and neurodevelopmental disorders.” Dev Dyn, 247(4):588-619, 2018.

Lim TK, Anderson KM, Hari P, Di Falco M, Reihsen TE, Wilcox GL, Belani KG, LaBoissiere S, Pinto MR, Beebe DS, Kehl L, Stone LS. “Evidence for a role of nerve injury in painful intervertebral disc degeneration: A cross-sectional proteomic analysis of human cerebrospinal fluid.” J Pain, 18(10):1253-69, 2017.

Lim TK, Rone MB, Lee SH, Antel JP, Zhang J. “Mitochondrial and bioenergetic dysfunction in trauma-induced painful peripheral neuropathy.” Mol Pain, 11(1):58-67, 2015.

Lim TK, Shi XQ, Johnson J, Rone MB, Antel JP, David S, Zhang J. “Peripheral nerve injury induces persistent vascular dysfunction and endoneurial hypoxia, contributing to the genesis of neuropathic pain.” J Neurosci, 35(8):3346-59, 2015.

Zhang J, Echeverry S, Lim TK, Lee SH, Shi XQ, Huang H. “Can modulating inflammatory response be a good therapeutic strategy for treating neuropathic pain?” Curr Pharm Des, 21(7):831-9, 2014.

Lim TK, Shi XQ, Martin HC, Huang H, Luheshi G, Rivest S, Zhang J. “Blood-nerve barrier dysfunction contributes to the generation of neuropathic pain and allows targeting of injured nerves for pain relief.” Pain, 155(5):954-67, 2014.

Symons FJ, Wolff JJ, Stone LS, Lim TK, Bodfish JW. “Salivary biomarkers of HPA access and autonomic activity in adults with intellectual disability with and without stereotyped and self-injurious behaviour disorders.” J Neurodev Disord, 3(2):144-51, 2011.

Shi XQ*, Lim TK*, Lee S, Zhao YQ, Zhang J. “Statins alleviate experimental nerve-injury induced neuropathic pain.” Pain. 152(5):1033-43, 2011. (*co-first author)

Lim TK, MacLeod BA, Ries CR, Schwarz SK. “The quaternary lidocaine derivative, QX-314, produces long-lasting local anesthesia in animal models in vivo.” Anesthesiology, 107(2):305-11, 2007.

Book chapters

Echeverry S, Lee SH, Lim TK, Zhang J. “Contribution of inflammation to chronic pain triggered by nerve injury.” Basic Principles of Peripheral Nerve Disorders, Intech, 2012.




2018        Best Poster Award, EMBO Workshop: Microglia 2018
2015        1st Place Basic Science Poster Award, McGill Pain Day
2014        2nd Place Basic Science Poster Award, McGill Pain Day
2014        Oral Presentation Open Prize, McGill Anesthesia Research Day
2013        Poster Award, International Brain Barriers Society
2013        1st Place Oral Presentation, CIHR Neuroinflammation Training Program
2011        3rd Place Poster Presentation, CIHR Neuroinflammation Training Program
2011        Best Basic Science Poster Award, McGill Pain Day
2006        Esther R. Anderson Memorial Prize, UBC Department of Pharmacology








CIHR Postdoctoral Fellowship

Role: Postdoctoral Fellow

McLaughlin McGill Faculty of Medicine Fellowship

Role: Postdoctoral Fellow

The Edwards Foundation PhD Studentship in Pain Research 

Role: Doctoral Student

CIHR Frederick Banting and Charles Best Doctoral Fellowship

Role: Doctoral Student

McGill Graduate Studies Fellowship

Role: Master’s Student


Selected oral presentations


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Microglial trogocytosis and the complement system regulate axonal pruning in vivo.” Canadian Neurophotonics Platform: Neuro Light Lunch Seminar Series, Virtual seminar, Jul 2020.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “In vivo imaging of microglial-mediated synaptic pruning in the Xenopus laevis retinotectal circuit and modulation by the complement system.” Xenopus Gene Editing Workshop, Woods Hole, MA, Oct 2019.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “In vivo imaging of microglial-mediated synaptic pruning in the developing retinotectal system.” Neuron-Glia Seminar Series, Montreal, Canada, Jun 2018.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Do microglia eat synapses? An investigation by 2-photon live imaging.” University of Tokyo seminar, Tokyo, Japan, Mar 2018.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Do microglia eat synapses? An investigation by 2-photon live imaging.” Kyoto University iCeMS seminar, Kyoto, Japan, Mar 2018.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Do microglia eat synapses? An investigation by 2-photon live imaging.” Osaka University Frontier Bioscience Seminar, Osaka, Japan, Mar 2018.


Lim TK, Ruthazer ES. “Do microglia eat synapses? Seeing is believing.” BRaIN Boost Symposium, Montreal, Canada, Feb 2018.


Lim TK, Shi XQ, Johnson J, Zhang J. “The role of hypoxia in the generation of neuropathic pain.” Anesthesia Research Day, Montreal, Canada, May 2014.


Lim TK, Shi XQ, Zhang J. “The vascular basis of neuropathic pain.” Quebec Network of Junior Pain Investigators, Montreal, Canada, Jul 2013.


Lim TK, Shi XQ, Zhang J. “The vascular basis of neuropathic pain.” Integrated Program in Neuroscience Retreat, Montreal, Canada, Jun 2013


Lim TK, Shi XQ, Zhang J. “A vascular hypothesis for neuropathic pain.” CIHR Neuroinflammation Training Program Symposium, Montreal, Canada, 2013.

Test Tubes

Postdoctoral Scholar

The role of microglial trogocytosis and the complement system in axonal pruning

The Montreal Neurological institute

Montreal, Canada

Lab of Dr Edward S. Ruthazer

  • Recorded direct real-time in vivo evidence of microglial-mediated axonal pruning in Xenopus laevis tadpoles using 2-photon microscopy

  • Identified an endogenous synapse-associated molecule that inhibits axonal pruning

  • Generated a synapse-associated fusion protein that enhances axonal pruning

  • Created a novel behavioural assay to test visuomotor function in Xenopus laevis tadpoles using python programming, 3D printing and a custom-coded computer vision tracking algorithm

A first-authored manuscript was published in eLife. Postdoctoral fellowships from CIHR and the McGill Faculty of Medicine funded this work.​


Doctoral  Student

Investigation of the role of the microvascular dysfunction in neuropathic pain

McGill University

Montreal, Canada

Lab of Dr Ji Zhang

  • Devised novel methods to measure peripheral nerve vascular function: endoneurial microvascular perfusion, hypoxia, blood-nerve barrier integrity, mitochondrial activity

  • Discovered 3 different mechanisms to target analgesics to injured peripheral nerve

This work resulted in four first-authored publications in the Journal of Neuroscience, Pain, and Molecular Pain. Doctoral fellowships from CIHR and the Edwards Foundation funded this work.


Master's Student

Uncovering pain biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid of patients with painful intervertebral disc degeneration

McGill University

Montreal, Canada

Lab of Dr Laura S. Stone

  • Uncovered pain biomarkers in human cerebrospinal fluid using proteomics

  • Uncovered biomarkers in the saliva of adults with self-injurious behaviour disorder


This work resulted in a first-authored publication in the Journal of Pain and a co-authored publication in the Journal of Developmental Disorders.​


Undergraduate Summer Research Project

Characterization of the local anesthetic properties of QX-314

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, Canada

Labs of Dr Bernard A. MacLeod & Stephan K.W. Schwarz

  • Established a novel mechanism to create long-lasting local anesthetics


This work resulted in the first-authored publication in Anesthesiology and was funded by a Faculty of Medicine Summer Student Research Program award.


Honour's Thesis Student


Co-op Intern


Co-op Intern

Summary of the discovery and development of RSD-921: From molecule to man

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, Canada

Lab of Dr Michael J.A. Walker

  • Summarized the discovery and development of RSD-921, a novel anti-arrhythmic.

Conventional and semi-high throughput electrophysiology of HCN ion channels

Johnson & Johnson Research & Development

La Jolla, San Diego, USA

Pain and Related Disorders Group

  • Performed conventional and high-throughput patch-clamp electrophysiology

Development of a clinically relevant rodent of allergic rhinitis

University of British Columbia

Vancouver, Canada

Supervisor: Michael J.A. Walker

  • Assisted in the development of a guinea pig model of allergic rhinitis for in vivo drug screening

Circular Library

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Integrated Program in Neuroscience


Master of Science (MSc), Pharmacology & Therapeutics


Bachelor of Science (Hons), 

Pharmacology & Therapeutics

McGill University

Thesis: The role of vascular dysfunction in neuropathic pain

McGill University

Thesis: Proteomic analysis of human cerebrospinal fluid from patients with painful and non-painful degenerative disc disease

The University of British Columbia

Thesis: A summary of the discovery and development of RSD-921, a novel anti-arrhythmic

Chalkboard Drawings



Workshop: "Practical 3D printing for Life Scientists"
McGill University, Montreal Neurological Institute

  • Organized, created and presented a 3 hour workshop on 3D printing

Student supervision






J. Ho (Undergraduate student, McGill University)

Currently: Undergraduate student

J. Jang (Undergraduate student, McGill University)

Currently: Clinical Trial Coordinator

J. Lou (Undergraduate student, University of Alberta)

Currently: PhD Candidate

J. Johnson (Undergraduate student, University of Alberta)

Currently: Pharmacist

H. Martin (Undergraduate student, Memorial University)

Currently: Medical doctor

Service & Outreach













Canada Graduate Studies-Doctoral Awards Committee
Canadian Institutes for Health Research

Project Lead, Open Source 3D Printed Nasopharyngeal Swab for COVID-19
Helpful Engineering

Social Media Manager and Content Creator
Brain Reach North


Ad Hoc Reviewer
Journal of Pain

Ad Hoc Reviewer
 Inflammation Research

Writer, Youth Articles
 Let’s Talk Science

Institute Representative

McGill Graduate Student Association for Neuroscience

Coordinator, Montreal Brain Bee
Brain Bee Competition

High School Presenter

Brain Awareness Montreal

Committee Chair, Committee for Graduate Student Support
McGill Postgraduate Student Society

Social and Sports Representative
 McGill Graduate Association of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Class Act Representative
University of British Columbia Pharmacology Class of 2006

bottom of page