About the Canada
Gairdner Foundation

Our mission

The Canada Gairdner Awards celebrate the world’s best biomedical and global health researchers through seven annual awards.

The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 with the main goal of recognizing and rewarding international excellence in fundamental research that impacts human health. Annually, seven awards are given: five Canada Gairdner International Awards for biomedical research, one John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, specifically for impact on global health issues, and one Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, reserved for a Canadian.

402 awards have been bestowed on laureates from over 40 countries and of those awardees, 96 have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes.

The Gairdner Foundation also engages in outreach programs across Canada and acts as a convener with the public, policymakers and other stakeholders on the impact of science on our everyday lives.

The Impact Of Your Support

We celebrate excellence through our Canada Gairdner Awards

We convene leaders through our international events

We inspire the next generation of scientists

By The Numbers


Since 1957, The Gairdner Foundation has distributed 402 awards for outstanding scientific research.


The number of countries that Gairdner awardees come from.


The number Gairdner awardees who have gone on to win the prestigious Nobel Prize.

Our Story

The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 with the main goal of awarding annual prizes to individual researchers whose discoveries in biomedical and global health research have had major impact on progress in science and on human health..

James A. Gairdner (known as Big Jim to his grandchildren) was, indeed, a larger than life figure.

Described by his friends as a talented maverick and visionary, he was a colourful personality who lived large. He was, by turns, an athlete, a soldier, a stockbroker, a businessman, a philanthropist and a landscape painter.

While he had always had an interest in medicine, it was the onset of severe arthritis in his early 50s that led Gairdner to become involved with the newly created Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society. In 1957 he donated $500,000 to establish the Gairdner Foundation to recognize major research contributions in the conquest of disease and human suffering.

Gairdner’s decision to create awards that recognize outstanding discoveries by the world’s top scientists was, and continues to be, an act of extraordinary vision. Much of his original instruction regarding the process of selection and awarding of the prizes remains in place today, contributing to the current stature of the Canada Gairdner Awards.