X

Dive into the world of science behind our 2021 Canada Gairdner Awards laureates.

Partnering with the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences (CSMB), we have created a series of animated videos and illustrated materials that help explain the work and research that some of our 2021 Canada Gairdner award winners have accomplished.

We are so proud to celebrate the innovative work of our 2021 laureates and we want to share their brilliant research in a fun and easy to understand way. That’s why we have partnered with UBC, CSMB, and the talented illustrator Armin Mortazavi to create a selection of entertaining educational materials for the third year in a row.

Science is so important, now more than ever. We encourage you to engage with these materials and share them online to help spread the joy of understanding that science can bring to our lives. 

Visit the links below to download the materials.

Canada Gairdner Awards 2021 Laureate Education Materials (Full package)

The Molecular Elements of Diabetes by Daniel Drucker, Joel Habener, and Jens Holst

Click here to watch The Molecular Elements of Diabetes animated video.  

From the Lab Bench to the Hospital Bed by  Elizabeth Eisenhauer 

Click here to watch the From the Lab Bench to the Hospital Bed animated video.  

Virus Trackers and Preventing Pandemics by Guan Yi and Joseph Malik Peiris

Click here to watch the Virus Trackers and Preventing Pandemics animated video.

Discovering the Breast Cancer Gene by Mary-Claire King 

Click here to watch the Discovering the Breast Cancer Gene animated video. 

Check out the full playlist of these animated videos right here. 

For classroom activities and discussion questions based on our 2021 Canada Gairdner Award laureates and their work, click here. 

Register for Gairdner Science Week to hear from these incredible scientists, and much more, in our week full of LIVE events! And tune in on October 28th to watch as our 2021 laureates receive their Canada Gairdner Awards!

Many thanks to all the students who contributed to this amazing project: Brenna Hay, Sarah Laframboise, David Ng, Farah Qaiser, Zahra Sepehri, Rhonda Thygesen, and Nicole Wang.

Illustrations by Armin Mortazavi

For more information about the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences, please visit https://csmb-scbm.ca

For more information about the UBC Michael Smith Laboratories, please visit https://www.msl.ubc.ca 

If you have any questions, please contact Jocelyn Togeretz, jocelyn@gairdner.org

 

Canada Gairdner Momentum Award

Each year the Canada Gairdner Momentum Award will be given to two mid-career individuals who have already made major transformative contributions to health-related research in Canada. Recipients will typically be within 10-15 active years of their first independent research position and their primary affiliation during this period must be in Canada.

The prize will be awarded primarily on the basis of the impact of the research and the likely forward trajectory of research success. Strong contributions to mentorship, practice, education and outreach will also be considered as part of the adjudication.

This award will be given annually to two recipients. Each laureate will receive $50,000, a Gairdner medal and framed citation. Laureates will participate in all of the annual events associated with the Gairdner awards, including the award lectures, national program and the awards ceremony, and will be expected to be outstanding mentors of the next generation of health researchers in Canada and globally.

Gairdner is committed to an inclusive nomination process, reflecting the full spectrum of diversity of the research community. We encourage you to nominate a diverse pool of candidates for all Gairdner awards.

****

Feedback and comments on the new award outline are welcomed at thegairdner@gairdner.org 

________________________________________

Description du prix Momentum

Chaque année, le prix Canada Gairdner Momentum sera décerné à deux personnes en milieu de carrière qui ont déjà apporté une contribution transformatrice majeure à la recherche liée à la santé au Canada. Les récipiendaires seront généralement dans les 10 à 15 années actives de leur premier poste de recherche indépendant et leur principal établissement d’affiliation durant cette période doit être situé au Canada.

Le prix sera attribué principalement en fonction de l’impact de la recherche et de sa réussite éventuelle. De solides contributions sur les plans du mentorat, de la pratique, de l’enseignement et du rayonnement seront également prises en considération dans le processus de sélection.

Le prix sera remis annuellement à deux personnes. Chaque lauréat recevra 50 000 $, une médaille Gairdner et une citation encadrée. Les lauréats participeront à tous les événements annuels associés aux prix Gairdner, y compris les conférences prononcées par des lauréats, le programme national et la cérémonie de remise des prix, et nous nous attendons à ce qu’ils soient des mentors exceptionnels pour la prochaine génération de chercheurs en santé au Canada et dans le monde.

Gairdner s’est engagé à appliquer un processus de nomination inclusif qui reflète l’éventail complet de la diversité du milieu de la recherche. Nous vous encourageons à proposer la nomination d’un éventail diversifié de candidats à tous les prix Gairdner.

Call for Submissions: Gairdner Early Career Investigator Competition

We invite early career investigators across Canada to submit an application to present their research as part of the Gairdner Science Week virtual events in October. Four investigators will be chosen to give 15 minute talks in association with the Laureate Lectures on October 28, 2021 and to participate in a networking session with the 2021 laureates. The talks will be broadcast live and recorded for YouTube distribution globally.

This is a competitive process, with the finalists being selected by the laureates themselves. Applicants must indicate one of the following laureate options as their intended match:

– Daniel Drucker/Joel Habener/Jens Juul Host
– Mary-Claire King
– Joseph SM Peiris/ Yi Guan
– Elizabeth Eisenhauer

To learn more about the laureates and their award-winning work, visit gairdner.org

Submissions should include a 100 word summary of your research presentation, plus a two (2) minute video explaining how your science relates to one or more of this year’s laureates and what you hope to learn from your interactions with them. If you wish to use slides in your video we request no more than two (2) be included.

This call is open to all faculty and professionals at the Assistant Professor or equivalent rank.

Only one submission allowed per individual.

Submission Due Date:                August 1, 2021               11:59 PM PDT

APPLY HERE

The Gairdner Foundation confirms its strong commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Throughout the activities associated with the Canada Gairdner Awards program and associated Canadian and Global outreach programs, Gairdner strives to engage and promote the active participation of individuals of diverse backgrounds and abilities and embraces diverse perspectives in research.

If you have any questions or have any accommodation requirements, please contact Sarah Devonshire at sarah@gairdner.org

The Gairdner Foundation is saddened by the passing of Dr Lou Siminovitch at the age of 100 but we celebrate a long life well-lived. The Gairdner Foundation hosted a 100th birthday tribute video for Lou back in May 2020 and we encourage you to watch that again and to read my commentary on Lou’s contributions- https://gairdner.org/celebrating-the-100th-birthday-of-dr-lou-siminovitch/

 

Lou Siminovitch received the Gairdner Wightman award in 1981 and has been an inspiration to many other Canadian Gairdner laureates. Here are a few quotes to illustrate the various ways that Lou impacted on generations of scientists in Canada.

“Lou Siminovitch was only 11 years older than myself, but was a supervisor of my postdoctoral program at Connaught Medical Research Labs in 1956-57 and a valued mentor at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto from the time it opened in 1958. An inadequately recognized contribution was his initiation of experiments that he undertook with Ernest McCulloch and myself in the early 1960s. These experiments involved a subset of mouse bone marrow cells (we called them spleen colony-forming units, or CFU-S) that Ernest and I had been studying. The experiments showed that CFU-S possessed a crucial characteristic expected of stem cells – the capacity for self-renewal. This important contribution to stem cell biology has been overshadowed by Lou’s many other noteworthy contributions to genetics, virology, cell biology, journal editorship, research leadership and science policy. Many would regard this sort of overshadowing as a ‘nice problem’, but I don’t. I think that his contribution to stem cell biology has been inappropriately neglected and should be high on any list of his noteworthy accomplishments.”

Jim Till, Canada Gairdner Laureate with Ernest McCulloch, 1969

“When I was a graduate student at the OCI/PMH in the late 60s/early 70s, Lou was the scientist we all looked up to: smart, articulate, a leader, had trained at the Pasteur with the great Andre Lwoff and understood everything from phage genetics to hematopoietic stem cells. So when it was time to start thinking about where to do my postdoc, I made the trek to Lou’s office and to ask for his advice. Much to my surprise and typical of Lou, he asked me where I wanted to live next-London or Paris.  We didn’t discuss areas of science but which city interested me culturally the most. That was Lou-always bringing together culture and science. I instinctively chose London and that has influenced the rest of my scientific career ever since.”

Alan Bernstein, Canada Gairdner Wightman Laureate, 2008

“In 1992 I had recently joined the faculty at the University of Toronto and I went to see Lou to introduce myself. I knew that he was a scientific pillar in Canada and that his contributions over a bandwidth covering medical research to administration were legendary. I hardly expected him to take an interest in me. But he did! Perhaps it was because of Lou’s initial training in Physical Chemistry and my research in Biophysical Chemistry, but Lou followed my career, offered advice and support, and provided a shining example of what a brilliant scientist and a true mensch should be.”

Lewis Kay, Canada Gairdner International Laureate, 2017

 

La Fondation Gairdner a le plaisir d’annoncer les lauréats des Prix Canada Gairdner 2021, reconnaissant ainsi certaines des plus importantes recherches et découvertes biomédicales. En ces temps difficiles, nous croyons qu’il est important de célébrer le travail des scientifiques et des innovateurs de partout dans le monde et de les féliciter pour leurs efforts inlassables au service de la recherche ayant un impact sur la santé humaine.

Téléchargez le communiqué de presse:
FR communiqué de presse
AN communiqué de presse

 

Download the 2021 Canada Gairdner Awards Press Release:
EN Press Release
FR Press Release

The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the 2021 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognizing some of the world’s most significant biomedical research and discoveries. During these challenging times, we believe it is important to celebrate scientists and innovators from around the world and commend them for their tireless efforts to conduct research that impacts human health. 

2021 Canada Gairdner International Award
The four 2021 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates are recognized for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science:

Dr. Daniel J. Drucker, MD
Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto; Senior Scientist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, Sinai Health, Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Joel Francis Habener, MD
Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Director, Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Dr. Jens Juul Holst, MD, DMSc
Professor, Department of Biomedical Sciences and group leader, Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Awarded “For research on glucagon-like peptides that has led to major advances in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and intestinal disorders.”

The Work:
The independent and collaborative work of Daniel Drucker, Joel Habener and Jens Holst enhanced our understanding of how our gastrointestinal organs function and created new classes of drugs for the treatment of metabolic disorders, specifically type 2 diabetes, obesity and short bowel syndrome.

Drucker, Habener and Holst discovered hormones called glucagon-like peptides (GLP-1 and -2) which control the levels of Insulin and glucagon which  work together to maintain healthy sugar levels. They elucidated their biology and physiological function and played critical roles in the design and testing of therapies informed by their initial and subsequent discoveries

These three scientists are awarded for a combined body of work with significant impact on the field of diabetes and short bowel syndrome but are also recognized for their individual discoveries that underpin the translational results.

In the 1970s, Holst recorded intestinal surgery patients experiencing insulin spikes and drops in blood sugar after meals, leading him to conclude that an incretin, subsequently identified as

GLP-1, along with insulin and glucagon was responsible for the glucose-induced gastrointestinal stimulation of insulin secretion that caused the changes in blood sugar levels.

Around the same time, Habener used pancreatic cells from anglerfish to demonstrate that glucagon and somatostatin were encoded in the pancreatic cells as larger, precursor hormones. During additional mammal studies he discovered two new hormones related to glucagon which are known as GLP-1 and GLP-2.

Drucker, a fellow in Habener’s lab in the 1980s, outlined the processing of proglucagon and the biology of GLP-1 action on insulin-producing cells, which led to the development of multiple types of treatments for type 2 diabetes. Together with Holst, working mostly in people, they showed that when food is ingested, GLP-1 is released into the bloodstream from cells in the gut increasing insulin release and suppressing glucagon.

Work from their labs and others led to the development of novel therapeutics to control insulin secretion in Type 2 diabetes based on understanding the action of GLP1 and its metabolism by the enzyme, DPP4, leading directly to the development of the DPP-4 inhibitors for diabetes therapy.

Drucker discovered the first actions of GLP-2 as a gut growth factor and both Drucker and Holst extensively characterized its mechanisms of action in animals and humans. The first GLP-2 analogue (teduglutide) was approved for clinical use in the treatment of short bowel syndrome in 2012.

The Impact:
Together, Drucker, Habener and Holst made major contributions to endocrinology and changed the treatment of metabolic and gastrointestinal diseases. Their work is both basic and translational, a true example of bench to bedside research.

GLP-1 therapies have been effective in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and more recently, as a treatment of obesity to reduce appetite. Drucker and Holst’s research on the function of GLP-2 and its role as an intestinal growth factor helped develop treatments for short bowel disease, decreasing the need for feeding tubes to provide nutrition in children and adults with the condition.

To date, over 100 million people with type 2 diabetes have been treated with a GLP-1 analogue or a DPP-4 inhibitor.

Dr. Mary-Claire King, PhD
American Cancer Society Professor; Department of Medicine and Department of Genome Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA; Affiliate Member, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA, USA

Awarded “For transforming cancer genetics and oncology with the discovery of inherited susceptibility to breast cancer due to mutation of the BRCA1 gene.”

The Work:
Dr. King’s first breakthrough was in molecular evolution and population genetics. Her research as a PhD student suggested that the differences between humans and chimpanzees are due to a small number of mutations affecting gene regulation and the timing of gene expression, rather than accumulation of differences in protein-coding sequences.

King’s work evolved to focus on proving the existence of inherited susceptibility to breast cancer and identifying BRCA1 as the first gene responsible for it. Her group studied families in which many women developed breast or ovarian cancer. First, based on mathematical modeling, King hypothesized that severe inherited mutations in a single gene could be responsible for breast cancer in some women. At the time, this hypothesis was considered far-fetched and very unlikely.

Then based on this hypothesis, King proved the gene’s existence by mapping the still-hypothetical gene to a specific chromosomal location. She named the gene BRCA1. The idea was no longer far-fetched and an international “race” of four years ensued to clone the gene.

After the gene was cloned, King and her colleagues developed and deployed next-generation sequencing strategies to identify mutations in BRCA1 and its sister genes responsible for multiple forms of inherited cancer. She and many others have applied the same approach to identification of genes with major impact on other complex diseases.

The Impact:
Dr. King’s discovery has transformed the diagnosis, drug development, and treatment of inherited breast and ovarian cancer. The identification of BRCA1 — and subsequently BRCA2 — has made it possible to diagnose whether a woman in an affected family is at extremely high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, enabling her to pursue preventative treatment.

King’s passion for gene discovery integrated tools from genetics, statistics, mathematics, epidemiology, molecular biology, genomics and clinical medicine. Her revolutionary approach to gene discovery has had an impact on many other diseases, ranging from prostate cancer to inherited hearing loss to schizophrenia. King is also a pioneer in the development of DNA sequencing for the identification of victims of human rights’ violations.

2021 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award
The 2021 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureates are recognized for outstanding achievements in global health research:

Dr. Yi Guan, MD, MMedSci, PhD
Chair Professor in Emerging Viral Diseases, Daniel C K Yu Endowed Professor in Virology, School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong; Director, State Key Laboratory for Emerging Infectious Diseases, The University of Hong Kong; Director, Joint Institute of Virology (Shantou University-The University of Hong Kong), Shantou University, Shantou, China; Director, Guangdong-Hong Kong Joint Laboratory of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Shantou University, Shantou, China.

Dr. Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris, MBBS, FRCPath, DPhil (Oxon), FHKAM (Path), FRCP, FRS
Professor and Chair in Virology, The University of Hong Kong; Honorary Consultant Microbiologist, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong; Co-Director, WHO H5 reference laboratory and SARS reference laboratory, HKU; Co-Director, WHO reference laboratories providing confirmatory testing for COVID-19, The University of Hong Kong.

Awarded “For significantly contributing to understanding the origins and options for control of newly emerging infectious disease outbreaks in Asia, notably zoonotic influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).”

The Work:
Drs. Guan and Peiris began collaborating at The University of Hong Kong in the aftermath of the H5N1 avian flu outbreak in Hong Kong. They initiated seminal studies of the underlying causes of H5 virus pathogenicity, the evolution of the H5N1 virus, and developed a highly effective monitoring and surveillance program of avian and swine influenza strains. Through their research Guan and Peiris established that live poultry markets in southern China and Hong Kong were the source of the virus spreading to humans, where it exhibited up to 60% lethality in infected persons. This work led to the temporary closure of the live poultry markets and cessation of animal to human transmission. Their subsequent work established new protocols for periodic live poultry market closures, emptying markets of poultry overnight to reduce virus amplification within these markets and the appropriate use of poultry vaccines to protect both poultry and people in Hong Kong from H5N1 infections. They have made major contributions towards understanding the emergence, transmission, epidemiology and pathogenesis of highly pathogenic avian influenzas including H5N1, H9N2, H6N1, H7N9, H5Nx and others and have provided evidence-based options for control of avian influenza viruses in Asia.

In 2003, following the emergence of novel coronavirus, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in China, Peiris led the team that first identified the virus responsible for the syndrome, the SARS-CoV-1 coronavirus, elucidating its pathogenesis, transmission, and quickly developed a diagnostic test which was then shared internationally. Meanwhile, Guan’s team identified the human infectious source and zoonotic interface of SARS in the wild animal markets in Guangdong, China in 2003 and identified the human infectious source of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in Saudi Arabia in 2015. Guan’s research accelerated advocacy of the closure of wild game animal markets, averting a potential recurrence of SARS in 2004.

The Impact:
Guan and Peiris’ investigations into the emergence and evolution of animal influenza H5 strains (and other H and N subtypes) and their role in identifying the SARS coronavirus, mode of transmission, risk factors, virus infectivity and period of infectivity, and identifying the original animal source were critical in the successful response to the outbreak.

In the case of SARS, which was causing up to 10% lethality in infected persons, their open sharing of information with the World Health Organization (WHO) and broader international community directly resulted in the rapid control of the disease. The establishment of the role of wild game animal markets in the transmission of the virus was pivotal in the decision by local Guangdong authorities to discontinue such markets to prevent future outbreaks of this or another emerging zoonosis. The isolation and characterization of the causative agent of SARS as a novel coronavirus and quick development of a diagnostic test of the virus in humans directly influenced public health policy to effectively monitor and control the spread of the disease.

Guan and Peiris’ comprehensive strategies for surveillance, monitoring, identifying the human infectious source, investigation, diagnosis and control of emerging infectious disease outbreaks continue to provide critical guidance and insight for countries throughout Asia and the world, including the 2009 swine flu pandemic, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
The 2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate is a Canadian scientist recognized for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout their career:

Dr. Elizabeth Eisenhauer, OC, MD, FRCPC, FRSC
Professor Emerita, Departments of Oncology and Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Oncology, Queen’s University; Innovation Lead, Kingston Health Sciences Centre

Awarded “For investigation of new cancer drugs and delivery approaches, leading change in cancer clinical trials and establishing new standards of cancer treatment that have impacted patients around the world.”

The Work:
Dr. Eisenhauer’s research has transformed the fields of cancer clinical trials and cancer drug delivery. Her fundamental contributions to the clinical evaluation of new anti-cancer agents, as well as cancer research strategy and clinical trials development, have been critical in the development of new treatments for ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma and brain tumours. She is credited with developing new methodologies for the delivery of Taxol, one of the most important cancer drugs in the world, which maintained the drug’s efficacy and reduced toxic side effects to cancer patients. This shorter, safer method to deliver the drug has become the international standard, transforming the experience and outcomes of millions of patients worldwide.

Dr. Eisenhauer’s extraordinary contributions extend to impactful national and international leadership roles including the founding in 1982 and subsequent direction of the Investigational New Drug Program (IND) of the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group (NCIC-CTG), now the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. Dr. Eisenhauer also co-led the Methodology for the Development of Innovative Cancer Therapies International Task Force where she developed recommendations for the design and endpoints for trials of novel targeted cancer agents. As well she led the creation of the first collaborative cancer research strategy for Canada in her role as co-Chair of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, convened the first Summit to create a Tobacco Endgame for Canada and was inaugural Expert Lead for Research in the Canadian Partnership against Cancer.

The Impact:
Dr. Eisenhauer’s commitment to the advancement of cancer therapy, supportive care and prevention is unparalleled. Her extensive research contributions and leadership within the field of cancer care in Canada have influenced and advanced the conduct of clinical trials internationally. Her work has expanded the understanding of therapeutic interventions and has led to new standards of cancer treatment for patients in Canada and around the world.

About the Gairdner Foundation:

The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 by Toronto stockbroker, James Gairdner to award annual prizes to scientists whose discoveries have had major impact on scientific progress and on human health. Since 1959 when the first awards were granted, 394 scientists have received a Canada Gairdner Award and 92 to date have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize. The Canada Gairdner Awards promote a stronger culture of research and innovation across the country through our Outreach Programs including lectures and research symposia. The programs bring current and past laureates to a minimum of 15 universities across Canada to speak with faculty, trainees and high school students to inspire the next generation of researchers. Annual research symposia and public lectures are organized across Canada to provide Canadians access to leading science through Gairdner’s convening power.

For further information please contact:

Sommer Wedlock

Executive Vice President

Mobile: (647) 293-6785

sommer@gairdner.org

Kelty Reid

Manager, Communications & Operations

Mobile (416) 988-7078

kelty@gairdner.org

 

By Farah Qaiser

Farah Qaiser recently completed a Master of Science at the University of Toronto, where she carried out DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah enjoys writing about science and scientists for various media outlets and is one of the co-founders of the Toronto Science Policy Network.

 

In December 2020, the Gairdner Foundation, the Council Of Canadian Academies (CCA), the Krembil Foundation and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute partnered to host Breaking Through: Delivering On The Promise Of Gene Therapy, a two-day long 2020 Gairdner Ontario International Symposium about gene therapy research and practice.

This symposium explored different aspects related to the recently published CCA report, titled From Research to Reality. In this report, the Expert Panel on the Approval and Use of Somatic Gene Therapies in Canada assessed existing evidence to describe the steps, barriers and challenges involved in the approval and use of gene therapies in Canada. The symposium’s closing panel discussion, titled Coming Soon – The Future Of Gene Editing And Gene Therapies, explored the future of gene therapies and gene editing. To date, there are very few gene therapies which have been approved for use in Canada, including Novartis’ Kymriah and Zolgensma, Gilead’s Yescarta and Biogen’s Spinraza, making this discussion a very timely one.

In this post, I’ll highlight some of the key takeaways from the Coming Soon – The Future Of Gene Editing And Gene Therapies panel. This panel was presented by Genome Canada, with Dr. Rob Annan (Genome Canada’s President and CEO) as the moderator. (Panel recordings can be found here in English and French.)

“This topic is certainly close to our hearts at Genome Canada, so we’re really excited to take part and listen to the great experts we have lined up for the discussion,” said Annan in his opening remarks, and then asked panelists to share what considerations need to be kept in mind when it comes to germline editing i.e., genetic changes which can be passed on to future generations.

“At this point, all the indications are that the way we can do gene editing today [that] although it might work for somatic gene editing for diseases, where you’re just treating cells in a person, the risks of doing that in an early embryo and any things that go wrong would be carried forward to the rest of that baby’s life. It’s not safe and precise enough, and it’s not clear that this is really practical at the current time,” said Dr. Janet Rossant, who is the Gairdner Foundations’ current President and Scientific Director, and also served on the expert panel which informed the CCA report. “This just illustrates that when you’re stepping into these areas of complex technologies and complex ethical implications, you have to not just look at what’s happening today, but you have to put yourself in the future and try to think down the line what the future is going to look like and start to have conversations now on how we would deal with those ethical issues coming down the line.”

Different countries will choose to regulate access to gene therapies differently, which may give rise to medical tourism. R. Alta Charo (J.D.), who is a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, remarked that when it comes to embryonic stem cell research and therapies over the past 25 years, “we’ve had a number of jurisdictions who became famous for basically allowing people to sell snake oil. I think that in both germline and somatic editing, we are going to run the same risk of snake oil clinics.” Charo also noted that for most of the world, one of the more important applications of gene editing will be in the agricultural sector, such as editing plant genomes to adapt to climate change and provide a sustainable food supply.

Dr. Eric Meslin, who is the President and CEO of CCA, took a retrospective perspective, and remarked: “How much of this have we heard about or thought about before? Are there some lessons in the past that we should try to not only remember but actually try to learn from?” Meslin said that “we don’t have to start from scratch” as there are many case examples to turn to, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), and that “there is uneven development and diffusion of these technologies across the global north and the global south”, flagging that there are broader issues of unequal access and care to consider too.

Moving to a communications angle, Jay Ingram, the former co-host of CBC’s Quirks and Quarks, and its TV counterpart, Discovery Channel Canada’s Daily Planet, remarked that “I think what’s really important as we go along is to think: how do we better prepare the communications at every level, country to country, medical expert to politician, CEO to patients […] to be a lot better at it?”

Dr. Vardit Ravitsky, an Associate Professor at the Université de Montréal, flagged two broader issues to keep in mind when it comes to the ethics of genetic research.

“One is the issue of research burden. Where do we do this research?” said Ravitsky. “To edit eggs and embryos, we need egg donors. We need access to ova. That is often an overlooked issue because the places where we go to get this precious resource is sometimes low-income countries, where women ‘donate’ for money. Are they protected locally by research ethic guidelines where they are, in their nations? That’s a huge global issue of justice that is way ahead of the therapies we’re hoping to achieve. It’s about the burden of the research itself. […] Here, in Canada, we banned this research completely, which on one hand, protects egg donors, but on the other hand, may cause reproductive tourism in the future.”

A second issue is that of justice in relation to future generations. Ravitsky said that “the issue becomes: how do we follow up with those that we have created with the technology, to be sure that they’re in good health? First of all, [we need to] just take into account that we’re experimenting on future generations, and second of all, develop mechanisms for including these future generations in follow-up longitudinal research, but without coercing them to remain our research participants.”

To end the panel, Annan asked: “When you turn your eyes to the year 2030, where do you see us going for gene editing?”

Panelists had different suggestions, with Charo predicting that there would be development in the areas of epigenetic editing and in utero somatic editing. Ravitsky predicted that given the lack of international regulatory frameworks, “we will actually have a small cohort of genetically edited babies within ten years that we will have to study.”

“Whenever I’m asked to predict what was going to happen ten years ahead, I always say that I have no idea because if I stepped ten years back, and asked what would we be doing in 2020, just in the area of gene therapy and gene editing alone, let alone more broad-based issues around pandemics and everything else, I would never have predicted where we are today,” said Rossant. “I do think that we are on a very strong and fast path to see real developments of gene editing and gene therapies that are going to have some impact on some major diseases.”

Recordings from the Breaking Through: Delivering On The Promise Of Gene Therapy symposium can be found on the CCA’s YouTube channel.

By Farah Qaiser

Farah Qaiser recently completed a Master of Science at the University of Toronto, where she carried out DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah enjoys writing about science and scientists for various media outlets and is one of the co-founders of the Toronto Science Policy Network.

Since 1957, the Gairdner Foundation has distributed 395 Canada Gairdner Awards to the world’s leading biomedical and global health researchers. Of those awardees, 95 have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes, with the most recent examples being Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier for their development of CRISPR-Cas as a genome editing tool. This year’s winners include researchers who have contributed in different but overlapping ways to our understanding of how cells interact with each other and with their extracellular environment.

On the 22nd and 23rd of October 2020, the 2020 Canada Gairdner Laureate lectures took place virtually, moderated by Dr. Janet Rossant, who is the current President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation.

In this post, I’ll highlight some of the key take-aways from the 2020 Canada Gairdner Laureate Lectures.

 

Dr. Rolf Kemler
Canada Gairdner International Award 2020

Like Dr. Masatoshi Takeichi, Kemler used experimental techniques to identify and better understand cadherins, a calcium-binding protein responsible for holding cells together. In his lecture, Kemler shared some of the data that drove early efforts and highlighted how the use of an immunological approach, specifically antibodies targeting the surface antigens in early mouse embryos, enabled him to clone the cadherin gene, demonstrate the protein’s critical role in cell adhesion, and identify other interacting proteins, such as β-catenin (now known to be a key component of the Wnt signalling pathway).

What is Kemler’s hypothesis today? He suggests that the amino acid Lysine-49 is a hotspot for the regulation of β-catenin, whose specific activity is modulated through activities such as methylation and acetylation. But to confirm this hypothesis, additional investigation will be necessary.

 

Dr. Masatoshi Takeichi
Canada Gairdner International Award 2020

Takeichi recounted the journey involved in discovering and characterizing the biology of cadherins in animal cell adhesion and signalling – a feat for which Takeichi was co-awarded a Canada Gairdner International Award 2020, alongside Dr. Rolf Kemler. This journey started when Takeichi noticed something odd: that newly plated cells suspended in conditioned media attached to the surface of culture dishes more slowly, than those suspended without conditioned media.

Throughout the course of a long, winding research career across multiple continents, Takeichi found that cadherins could explain this odd phenomenon: that cadherins bound cells together, and that cells with the same cadherins tend to cluster together, explaining how different cells are sorted and organized to form functional organs.

 

Dr. Mina Bissell
Canada Gairdner International Award 2020

Bissell began her lecture by posing the question: “Why don’t we get more cancer? How do 10 to 70 trillion cells, each with the same genetic information, coordinate to make you, you?” Bissell explained that she chose the mammary gland as an experimental organism to explore questions such as these, given that the gland develops again and again in female mammals, just like an organism.

Bissell’s work showed that the extracellular matrix could regulate gene expression (and vice versa) in both normal and diseased tissues. Her research group’s studies also characterized “Dynamic Reciprocity”, which is a term that refers to the ongoing interactions between cells and their microenvironment. This isn’t a one-way dialogue – it’s a bidirectional interaction. Bissell ended her talk by acknowledging the many students and post-doctoral fellows in her lab, and implored to young scientists that this is a whole new horizon.

“You have a whole life – go do something with it!” said Bissell.

 

Dr. Elaine Fuchs
Canada Gairdner International Award 2020

For Fuchs, a talk about skin stem cells in the early days of her graduate studies immediately hooked her into this exciting field. Here, stem cells refer to the building blocks of tissues and organs. Their key properties include self-renewal (i.e. the ability to divide infinitely) and the potential to differentiate into different cell types, such as cardiac cells.

Fuchs investigated stem cells throughout her forty year research career, and shared various findings about what her research group has learned about the role of tissue stem cells in homeostasis, wound repair and cancer, including the fact that stem cells are largely in charge of their behaviour and that stem cells receive hair regenerative cues to initiate hair growth.

“I cannot tell you what we’ll be doing in the next decade,” said Fuchs in her closing remarks, but said that she can confidently share that she is continuing to work with a wonderful group of students and post-doctoral fellows.

 

Dr. Guy Rouleau
Canada Gairdner Wightman Award 2020

In his talk, titled “From Neurogenetics to Open Science,” Rouleau first explain the concept of missing heritability: the idea that despite progress in identifying genes implicated in disorders such as ALS, new genes can only explain a limited number of cases, suggesting that other reasons may explain this discrepancy, such as de novo mutations (i.e. a mutation which is first found in an individual, and not their parents). Rouleau shared his research group’s efforts in identifying and elucidating the genetic architecture of neurological and psychiatric diseases, including ALS, autism and schizophrenia. He noted that there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of genes which predispose an individual to neurodevelopmental disorders, where de novo mutations are an important cause.

Rouleau also introduced lecture attendees to the concept of Open Science, saying that this is a game-changer for the field of neuroscience as it will break down barriers for collaboration, allow for faster data reproduction, and leverages the potential for big data and personalized medicine. Rouleau explained how The Neuro is developing and implementing Open Science, and invited all those interested in learning more to attend the upcoming The Neuro-Gairdner Open Science Symposium.

 

Drs Quarraisha & Salim Abdool Karim
John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award 2020

Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim began her lecture by explaining that in the 1990s, the existing HIV prevention strategies were limited to the ABCCs (abstinence, behaviour i.e. to be faithful, and condoms), which were insufficient prevention tools for young women as each depended on the cooperation of their partners.

Over a thirty-year research career, the Karims successfully developed a Tenofovir gel, demonstrating that antiretrovirals prevent sexual transmission of HIV, and provided an option for women to protect themselves. This laid the foundations for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV prevention strategy that is contributing to the reduction of HIV infections around the world.

“Why are we still working on this 30 years later?” asked Dr. Salim Abdool Karim in his closing remarks. He noted that while there has been great progress, we are still lagging behind in the prevention of HIV infections. The Karims are now testing a newer version of Tenofovir, called Tenofovir Elafenamide, to develop an arm implant to place in women, like a contraceptive implant.

 

Dr. Roel Nusse
Canada Gairdner International Award 2020

In his lecture, Nusse walked attendees through key findings from his research career, including his pioneering work on the Wnt signaling pathway, which is an evolutionarily conserved pathway that regulates processes such as cell migration and cell polarity, and plays an important role in development, cancer and stem cells.

Nusse and Harold Varmus discovered the first mammalian Wnt gene as an oncogene (cancer-causing gene) in mouse breast cancer, and afterwards, Nusse identified Wingless, a key Drosophila (fruitfly) developmental gene. Using Drosophila genetics, Nusse’s research group has continued to elucidate the mechanism and role of Wnt signaling over many years, leading to the general realization of the links between normal development and cancer.

 

Catch up on tweets from the 2020 Canada Gairdner Laureate lectures here. You can also learn more about each of the 2020 Laureates in this series of articles, comics, videos and accompanying lesson ideas, created in collaboration with the Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences and the Michael Smith Laboratories.

Presentation slides for the speaker sessions from “SDGs and Global Health through the Pandemic Lens” are available for download below.

These files are for personal use only. By accessing them you agree to credit appropriate sources  when referencing them and their contents, and that they will not be used for commercial purposes. 

Zulfiqar Bhutta Health and Health-related SDGs: Where are we after 5 years?

Quarraisha & Salim Abdool Karim Lessons from HIV for the COVID-19 Response

Anthony Fauci Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases: From AIDS to COVID-19

Lawrence Haddad COVID-19 and Global Malnutrition: A sting in the tail of a chance to remake our food systems

Yasmin Chandani Building Resilient Health Supply Chains to Achieve SDGs: 2020 and beyond

Soumya Swaminathan COVID-19: Lesson for Public Health and Clinical Practice

Sania Nishtar Ehsaas Emergency Cash: Digital Transformations within Government in the COVID-19 Context

Cleopatra Mugyenyi Nowhere to Turn: Youth, SRH and GBV During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Peter Piot The Age of Pandemics: How to prepare and how to respond

The Gairdner Foundation would like to thank London Drugs for supporting the development of these materials.

 

In collaboration with CSMB and the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC, these materials were produced to provide a series of articles, comics, videos and accompanying lesson ideas to celebrate the science of a selection of the 2020 Canada Gairdner Awardees. This builds on the Gairdner Foundation’s partnership with CSMB and Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC, which began last year.

We invite you to view and share these documents widely, as they highlight the impact science has in our lives and our understanding of the world.

Visit the links to below to download the materials.

Canada Gairdner Awards 2020 Laureate Education Materials (Full package)

The Elixir of Life and Our Skin Elaine Fuchs

Watch the animated video here

Cadherin and Catenins: A Sticky Situation Masatoshi Takeichi & Rolf Kemler

Watch the animated video here

Of Patterns and Cancer in Mice and Flies Roel Nusse

Watch the animated video here

Mammary Gland Mysteries, Solved Mina Bissell

Watch the animated video here

From Genes in the Brain to Medicine Guy Rouleau

Watch the animated video here

Beyond the ABCs: How to Prevent HIV Quarraisha & Salim Abdool Karim

Watch the animated video here

 

Video: Watch the comics come to life here.

Activities and discussion questions for classroom use. 

Thank you to the  students who contributed to this project: Daniela Salas Acosta, Shawn Shortill, Krysta Coyle, Heather Gerrie, Farah Qaiser and Alison McAfee.

Illustrations by Armin Mortazavi

For more information about the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences, please visit https://csmb-scbm.ca/

For more information about the UBC Michael Smith Laboratories, please visit https://www.msl.ubc.ca

If you have any questions, please contact Kelty Reid kelty@gairdner.org

2016 Canada Gairdner International Award Laureates, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna were awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry today “for the development of a method for genome editing”.

In 2012, Charpentier and Doudna published the description of a revolutionary new genome editing technology that uses an engineered single-guide RNA together with the DNA-cleaving enzyme Cas9 to readily manipulate the genomic DNA of individual cells. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology has given biologists the equivalent of a molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or altering genes with high efficiency and precision. Their collective work has led to the breakthrough discovery of DNA cleavage by Cas9, a dual RNA- guided enzyme whose ability to cut double-stranded DNA can be programmed by changing the guide RNA sequence.

Charpentier and Doudna were awarded the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2016 alongside Feng Zhang “For development of CRISPR-CAS as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells.” Rodolphe Barrangou and Philippe Horvath were also awarded in 2016 “For establishing and characterizing CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune defense system.”

This CRISPR-Cas9 technology is transforming the fields of molecular genetics, genomics, agriculture and environmental biology. RNA-guided Cas9 complexes are effective genome engineering agents in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology is being used in thousands of laboratories around the world to advance biological research by engineering cells and organisms in precise ways.

Charpentier and Doudna become the 94th and 95th Canada Gairdner laureates to subsequently win the Nobel Prize, joining fellow 2020 Nobelist, Dr. Harvey J Alter (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) earlier this week.

2013 Canada Gairdner International Award Laureate, Dr. Harvey J Alter was awarded the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine today. He was awarded “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus” with Dr. Michael Houghton and Dr. Charles M. Rice

In 2013, Dr. Alter received the Canada Gairdner International Award alongside Dr. Daniel W. Bradley, for their research which led to the isolation and discovery of the hepatitis C virus and subsequent, preventative screening tests which have virtually eliminated the spread of the virus through blood-transfusions.

Dr. Alter becomes the 93rd Canada Gairdner laureate to subsequently win the Nobel Prize.

Ontario Call Proposal

Please Note: For the first round of the 2021 Call we are only considering digital events. Should this change for later evaluation rounds, this will be clearly indicated.

APPLICATION PORTAL: bit.ly/OntarioCall2021

The Gairdner Foundation in partnership with the Krembil Foundation are working to promote excellence and involvement in science in the province of Ontario. We are issuing an open call to all scientific organizations, research institutions and universities for support of digital/virtual events in health research and medicine to be held in 2021.

Events should be unique, free or low cost to attendees, and represent the Gairdner dedication to excellence in research. We strongly encourage public engagement and will also provide in-kind communications and outreach assistance. French, English and bilingual programs are all eligible for this call.

This program is not intended to support annual meetings, administrative costs or as a research grant of any kind.

There are two event types we can support:
• Scientific Symposium
• Gairdner Global Perspectives Panel

Scientific Symposium
Programs that focus on recent scientific advances and bring extraordinary international science to Ontario, while highlighting the excellence of Ontario and Canadian researchers. Potential programs would largely be stand-alone scientific symposia on a current and growing area of life sciences and medicine.

Gairdner Global Perspectives Panel
Gairdner Global Perspectives Panels are a webinar series that showcase Canada Gairdner laureates alongside outstanding Canadian and international scientists to provide unique insights on a current, important topic in biomedicine or global health. Special emphasis on topics of wide relevance to the public, policy makers and a global audience.

We encourage the inclusion of public and student engagement at all events.

Guidelines

Applicants much recognize the program as a Gairdner Event, and uphold the Foundation’s policies of responsibility, leadership and equity. Programs will be developed in consultation with Gairdner staff and we strongly encourage the inclusion of Gairdner Laureates and representatives where possible and appropriate.

The overall fund can be divided among selected proposals at the discretion of the Gairdner Foundation.

Proposals must be robust, inclusive and reach a significant audience. They also must include a proposed budget of how the funds will be spent.

There will be a post-event reporting requirement.

Applications

To be considered in the first round of evaluations, applications must be submitted by October 31, 2020. Further evaluations will be announced depending on the availability of funds. Decisions will be provided to applicants within 4 weeks of submission.

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of Canadian researchers with a wide range of expertise and familiarity with the Canadian and Ontario research environments.

        

The Gairdner Foundation in partnership with FRQ-S have an established fund for the promotion of science culture and achievement in the province of Quebec. We are issuing an open call to all scientific organizations, research institutions and universities in the fields of human biology and medicine for events to be held in 2021.

Events should be unique, free or low cost to attendees, and represent the Gairdner dedication to excellence in research. We strongly encourage online engagement and will also provide in-kind communications assistance. French, English and bilingual programs are all eligible for this call.

This program is not intended to support annual meetings, administrative costs or as a research grant of any kind.

There are three streams that can be applied to:

Talent Development Stream (Up to $5,000)
Programs that reach out to high school and undergraduate students to inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators. Potential programs could include competitions, guest speakers or student conferences.

Celebrating Excellence Stream  (Up to $25,000)
Programs that focus on recent scientific advances and bring extraordinary international science to Quebec, while highlighting the excellence of Quebec researchers. Potential programs would largely be stand-alone scientific symposia on a current and growing area of human biology and medicine. We encourage the inclusion of public and student engagement at these events as well.

Public Engagement Stream (Up to $15,000)
Programs that bring extraordinary science into the public discourse and interest, targeting a lay audience and a range of possible stakeholders. Potential programs could include public lectures, town hall events and panel discussions.

Application Process
Applicants much recognize the program as a Gairdner Event, and uphold the Foundation’s policies of responsibility, leadership and equity. Programs will be developed in consultation with Gairdner staff and we strongly encourage the inclusion of Gairdner Laureates and representatives where possible and appropriate. The overall fund will be divided among selected proposals at the discretion of the Gairdner Foundation.

Minimum funding requests should be at the $2,500 level to ensure proposals that are robust, inclusive and reach a significant audience. They also must include a proposed budget of how the funds will be spent. There will be a post-event reporting requirement.

Guidelines
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis between September 1, 2020 and September 1, 2021 We require that all proposals be submitted no less than 12 weeks prior to the proposed event date. Decisions will be provided to applicants within 4 weeks of submission. Submissions will be evaluated by a panel of Canadian researchers with a wide range of expertise and familiarity with the Canadian and Quebec research environments.

In striving to award scientific excellence and to inspire those who follow, Gairdner embraces diverse perspectives in research. Throughout all activities associated with the Canada Gairdner Awards program and associated Canadian and Global outreach programs, Gairdner strives to engage and promote the active participation of individuals of diverse backgrounds and abilities.

Contact Sarah Devonshire for any inquiries at sarah@gairdner.org

By Farah Qaiser

Farah Qaiser is a graduate student at the University of Toronto, where she carries out DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah enjoys writing about science and scientists for various media outlets and is one of the co-founders of the Toronto Science Policy Network.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian government and various funding organizations have invested over one billion dollars into Canada’s COVID-19 research response.

On 29 June 2020, the Gairdner Foundation invited ten leaders to speak about three different aspects of Canada’s scientific response to the pandemic, specifically: vaccine efforts, population-wide research and impact, and co-ordination and collaboration. This panel was moderated by Dr. Janet Rossant, who is the current President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Mona Nemer, who is Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, thanked the numerous scientists involved in the frontlines of Canada’s research response, including those working in the government, and across industry, non-profit and post-secondary institutions.

“This pandemic has highlighted the role of science and research like never before,” says Nemer, pointing out that it is on us – scientists – to maintain this interest and continue the dialogue.

In this post, I’ll highlight some of the key take-aways from this two-hour long panel.

Canadian vaccine efforts

A vaccine helps our body’s immune system to recognize and attack pathogens, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. As of 29 June 2020, the World Health Organization reported that there are a total of 149 COVID-19 candidate vaccines, where 132 and 17 candidates are in the pre-clinical and clinical stages respectively.

In her talk, Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, who is the Director General of the National Research Council of Canada’s (NRC) Human Health Therapeutics Research Centre, highlighted how NRC researchers are aiding in vaccine efforts through collaborations and leveraging existing technologies and capacity. This includes a collaboration with VBI Vaccines to develop a vaccine impacting multiple members of the coronavirus family (including COVID-19, SARS and MERS), and working with CanSino Biologics to begin pre-clinical evaluation of their Ad5-nCoV candidate vaccine.

Dr. Volker Gerdts is the Director & CEO of the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization-International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) – which is one of Canada’s largest containment labs. In his talk, Gerdts shared data from VIDO-InterVac’s ferret and hamster models, demonstrating that SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the upper respiratory tract, and that the pathology is consistent with pneumonia. VIDO-InterVac is also currently developing a candidate vaccine, with a proof-of-concept now ready. If all goes to plan, Gerdts hopes that VIDO-InterVac’s vaccine will be ready for the public in the summer of 2021.

Lastly, Dr. Gary Kobinger – a Canada Research Chair in Immunotherapy and Innovative Vaccine Platforms at the Université Laval – walked attendees through his lab’s candidate vaccine, where ongoing challenges include developing animal models and optimizing vaccine delivery. Importantly, Kobinger noted that this candidate is going down the non-profit route – by partnering with GuradRX, he hopes to ensure the vaccine will be available to the entire global community.

Population-wide research and impact

One example of population-wide research can be found in the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), which is generating accessible genomics data to inform public health decision-making amid COVID-19. This network was launched by the not-for-profit Genome Canada, in partnership with multiple organizations, including government public health labs, genome sequencing centres, regional Genome Centres and more. Dr. Rob Annan, who is Genome Canada’s President and CEO, shared that CanCOGeN is undertaking two key genomics projects: (1) to sequence multiple viral samples to better track outbreaks; and (2) to sequence the genomes of patients to better understand why there are such different health outcomes in this disease.

“This is one of the reasons we invest in science in the long-term,” says Annan. “This rapid response was really 20 years in the making.”

Another example is the COVID Immunity Taskforce, which is leading efforts to implement population-based studies to generate first estimates of SARS-CoV-2 immunity, and investigate the advantages and limitations of immunity testing. In her talk, taskforce co-chair Dr. Catherine Hankins shared what the group has achieved so far, including determining strategic priorities, establishing an Indigenous Advisory Circle, and launching SeroTracker, which is a dashboard that tracks and synthesizes findings from SARS-CoV-2 serosurveillance efforts worldwide.

 

 

To end this session, Dr. Carrie Bourrassa, who is the Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health, highlighted the importance of developing culturally safe resources to address COVID-19 concerns among different communities. Here, Bourrassa notes that the OCAP principles are key: ownership, control, access and possession of data. For example, Bourrassa recently partnered with the Canadian Virtual Hospice to develop a culturally safe Grief fact sheet addressing how to process grief during COVID-19.

Coordination and collaboration

With so many diverse research efforts underway, transparency is critical to co-ordinate Canada’s COVID-19 research response. Dr. Guy Rouleau – who is the Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, and the 2020 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award Laureate – highlighted the role of open science in Canada’s COVID-19 research response. Here, open science refers to scientists being able to freely share data, materials, tools and findings in a timely manner.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented adoption of open science in the biomedical field,” said Rouleau, but noted that major lessons are being learned, including the need to implement mechanisms to ensure data quality and rigour in pre-prints, and to change existing institutional policies to favour open science.

Lastly, Dr. Vivek Goel, the Vice-President of Research and Innovation, and Strategic Initiatives, at the University of Toronto, walked attendees through the use of evidence in healthcare, and the different types of decision-making (traditional political decision-making, evidence-based health policy, and evidence-based medicine). “Evidence is always considered within the context of many other factors,” says Goel.

Goel also raised an important final point: given that so much money has been invested into Canada’s research response, how do we co-ordinate these different efforts effectively? There are some initiatives in progress (such as CanCOVID), but there is a potential for these to become silos too.

The panel ended with closing remarks from Dr. Michael Strong, the President of CIHR-IRSC. Strong remarked that amid of all this turmoil, the importance of science has come to the forefront, especially when it comes to decision-making.

“We need to be very, very careful that we do not let the entire research ecosystem come apart,” says Strong, referring to an earlier point raised by Goel – that how we move forward with Canada’s entire research ecosystem in these times is also critical.

A visual sketchnote summary of the event. Credit: Farah Qaiser.

By Farah Qaiser

Farah Qaiser is a graduate student at the University of Toronto, where she carries out DNA sequencing to better understand complex neurological disorders. When not in the lab, Farah enjoys writing about science and scientists for various media outlets and is one of the co-founders of the Toronto Science Policy Network.

 

On 20 May 2020, the Gairdner Foundation hosted a group of world-renowned experts and Canada Gairdner laureates to explore the science of coronavirus infections. This included important aspects such as the development of new vaccines and treatments, modelling pandemic outbreaks and the implementation of community-led interventions.

This panel was moderated by Dr. Janet Rossant, who is the current President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation. In this post, I’ll highlight some of the key take-aways from this two-hour long panel.

A visual sketchnote summary of the event. Credit: Farah Qaiser.

Coronavirus infections and the search for antiviral therapies

Lorne Tyrrell is the Founding Director of the University of Alberta’s Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, and a Chair Emeritus at the Gairdner Foundation. He is both a physician and researcher, with significant contributions to hepatitis research and treatment.

In his talk, Tyrrell pointed out that there are three approaches to controlling a new virus: public health measures, antiviral therapies, and vaccines. Here, antiviral therapies refer to drugs which are used to treat viral infections, where potential candidates to treat COVID-19 include Remdesivir. This antiviral was developed by Gilead Sciences to inhibit the Ebola virus, but was instead found to negatively impact zoonotic coronaviruses in general (i.e. a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people). Tyrrell walked attendees through supporting data, where in vitro data suggests that low concentrations of Remdesivir can inhibit SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, after it enters cells. In addition, Tyrrell shared preliminary results from an NIH clinical trial, which suggests that hospitalized patients with COVID-19 recover 31% faster with Remdesivir than those who did not receive the antiviral.

Tyrrell pointed out that developing antivirals for new viruses take time. For example, the Hepatitis C virus was discovered in 1989, with effective antivirals introduced later in 2014. Importantly, Tyrrell emphasized that waiting for results from “prospective, randomized controlled studies” is critical before introducing any new treatments.

Developing coronavirus vaccines – a worldwide effort

Rino Rappuoli is the Chief Scientist and Head External R&D at GSK Vaccines (Italy), and received a Canada Gairdner International Award (2017) in recognition of his novel vaccine innovation: reverse vaccinology, a genomic approach to vaccine discovery resulting in the life-saving meningococcus B vaccine.

Rappuoli walked attendees through the different types of vaccines that could be developed to treat COVID-19, including RNA vaccines, viral vectors, traditional protein-based vaccines and human monoclonal antibodies. Each vaccine type has its own strengths and advantages. For example, Rappuoli pointed out that RNA vaccines can be produced very rapidly e.g. in 2013, a group of scientists prepared a vaccine against H7N9 influenza to immunise mice in just one week. However, no RNA vaccines have been approved for any diseases yet.

Regardless of what type of vaccine is developed, Rappuoli ended his talk on an important note – that global coordination will be necessary to produce and deliver this COVID-19 vaccine across the world.

Modeling coronavirus outbreaks – when will we know we can lift restrictions?

Christopher Murray is the Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington. He received the 2018 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for quantifying the Global Burden of Disease (i.e. reporting annually on all major diseases by country and year).

Initially, Murray and his team at IHME developed an outbreak model, which takes into account mobility, temperature, testing per capita and population density, to help the University of Washington School of Medicine plan for the first wave of the epidemic. Since then, the model has expanded to include various countries across the world, including Canada. This modelling has also unveiled a few puzzles. For example, Murray notes that in countries like Chile, Argentina and Brazil, despite social distancing and reduced mobility, there are still growing numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. In contrast, there are relatively few cases in Pakistan, India and sub-Saharan Africa – have lockdowns worked in these regions?

Moving forward, Murray’s team has many next steps in mind, including extending forecasts to the end of 2020, and introducing projections for sub-Saharan Africa, India (by state), US counties and all low and middle-income countries.

Implementing community interventions in South Africa

Quarraisha and Salim Abdool Karim are the founding leaders of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), Professors at Columbia University, and Pro-Vice Chancellors at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. They are also the 2020 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureates for their discovery that antiretrovirals prevent sexual transmission of HIV.

Salim Abdool Karim walked attendees through the COVID-19 situation in South Africa, pointing out that the first case was recorded on 5th March 2020, with a lockdown introduced in late March. The primary goal of this response was to ‘flatten the curve’ i.e. to help health services cope with the COVID-19 case load.

 

In order to avoid exceeding the capacity of a country’s healthcare system, flattening the curve is critical. Credit: Toby Morris and Siouxsie Wiles.

How else did South Africa flatten the curve? Salim Abdool Karim noted that a variety of public health measures that were introduced, including symptom screening, the use of personal protective equipment and increased testing. Importantly, Quarraisha Abdool Karim pointed out that involving local community-based organizations was key in implementing these interventions. With local support, South Africa was able to mobilize the community and have ‘buy-in’ to facilitate home visits, screening and self-quarantine measures.

What brings hope in these uncertain times?

Each panelist cited different reasons for what brings them hope amid COVID-19, ranging from the inspiring level of global collaboration among scientists, the transformation in vaccine development, to how the COVID-19 response has included measures for those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Personally, Murray’s answer resounded with me the most: today, politicians of all stripes are asking for constant input from the scientific community to inform decision-making, and that this prominence of science in everyday discourse offers hope for the future.

In honour of Dr. Lou Siminovitch’s 100th Birthday, Gairdner hosted a Zoom call with a selection of his friends from the research community. Each attendee shared their birthday wishes and noted how impacted Dr. Siminovitch was on their own careers. These scientists even tried their hand at singing him Happy Birthday.

Guests included: Heather Munroe-Blum, Phil Sharp, Lorne Tyrrell, Rod McInnes, Leah Cowen, Dan Drucker, Bruce Alberts, Lewis Kay, Cyril Kay, John Dick, Alex Joyner, Jim Woodgett and John Dirks.

You can watch a short video of the call here:

Our President, Dr. Janet Rossant shared her own thoughts on his legacy and impact below.

Dr. Siminovitch received the Canada Gairdner Award in 1981. He perfectly exemplifies the definition of this award with his impactful research and scientific leadership in Canada and beyond.

He studied with Monod and Lwoff at the Institut Pasteur in the early 50s, then returned to Canada, first to the Connaught Labs and then to the Ontario Cancer Institute, where he developed his research program in somatic cell genetics, and collaborated with Till and McCulloch on defining hematopoietic stem cells. This was his most fertile research time, where he worked directly at the bench and was ahead of his time in developing methodologies to detect and identify mutations in cells in culture.

However, his lasting impact has come from his roles in establishing world class centres for molecular genetics, recruiting and mentoring young scientists who went on to be major leaders in genetics from phage to human genetics. He was the first chair of the new department of Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto in 1966, became Geneticist-in-chief at SickKids in 1970 and director of the new Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1985.

At SickKids he recruited and encouraged Lap-Chee Tsui, Ron Worton, Manuel Buchwald, Rod McInnes and others on the path to the first positional cloning of human disease genes, including cystic fibrosis and DMD.

At the Lunenfeld he attracted and mentored a stellar crew of molecular cell and developmental biologists, including Tony Pawson, Alan Bernstein, Alex Joyner and myself. He always promoted the importance of fundamental science as the way forward to understanding human health and disease and the work of his scientific offspring attest to the wisdom of that commitment.

Thank you Lou and best wishes for many more birthdays to come!

Janet Rossant

President & Scientific Director

Gairdner Foundation

Gairdner is committed to continuing our mission of convening leaders and promoting scientific excellence, during this challenging and unprecedented time. As a result, we are moving all our programming for the rest of 2020 into online formats and look forward to bringing you ground breaking research from our laureates around the world. As dates are confirmed we will share more information on our website, social media channels and newsletter. Our annual Laureates’ Lectures, Symposia, National Lectures and student programs and other events will take place online this fall in exciting new formats, ensuring that all of you can join in. Now more than ever, the world needs excellent science and scientists to tackle this pandemic and its future consequences and Gairdner wants to be part of the story.

We have also made the difficult decision to cancel our annual Gala for 2020. We will still find ways to celebrate and honour our 2020 laureates but have decided to forego our Gala for this year. The Gala is an important event for Gairdner, not only because it brings the scientific community together but also to help us fundraise to run all those outreach programs listed above.  Should you wish to donate to Gairdner to help us deliver on our promised programs during this difficult time please visit our donation page or contact Paige O’Beirne directly at paige@gairdner.org.

By donating to Gairdner, you are helping us reach the Canadian public with excellent science that impacts their daily lives. Your support helps cultivate the next generation of scientific innovators and entrepreneurs capable of shaping the response to Global issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.

GAIRDNER 2021 NOMINATIONS 

Nominations are now open for the 2021 Canada Gairdner Awards! Now is your chance to nominate the world’s best researchers. These awards celebrate deserving scientists who are focused on improving human health through research. Learn more about the awards and how to build a strong nomination here.

Start a new nomination or update an existing file here.

All submissions are due October 1, 2020.

Questions? Reach out to us at nominations@gairdner.org We’re happy to help.

Download EN  Press Release- 2020 CANADA GAIRDNER AWARDS ANNOUNCED
Download FR  Communiqué de presse – LES PRIX CANADA GAIRDNER 2020

2020 CANADA GAIRDNER AWARDS RECOGNIZE WORLD-RENOWNED SCIENTISTS FOR TRANSFORMATIVE CONTRIBUTIONS TO RESEARCH THAT IMPACT HUMAN HEALTH

TORONTO, ON (March 31 2020) – The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the 2020 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognizing some of the world’s most significant biomedical research and discoveries. During these challenging times, we believe it is important to celebrate scientists and innovators from around the world and commend them for their tireless efforts to conduct research that impacts human health.

2020 Canada Gairdner International Award
The five 2020 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates are recognized for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science:

Dr. Masatoshi Takeichi
Senior Visiting Scientist, RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics Research, Kobe, Japan; Professor Emeritus, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan
Dr. Rolf Kemler
Emeritus Member and Director, Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics, Freiburg, Germany

Awarded “For their discovery, characterization and biology of cadherins and associated proteins in animal cell adhesion and signalling.”

Dr. Takeichi
The Work: The animal body is made up of numerous cells. Dr. Takeichi was investigating how animal cells stick together to form tissues and organs, and identified a key protein which he named ‘cadherin’. Cadherin is present on the surface of a cell and binds to the same cadherin protein on the surface of another cell through like-like interaction, thereby binding the cells together. Without cadherin, cell to cell adhesion becomes weakened and leads to the disorganization of tissues. Dr. Takeichi found that there are multiple kinds of cadherin within the body, each of which are made by different cell types, such as epithelial and neuronal cells. Cells with the same cadherins tend to cluster together, explaining the mechanism of how different cells are sorted out and organized to form functional organs.

Further studies by Dr. Takeichi’s group showed that cadherin function is supported by a number of cytoplasmic proteins, including catenins, and their cooperation is essential for shaping of tissues. His studies also revealed that the cadherin-dependent adhesion mechanism is involved in synaptic connections between neurons, which are important for brain wiring.

Dr. Kemler
The Work: Dr. Kemler, using an immunological approach, developed antibodies directed against surface antigens of early mouse embryos. These antibodies were shown to prevent compaction of the mouse embryo and interfered with subsequent development. Both Dr. Kemler and Dr. Takeichi went on to clone and sequence the gene encoding E-cadherin and demonstrate that it was governing homophilic cell adhesion.

Dr. Kemler also discovered the other proteins that interact with the cadherins, especially the catenins, to generate the machinery involved in animal cell-to-cell adhesion. This provided the first evidence of their importance in normal development and diseases such as cancer. It has been discovered that cadherins and catenins are correlated to the formation and growth of some cancers and how tumors continue to grow. Beta catenin is linked to cell adhesion through interaction with cadherins but is also a key component of the Wnt signalling pathway that is involved in normal development and cancer. There are approximately 100 types of cadherins, known as the cadherin superfamily.

Dr. Takeichi
The Impact: The discovery of cadherins, which are found in all multicellular animal species, has allowed us to interpret how multicellular systems are generated and regulated. Loss of cadherin function has been implicated as the cause of certain cancers, as well as in invasiveness of many cancers. Mutations in special types of cadherin result in neurological disorders, such as epilepsy and hearing loss. The knowledge of cadherin function is expected to contribute to the development of effective treatments against such diseases.

Dr. Kemler
The Impact: Human tumors are often of epithelial origin. Given the role of E-cadherin for the integrity of an epithelial cell layer, the protein can be considered as a suppressor of tumor growth. The research on the cadherin superfamily has had great impact on fields as diverse as developmental biology, cell biology, oncology, immunology and neuroscience. Mutations in cadherins/catenins are frequently found in tumors. Various screens are being used to identify small molecules that might restore cell adhesion as a potential cancer therapy.

Dr. Roel Nusse
Professor & Chair, Department of Developmental Biology; Member, Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University, School of Medicine. Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research. Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Awarded “For pioneering work on the Wnt signaling pathway and its importance in development, cancer and stem cells”

The Work: Dr. Nusse’s research has elucidated the mechanism and role of Wnt signaling, one of the most important signaling systems in development. There is now abundant evidence that Wnt signaling is active in cancer and in control of proliferation versus differentiation of adult stem cells, making the Wnt pathway one of the paradigms for the fundamental connections between normal development and cancer.

Among Dr. Nusse’s contributions is the original discovery of the first Wnt gene (together with Harold Varmus) as an oncogene in mouse breast cancer. Afterwards Dr. Nusse identified the Drosophila Wnt homolog as a key developmental gene, Wingless. This led to the general realization of the remarkable links between normal development and cancer, now one of the main themes in cancer research. Using Drosophila genetics, he established the function of beta-catenin as a mediator of Wnt signaling and the Frizzleds as Wnt receptors (with Jeremy Nathans), thereby establishing core elements of what is now called the Wnt pathway. A major later accomplishment of his group was the first successful purification of active Wnt proteins, showing that they are lipid-modified and act as stem cell growth factors.

The Impact: Wnt signaling is implicated in the growth of human embryos and the maintenance of tissues. Consequently, elucidating the Wnt pathway is leading to deeper insights into degenerative diseases and the development of new therapeutics. The widespread role of Wnt signaling in cancer is significant for the treatment of the disease as well. Isolating active Wnt proteins has led to the use of Wnts by researchers world-wide as stem cell growth factors and the expansion of stem cells into organ-like structures (organoids).

Dr. Mina J. Bissell
Distinguished Senior Scientist, Biological Systems and Engineering Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Faculty; Graduate Groups in Comparative Biochemistry, Endocrinology, Molecular Toxicology and Bioengineering, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA

Awarded “For characterizing “Dynamic Reciprocity” and the significant role that extracellular matrix (ECM) signaling and microenvironment play in gene regulation in normal and malignant cells, revolutionizing the fields of oncology and tissue homeostasis.”

The Work: Dr. Mina Bissell’s career has been driven by challenging established paradigms in cellular and developmental biology. Through her research, Dr. Bissell showed that tissue architecture plays a dominant role in determining cell and tissue phenotype and proposed the model of ‘dynamic reciprocity’ (DR) between the extracellular matrix (ECM) and chromatin within the cell nucleus. Dynamic reciprocity refers to the ongoing, bidirectional interaction between cells and their microenvironment. She demonstrated that the ECM could regulate gene expression just as gene expression could regulate ECM, and that these two phenomena could occur concurrently in normal or diseased tissue.

She also developed 3D culture systems to study the interaction of the microenvironment and tissue organization and growth, using the mammary gland as a model.

The Impact: Dr. Bissell’s model of dynamic reciprocity has been proven and thoroughly established since its proposal three decades ago and the implications have permeated every area of cell and cancer biology, with significant implications for current and future therapies. Dr. Bissell’s work has generated a fundamental and translationally crucial paradigm shift in our understanding of both normal and malignant tissues.

Her findings have had profound implications for cancer therapy by demonstrating that tumor cells can be influenced by their environment and are not just the product of their genetic mutations. For example, cells from the mammary glands grown in two-dimensional tissue cultures rapidly lose their identity, but once placed in proper three-dimensional microenvironments, they regain mammary form and function. This work presages the current excitement about generation of 3D tissue organoids and demonstrates Dr. Bissell’s creative and innovative approach to science.

Dr. Elaine Fuchs
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and Head of the Robin Chemers Neustein Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Cell Biology; The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, USA

Awarded “For her studies elucidating the role of tissue stem cells in homeostasis, wound repair, inflammation and cancer.”

The Work: Dr. Fuchs has used skin to study how the tissues of our body are able to replace dying cells and repair wounds. The skin must replenish itself constantly to protect against dehydration and harmful microbes. In her research, Fuchs showed that this is accomplished by a resident population of adult stem cells that continually generates a shell of indestructible cells that cover our body surface.

In her early research, Fuchs identified the proteins—keratins—that produce the iron framework of the skin’s building blocks, and showed that mutations in keratins are responsible for a group of blistering diseases in humans. In her later work, Fuchs identified the signals that prompt skin stem cells to make tissue and when to stop. In studying these processes, Fuchs learned that cancers hijack the fundamental mechanisms that tissue stem cells use to repair wounds. Her team pursued this parallel and isolated and characterized the malignant stem cells that are responsible for propagating a type of cancer called “squamous cell carcinoma.” In her most recent work, she showed that these cells can be resistant to chemotherapies and immunotherapies and lead to tumor relapse.

The Impact: All tissues of our body must be able to replace dying cells and repair local wounds. Skin is particularly adept at performing these tasks. The identification and characterization of the resident skin stem cells that make and replenish the epidermis, sweat glands and hair provide important insights into this fountain of youth process and hold promise for regenerative medicine and aging. In normal tissues, the self-renewing ability of stem cells to proliferate is held in check by local inhibitory signals coming from the stem cells’ neighbours. In injury, stimulatory signals mobilize the stem cells to proliferate and repair the wound. In aging, these normal balancing cues are tipped in favour of quiescence. In inflammatory disorders, stem cells become hyperactivated. In cancers, the wound mechanisms to mobilize stem cells are hijacked, leading to uncontrolled tissue growth. Understanding the basic mechanisms controlling stem cells in their native tissue is providing new strategies for searching out refractory tumor cells in cancer and for restoring normalcy in inflammatory conditions.

2020 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award
The 2020 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureate is recognized for outstanding achievements in global health research:

Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim
Director of CAPRISA (Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa), the CAPRISA Professor in Global Health at Columbia University, New York and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim
Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA, Professor in Clinical Epidemiology, Columbia University, New York and Professor in Public Health at the Nelson Mandela Medical School and Pro Vice-Chancellor (African Health) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Awarded “For their discovery that antiretrovirals prevent sexual transmission of HIV, which laid the foundations for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the HIV prevention strategy that is contributing to the reduction of HIV infection in Africa and around the world.”

The Work: UNAIDS estimates that 37 million people were living with HIV and 1.8 million people acquired HIV in 2017. In Africa, which has over two thirds of all people with HIV, adolescent girls and young women have the highest rates of new HIV infections. ABC (Abstinence, Be faithful, and use Condoms) prevention messages have had little impact – due to gender power imbalances, young women are often unable to successfully negotiate condom use, insist on mutual monogamy, or convince their male partners to have an HIV test.

In responding to this crisis, Salim and Quarraisha Abdool Karim started investigating new HIV prevention technologies for women about 30 years ago. After two unsuccessful decades, their perseverance paid off when they provided proof-of-concept that antiretrovirals prevent sexually acquired HIV infection in women. Their ground-breaking CAPRISA 004 trial showed that tenofovir gel prevents both HIV infection and genital herpes. The finding was ranked in the “Top 10 Scientific Breakthroughs of 2010” by the journal, Science. The finding was heralded by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the most significant scientific breakthroughs in AIDS and provided the first evidence for what is today known as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The Abdool Karims have also elucidated the evolving nature of the HIV epidemic in Africa, characterising the key social, behavioural and biological risk factors responsible for the disproportionately high HIV burden in young women. Their identification of the “Cycle of HIV Transmission”, where teenage girls acquire HIV from men about 10 years older on average, has shaped UNAIDS policies on HIV prevention in Africa.

The impact: CAPRISA 004 and several clinical trials of oral tenofovir led to the WHO recommending a daily tenofovir-containing pill for PrEP as a standard HIV prevention tool for all those at high risk a few years later. Several African countries are among the 68 countries across all continents that are currently making PrEP available for HIV prevention. The research undertaken in Africa by this South African couple has played a key role in shaping the local and global response to the HIV epidemic.

2020 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
The 2020 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate is a Canadian scientist recognized for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout their career:

Dr. Guy Rouleau
Director of the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital (The Neuro); Professor & Chair of the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, McGill University; Director of the Department of Neuroscience, McGill University Health Center

Awarded “For identifying and elucidating the genetic architecture of neurological and psychiatric diseases, including ALS, autism and schizophrenia, and his leadership in the field of Open Science.”

The Work: Dr. Rouleau has identified over 20 genetic risk factors predisposing to a range of brain disorders, both neurological and psychiatric, involving either neurodevelopmental processes or degenerative events. He has defined a novel disease mechanism for diseases related to repeat expansions that are at play in some of the most severe neurodegenerative conditions. He has significantly contributed to the understanding of the role of de novo variants in autism and schizophrenia. In addition, he has made important advances for various neuropathies, in particular for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) where he was involved in the identification of the most prevalent genetic risk factors -which in turn are now the core of innumerable ALS studies worldwide.

Dr. Rouleau has also played a pioneering role in the practice of Open Science (OS), transforming the Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital (The Neuro) into the first OS institution in the world. The Neuro now uses OS principles to transform research and care and accelerate the development of new treatments for patients through Open Access, Open Data, Open Biobanking, Open Early Drug Discovery and non-restrictive intellectual property.

The Impact: The identification of genetic risk factors has a number of significant consequences. First, allowing for more accurate genetic counselling, which reduces the burden of disease to affected individuals, parents and society. A revealing case is Andermann syndrome, a severe neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative condition that was once relatively common in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec. Now this disease has almost disappeared from that population. Second, identifying the causative gene allows the development of treatments. For instance, his earlier work on a form of ALS linked to the superoxide dismutase-1 gene (SOD1) opened up studies which are now the focal point of phase 2 clinical studies showing great promise.

By acting as a living lab for the last couple of years, The Neuro is spearheading the practice of Open Science (OS). The Neuro is also engaging stakeholders across Canada with the goal of formal izing a national OS alliance for the neurosciences. Dr. Rouleau’s work in OS contributes fundamentally to the transformation of the very ecosystem of science by stimulating new thinking and fostering communities of sharing. Inspired by The Neuro’s vision, the global science community is reflecting on current research conventions and collaborative projects, and the momentum for OS is gaining a foothold in organizations and institutions in all corners of the earth.

 

About the Gairdner Foundation:
The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 by Toronto stockbroker, James Gairdner to award annual prizes to scientists whose discoveries have had major impact on scientific progress and on human health. Since 1959 when the first awards were granted, 387 scientists have received a Canada Gairdner Award and 92 to date have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize. The Canada Gairdner Awards promote a stronger culture of research and innovation across the country through our Outreach Programs including lectures and research symposia. The programs bring current and past laureates to a minimum of 15 universities across Canada to speak with faculty, trainees and high school students to inspire the next generation of researchers. Annual research symposia and public lectures are organized across Canada to provide Canadians access to leading science through Gairdner’s convening power.

For further information please contact:
Sommer Wedlock
Vice President & Director of Communications
MaRS Centre, Heritage Building
101 College Street, Suite 335
Toronto, Ontario. M5G 1L7
Office: (416) 596-9996 ext. 202
Mobile: (647) 293-6785
sommer@gairdner.org
www.gairdner.org

The Gairdner Foundation recognizes how unsettling and scary the news about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak can be, and there is a lot of new information to process every day.

At Gairdner, we pride ourselves on recognizing the world’s best researchers with our awards and we are proud that many of our laureates are leading the charge in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of our John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health laureates Dr. Tony Fauci (2016) and Dr. Peter Piot (2015) have been assisting their countries in coordinating efforts to combat this pandemic. Dr. Fauci has been leading the White House coronavirus task force, involved in daily media briefings and for many has become a trusted source of honesty, referred to by The New Yorker as “America’s Doctor”.  Dr. Fauci and Dr. Piot have been quoted widely across North America, the United Kingdom and around the world, sharing their knowledge, insights and recommendations.

Dr. Christopher Murray, 2018 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureate, and his team at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation have developed a new COVID-19 forecasting model. The projections show demand for hospital services state by state as well as COVID-19 death predictions across the US. These projections are updated daily, you can find them here.

In addition, a group of Australian researchers is currently investigating the possible human benefits of the FDA-approved drug Ivermectin, which has shown to inhibit the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro. Ivermectin was discovered by Dr. Satoshi Ōmura, 2014 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health laureate and developed by Merck. You can read their paper, published late last week at the link below.

Dr. Jennifer Doudna, 2016 Canada Gairdner International Award laureate, has led a team of academic and industry researchers to transform a lab at the Innovative Genomics Institute on the UC Berkeley campus into a COVID-19 diagnostic testing laboratory with the goal of increasing the testing capacity and speed in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Dr. Rino Rappuoli, 2017 Canada Gairdner International Award laureate and Chief Scientist and Head of Research & Development at GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), has committed GSK’s resource of adjuvants to help labs around the world with vaccine development. Watch a webinar of Dr. Rappuoli discussing potential COVID-19 vaccines here.

The Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre (VIDO-InterVac) at the University of Saskatchewan, established by, Dr. Lorne Babiuk, 2012 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate, is using their decades of vaccine development experience to develop candidate vaccines and animal disease models.

Alan Bernstein, 2008 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate and President and CEO of CIFAR led an international roundtable on COVID-19 that included Canadian and international leaders in AI, start-ups, experts in infectious disease, epidemiology and clinicians. You can read the report from the roundtable here.

Former Chair of the Board of Directors of the Gairdner Foundation, Dr. Lorne Tyrrell is working with teams at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta to develop rapid response projects to research and test treatments and potential vaccines for COVID-19.

Gairdner would also like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Frank Plummer, 2016 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate, who tragically passed away earlier this year, for his leadership as Scientific Director General at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg.  His leadership helped to guide the response to numerous outbreaks including the development of the Ebola vaccine programs in Canada, SARS treatment in 2003 and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza outbreak. The National Microbiology Lab is currently playing a pivotal role in understanding and fighting the COVID-19 virus. Our thoughts are with Jo and his family.

We want our stakeholders to be well-informed and we recommend reading articles as included below that will help answer some of your questions. Details are changing rapidly so please always refer to the latest information but ensure you’re reading from trusted sources such as the World Health Organization, Public Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anthony Fauci fights outbreaks with the sledgehammer of truth

100 Questions of Peter Piot about COVID-19

The FDA-approved Drug Ivermectin inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in vitro

Our COVID-19 forecasting model, otherwise known as “the Chris Murray Model”

How a Crispr Lab Became a Pop-Up Covid Testing Center

The Gairdner Foundation sadly marks the sudden passing of Dr. Frank Plummer on February 4, 2020 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Dr. Plummer’s internationally renowned work spanned decades and continents. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Manitoba in 1976, he trained in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Southern California, the University of Manitoba, the University of Nairobi, and the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. He joined the University of Manitoba faculty in 1984 and spent 17 years in Nairobi as the leader of the world-renowned Manitoba Nairobi collaboration. From 2000-2014 he was Scientific Director of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, building it into a globally preeminent public health laboratory.

Dr. Frank Plummer was awarded the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award in 2016 “For his ground-breaking research in Africa in understanding HIV transmission and his leadership at the Canadian National Microbiology Laboratory with pivotal roles in SARS, influenza and Ebola epidemics.” He remained a committed Gairdner ambassador, taking part in outreach programs across the country. The faculty and students he gave lectures to often commented on not only his impressive body of work but his candor and sense of humour.

Throughout the 1980s, Dr. Frank Plummer conducted research, facilitated by the University of Manitoba, on a large cohort of Nairobi sex workers which found that two thirds of them had HIV/AIDS which was astonishing at the time. He also showed that about ten percent of these sex workers remain HIV uninfected despite multiple exposures. This identification of natural resistance to HIV has guided vaccine development strategies. He further went on to conduct work on mechanisms of resistance to HIV, risk factors for heterosexual transmission of HIV, mother-to-child transmission of HIV and developed public health strategies for control of sexually transmitted infections. Further research showed that many groups in addition to these female sex workers are immune to HIV. Over the next 16 years, Dr. Plummer remained in Nairobi, and this led to a series of investigations, international collaborations and some critical discoveries about the susceptibility to HIV infection and transmissibility.

His original and sustained contributions in this field have led to innovative strategies for HIV prevention at an internationally recognized level, and are being used around the world to prevent many thousands of HIV infections. Dr. Plummer was a pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher thanks to not only his ground-breaking work but also his leadership as Scientific Director General at the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, guiding their response to numerous outbreaks including his support and contributions to the development of the Ebola vaccine programs in Canada, SARS treatment in 2003 and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza outbreak.

Dr. Plummer will be greatly missed by everyone at the Gairdner Foundation and the Canadian scientific community. Our condolences go out to his family and colleagues.

Watch Dr. Frank Plummer receive his Canada Gairdner Award in 2016 here.

Celebrating 60 Years of Gairdner

Through the decades 1960s
Jacques F.A.P. Miller MB BS PHD DSC
Canada Gairdner International Award 1966
In recognition of his fundamental contributions to our understanding of the role of the thymus in the development of normal immunological mechanisms in early life, and in their maintenance in the adult, and for the stimulus which his studies of the thymus gave to the rapidly developing field of immunobiology.
Melbourne, Australia

 

Through the decades 1970s
David Baltimore BA PHD
Canada Gairdner International Award 1974
For innovative and significant research on the mechanism of action of viruses in relation to tumor production.
Cambridge, MA, USA

 

Through the decades 1980s
Tak W. Mak PHD DSC FRSC
Canada Gairdner International Award 1989
For contributions to the cloning and sequencing of the gene for the T-cell receptor.
Toronto, ON, Canada

 

Through the decades 2000s
Nubia Muñoz MD MPH
John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award 2009
For her epidemiological studies that defined the essential role of the human papilloma virus in the etiology of cervical cancer on a global level which led to the development of successful prophylactic vaccines.
Visiting Scientist, Catalan Institute of Oncology, Barcelona, Spain; Emeritus Professor, National Cancer Institute, Bogota, Colombia

 

Through the decades 2010s
Huda Y Zoghbi MD
Canada Gairdner International Award 2017
For the discovery of the genetic basis of Rett syndrome and its implications for autism spectrum disorders
Professor, Baylor College of Medicine; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; Director, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute, Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX, USA

 

The Gairdner Foundation partnered with CSMB and the Michael Smith Laboratories at UBC to produce a series of documents celebrating the science of a selection of this year’s Canada Gairdner Awardees.

We invite you to view and share these documents widely, as they highlight the impact science has in our lives and our understanding of the world.

Our thanks to the students and artists who made these articles possible. If you are a teacher and you’d like more materials like this for your students please contact Sommer Wedlock at sommer@gairdner.org

For more information about the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences, please visit https://csmb-scbm.ca/

For more information about the UBC Michael Smith Laboratories, please visit https://www.msl.ubc.ca/

Taxol

Kinesin

DNA Replication

Integrins

SciComics

From left to right; Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe, Dr. Gregg L. Semenza, Dr. William G. Kaelin

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Dr. William G. Kaelin, Jr., Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Dr. Gregg L. Semenza for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability. The Gairdner Foundation congratulates these laureates on this well-deserved honour.

These three laureates received the 2010 Canada Gairdner International Award for identification of molecular mechanisms of oxygen sensing in the cell. They are the 90th, 91st and 92nd laureates to go on to receive the Nobel after a Gairdner. Sir Peter Ratcliffe also serves on our Medical Advisory Board which chooses our Gairdner International laureates.

Their research identified how cells in the body monitor and respond to changes in oxygen levels. This paved the way to therapies that manipulate oxygen on a cellular level, for example, by improving the supply of oxygen in people with diseases of the heart and circulation, or cutting off the supply of oxygen that cancer needs to progress.

The Gairdner Foundation congratulates Dennis J. Slamon (CGIA ’07) and Jacques F.A.P Miller (CGIA ’66) on receiving 2019 Lasker Awards.

Dr. Slamon (UCLA; Los Angeles, USA)  is one of three researchers receiving the 2019 Lasker~DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. He is recognized for his contributions to the development of targeted therapy Herceptin against advanced breast cancer expressing the Her-2/Neu oncogene resulting in more effective therapy for breast cancer.

Dr. Miller (WEHI; Melbourne, Australia) is a co-recipient of the 2019 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for his work on T-cells. Jacques Miller made fundamental contributions to our understanding of the role of the thymus in the development of normal immunological mechanisms in early life, and in their maintenance in the adult.

The Gairdner Foundation will be joining a line-up of extraordinary speakers and organizers in Kigali, Rwanda this November for the 3rd Annual Women Leaders in Global Health Conference.

Having attended last year’s London, UK Conference hosted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the Gairdner Foundation is now joining as a silver sponsor for the first major WLGH event in the Global South.   Global health is a significant part of the Gairdner Mission and we celebrate this opportunity to encourage and support all members of the community in the pursuit of excellence.

“The Gairdner Foundation is delighted to partner with  the WLGH 2019 Conference in recognizing, convening and celebrating women leaders in global health. The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award is a world leading prize for scientists making significant impacts in global health. We are committed to increased equity, diversity and inclusion in all our activities and look forward to ongoing alignment between the missions of WLGH and the Foundation.  Together we can help open opportunities for all individuals and communities to contribute to the health of humanity.” – Dr. Janet Rossant, President & Scientific Director, Gairdner Foundation

We encourage all those involved in the Global Health Community to attend and to take advantage in this exceptional opportunity.  Follow the conference at https://www.wlghconferences.org/ for updates on confirmed speakers, programing developments and opportunities for attendees and sponsors.

Watch @WLGH19 & @ughe_org for all the latest and spread the word on social media and in your networks with:
#WLGH19 #GenderEquity #InvestInWomen #WomenLeaders #GlobalHealth #Rwanda #HealthEquity

Read the Press Release from WLGH and UGHE HERE

Concours du Symposium international sur les sciences de la santé

Nous sollicitons des candidatures pour notre subvention annuelle au Symposium Gairdner Québec.

Date limite : le vendredi 6 septembre 2019

La proposition gagnante recevra 25 000 $CAD, de l’aide pour les communications et un soutien à la planification de la part de la Fondation Gairdner.

Nous invitons les candidats à inclure des scientifiques étrangers de premier plan, des activités de sensibilisation des étudiants, des conférences publiques et une programmation novatrice. Les partenariats entre des établissements ou des organisations sont les bienvenus lorsqu’ils sont bénéfiques pour l’ensemble du programme.

 Directives organisationnelles 

  • Le Symposium doit se tenir au cours de l’année civile 2020 dans la province de Québec.
  • Le Symposium doit durer au moins une journée entière.
  • Le Symposium doit mettre en évidence un domaine de la recherche biomédicale démontrant une importance et des avancées actuelles.

Afin de participer au concours pour cette subvention, veuillez remplir les formulaires de Planification du symposium et de Budget du symposium, disponibles ci-dessous, et les faire parvenir à Sarah Devonshire, à sarah@gairdner.org, d’ici le vendredi 6 septembre 2019.

Télécharger l’application en français

Télécharger l’application en anglais

Les auteurs de la proposition retenue seront informés avant le vendredi 20 septembre 2019 et celle-ci sera annoncée publiquement lors de l’allocution d’ouverture du Symposium Gairdner Québec de cette année, soit le lundi 23 septembre 2019.

Pour en savoir plus sur le projet retenu en vue du Symposium de cette année, veuillez visiter le site Web pertinent ICI.

International Health Science Symposium Competition

We invite applications for our annual Gairdner Quebec Symposium Grant.

Deadline:  Friday, September 6, 2019

Winning proposal will receive $25,000 CAD, communications assistance, and planning support from the Gairdner Foundation.

We encourage applicants to include prominent international scientists, student outreach, public lectures and innovative programming. Partnerships between institutions or organizations are welcomed if beneficial to the overall program.

Organizational Guidelines:

  • The Symposium must take place in the 2020 calendar year in the province of Quebec.
  • The Symposium must be at least one full day in length.
  • The Symposium must highlight an area of biomedical research with current importance and advances.

To be considered for this grant, please complete the Symposium Planning and Symposium Budget form available below and submit to Sarah Devonshire at sarah@gairdner.org  by Friday, September 6, 2019.

Download application in English

Download application in French

The winning submission will be notified by Friday, September 20, 2019 and will be announced publicly during the opening remarks at this year’s Gairdner Quebec Symposium on Monday, September 23, 2019.

To learn more about this year’s selected symposium, please visit their website HERE.

International Health Science Symposium Competition

Presenting Sponsor:

We invite applications for our annual Gairdner Ontario Symposium Grant.
Deadline:  Monday, September 9, 2019

Gairdner offers significant funding and support to bring the world’s best health scientists to Canada to address the newest discoveries and most pressing issues in biomedical research.

We encourage applicants to include prominent international scientists, student outreach, public lectures and innovative programming. Partnerships between institutions or organizations are welcomed if beneficial to the overall program.

 Organizational Guidelines:

  • The Symposium must take place in the 2020 calendar year in the province of Ontario.
  • The Symposium must be at least one full day in length.
  • The Symposium must highlight an area of biomedical research with current importance and advances.

To be considered for this grant, please complete the Symposium Planning and Symposium Budget forms available below and submit to Sarah Devonshire at sarah@gairdner.org  by Monday, September 9, 2019.

Download Application Forms

April 9, 2019

By Dr. John Dirks, President Emeritus, The Gairdner Foundation

The Gairdner Foundation sadly marks the death of Dr. Sydney Brenner on April 5, 2019  in Singapore. Sydney Brenner was recognized by many as the most influential molecular biologist of our time.

Born in South Africa, Brenner entered the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg at age 15, and pursued a PhD in physical chemistry at Oxford in the early 1950s. In April 1953, a carload of graduate students including Brenner drove to Cambridge to see the Crick-Watson model of DNA, and inspired by this transformative moment, Brenner embarked on a career in the new discipline of molecular biology. In 1957, he joined the Cambridge Cavendish Lab with Francis Crick, contributing to the elucidation  of the  genetic code and the codon, and then while working with François Jacob and Matthew Meselson, to the discovery of messenger RNA, essential in the synthesis of proteins. For these works he received his first Gairdner International Award in 1978.

From the 1980s on, Brenner focused on developmental and genetic biology, establishing the worm C. elegans as a highly successful tool for studying development with exact understanding of the genetics, the nervous system and the cellular turnover in a single species. With John Sulston, he received his second Gairdner International Award in1991. In 2002, Sydney Brenner was awarded the Nobel Prize with John Sulston and Robert Horvitz.

Dr. Brenner was the Guest of Honor at the Gairdner Gala marking the 2002 Gairdner Genome Year. He joined the Gairdner Medical Advisory Committee in 2003, serving for two full terms. During this time Brenner contributed hugely to the annual selection process through his exceedingly broad knowledge of biomedical science.

Sydney Brenner was a charismatic, eloquent speaker and visited some 15 Canadian universities for Gairdner. He spoke precisely and with few, if any, slides. Audiences remained riveted regardless of the length of his presentations, and Sydney also enjoying interspersing his wicked sense of humor. On the occasion of Gairdner and other meetings, my dinners with Sydney and his interesting repartee are remembered fondly by all in attendance. Sydney Brenner was a great friend of the Canada Gairdners and the major thinker in molecular biology in the last 75 years. He will be greatly missed but in the history of biology his impact will remain for all time.

On Tuesday, April 2, the Gairdner Foundation announced its 2019 Canada Gairdner Award laureates at the Toronto Reference Library.

Joining Gairdner for the announcement were 2019 awardees Dr. Connie Jean Eaves and Dr. Susan Band Horwitz who both addressed the audience to recount their research and speak about winning the Gairdner. The other awardees participated in the announcement by video.

Special thanks to the Dr. Stephen Robbins, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research, co-chair of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, and professor at the University of Calgary, and  Dr. Rama Khokha, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre at UHN and Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics and the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto for their help in introducing the awardees.

Read full press release here: EN  FR  

Congratulations to the 2019 Canada Gairdner Award Laureates!

The Gairdner Foundation invites Quebec Universities and Research Institutes to submit proposals to host a partnered international symposium at the frontiers of biomedicine to be held in 2019.

Details and How to Apply: 

Call for Proposals- 2019 Quebec/Gairdner Foundation International Symposium (EN)

Call for Proposals- 2019 Quebec/Gairdner Foundation International Symposium (FR)

Deadline: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The 2017 Canada Gairdner Awards Gala was a fantastic night for science in Canada.  Over 500 people gathered at  the Royal Ontario Museum last night to celebrate excellence in biomedicine and congratulate our Laureates on their extraordinary achievements.

Take a sneak peek at the pictures of the evening below, and follow our Flickr account as we add more in the coming weeks. (more…)

X
X