Montreal, Québec – May 9, 2017 – Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Québec, announced today that the Government of Québec through Fonds de recherche du Québec- Santé (FRQS) has signed a three year deal with the Gairdner Foundation to enhance scientific programming in the province. The announcement, which was made in partnership with Dr. Janet Rossant, Gairdner’s President & Scientific Director, demonstrates the government’s focus on providing access to ground breaking research and signals its intent to cultivate and inspire future generations of scientists.

The partnership, a $300,000 agreement spanning the next three years will support student, faculty and public lectures as well as academic symposia throughout Québec. The Foundation, which currently provides student outreach and faculty lectures at more than 15 universities across Canada each year, will use the funding to bolster its current programming in Québec. It will also initiate a new public lecture series that will discuss scientific research at issue for today’s citizens.

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Gairdner has developed a strong partnership with the Consortium of Universities for Global Health (CUGH) by bringing our John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Awardee to their annual conference to present a plenary lecture.

This year marked the 8th Annual conference and the theme was “Healthy People, Healthy Ecosystems: Implementation, Leadership & Sustainability in Global Health” in partnership with their host universities: Johns Hopkins University and Makerere University.

We were honoured to bring Dr. Cesar Victora to Washington, DC from Pelotas, Brazil to share his work on maternal and child health and nutrition in low and middle-income countries, with particular focus on the impact of exclusive breastfeeding on infant mortality and on the long-term impact of early-life nutrition

Dr. Victora spoke about his four decades of research and the impressive birth cohorts he has led. The audience was captivated by his lecture resulting in a deserving standing ovation at its conclusion.

We’re looking forward to continuing our partnership with CUGH in New York City next year. For more details on CUGH visit: http://www.cugh.org/

Man at Podium

Chaque année, sept prix sont décernés : cinq Prix internationaux Canada Gairdner pour la recherche biomédicale, le Prix Canada Gairdner en santé mondiale John Dirks, attribué pour l’impact sur les questions de santé mondiale, et le Prix Canada Gairdner Wightman, réservé à un scientifique canadien témoignant de l’excellence et du leadership scientifique.

On Tuesday, March 28, the Gairdner Foundation announced its 2017 Canada Gairdner Award laureates in front of a packed audience at the Toronto Reference Library. (See the gallery on Flickr).

The 2017 laureates represent outstanding advances in biomedical science with research that runs the gamut from basic research to clinical science and back.

Joining Gairdner for the announcement were 2017 awardees Drs. Antoine Hakim and Lewis Kay who both addressed the audience to recount their research and speak about winning the Gairdner. The five other awardees participated in the announcement via webcast from around the world.

Special thanks to the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister, Research, Innovation & Science and Dr. Elaine Chin, Chief Wellness Officer, TELUS for sharing their greetings and Dr. Joe Goldstein, 1981 Gairdner Laureate and Chair, Lasker Medical Awards Jury and Dr. Michael Salter, Chief of Research at the Hospital for Sick Children for their help in introducing the awardees.

Congratulations to the 2017 Canada Gairdner Award Laureates!


Dr. Akira Endo

President, Biopharm Research Laboratories; Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Tokyo, Japan

Awarded “For the first discovery and development of statins, inhibitors of cholesterol biosynthesis that have transformed the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.”

Dr. David Julius

Professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and the Morris Herzstein Chair in Molecular Biology and Medicine, UCSF, San Francisco, California, USA

Awarded “for determining the molecular basis of somatosensation- how we sense heat, cold and pain”

Dr. Lewis E. Kay

Professor, Departments of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Chemistry, University of Toronto; and Senior Scientist, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Awarded “For the development of modern NMR spectroscopy for studies of biomolecular structure dynamics and function, including applications to molecular machines and rare protein conformations”

Dr. Rino Rappuoli

Chief Scientist and Head External R&D at GSK Vaccines, Siena, Italy

Awarded “For pioneering the genomic approach, known as reverse vaccinology, used to develop a vaccine against meningococcus B which has saved many lives worldwide”

Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi

Professor Baylor College of Medicine, Investigator Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and Director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, Texas, USA

Awarded “For the discovery of the genetic basis of Rett syndrome and its implications for autism spectrum disorders”


Dr. Cesar Victora

Emeritus Professor, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

Awarded “For outstanding contributions to maternal and child health and nutrition in low and middle income countries, with particular focus on the impact of exclusive breastfeeding on infant mortality and on the long-term impact of early-life nutrition.”

Dr. Antoine M. Hakim

Emeritus Professor, Neurology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Awarded “For outstanding research into stroke and its consequences and championing stroke prevention and treatment in Canada and beyond”

TORONTO, ON (March 28, 2017) – The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the 2017 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognizing some of the most significant medical discoveries from around the world. The Awards carry an honorarium of $100,000 for each of the seven awards and will be presented at a Gala in Toronto on October 26, 2017.

TORONTO, ON (28 mars 2017) – la Fondation Gairdner a le plaisir d’annoncer les lauréats des Prix Canada Gairdner 2017, reconnaissant ainsi certaines des plus importantes découvertes médicales dans le monde. Les Prix s’accompagnent d’une somme de 100 000 $ pour chacun des sept prix, qui seront remis lors d’un gala, à Toronto, le 26 octobre 2017.

As a wrap up to the 2016 Canada Gairdner National Program, a final series of lectures took place at Lakehead University in early March. The Gairdner lecture boasted its largest crowd in Thunder Bay to date as Dr. Adrian Owen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognition and Neuroimaging at Western University and member of the Canada Gairdner Awards Medical Review Panel presented The Search for Consciousness: Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State to a full room, and via broadcast to an overflow space.

Dr. Owen also delivered a Student Outreach lecture centred on a more personal account of the factors that drive his research and his key achievements along his career path. More than 150 high school student were bussed in from five local high schools to hear Dr. Owen speak. The lecture, which took a more conversational tone, gave the students a more in-depth look into what it might be like to pursue an interest in the study at the secondary level or a career in science.

Gairdner National and Student Outreach lectures take place at more than 15 universities across Canada throughout the academic year. In 2016, more than 7,500 faculty members, post docs, trainees and high school students had first-hand experiences and interaction with the world-renowned Gairdner laureates and committee members through the program.

2016 Canada Gairdner laureate, Dr. Feng Zhang is back on the Gairdner lecture circuit with a faculty, student and public lecture at Dalhousie University later this month. Dr. Zhang, Core Institute Member, Broad Institute and Associate Professor, MIT was recognized with a Canada Gairdner International Award in 2016 for his extraordinary work in the development of CRISPR-CAS as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells.

In 2016, Dr. Zhang visited the University of Alberta and University of Toronto to deliver Gairdner National and Student Outreach lectures that covered everything from the technical to the practical, inspiring attendees to pursue the interesting questions that matter to them. Dr. Zhang also delivered a keynote address at Gairdner’s first ever public lecture (in partnership with York University) in November of 2016, where he shared his research with a packed house at Toronto’s Design Exchange.

Join Gairdner and its partners at Dalhousie University this month to enjoy more interesting, thought-provoking conversation with Dr. Zhang as he tackles the real-world challenges, opportunities and applications of CRISPR-CAS technology.

Event details:
Public lecture
Thursday, March 30
Scotia Auditorium, McCain Building
Dalhousie University
6:15 p.m. reception, 7 p.m. panel discussion

The Gairdner Foundation is excited to announce that three Canada Gairdner Award laureates, Stephen J. Elledge (2013), Harry F. Noller (2007) and Yoshinori Ohsumi (2015) will be awarded the 2017 Breakthrough Prize. The prize, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, awards more than $25M each year in celebration of top achievements in science.

Gairdner is proud to have its laureates represented among the world’s leading scientists.
Stephen J. Elledge receives the prize for his work in elucidating how eukaryotic cells sense and respond to damage in their DNA and providing insights into the development and treatment of cancer. Elledge is the Gregor Mendel Professor of Genetics and Medicine in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and in the Division of Genetics at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Harry F. Noller is recognized for discovering the centrality of RNA in forming the active centers of the ribosome, the fundamental machinery of protein synthesis in all cells, thereby connecting modern biology to the origin of life and also explaining how natural antibiotics disrupt protein synthesis. Noller is Director of the Center for Molecular Biology of RNA, Robert L. Sinsheimer Professor of Molecular Biology and Professor Emeritus of MCD Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Yoshinori Ohsumi is celebrated for elucidating autophagy, the recycling system that cells use to generate nutrients from their own inessential or damaged components. Ohsumi is an Honorary Professor, Institute of Innovative Research at Tokyo Institute of Technology. Ohsumi has also been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Ohsumi is the 84th Gairdner laureate be awarded a Nobel Prize.


On October 27th, Gairdner welcomed guests from the private, public, academic and health care sectors to the annual awards gala dinner in celebration of our 2016 Canada Gairdner Award laureates.

The evening, which took place at the Royal Ontario Museum invited guests to hear directly from the laureates about their discoveries, their work and their inspirations. Gairdner was honoured to be joined by Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Elizabeth Dowdeswell and Ministers Reza Moridi, and Kirsty Duncan and enjoyed inspiring remarks from Minister Jane Philpott.

The Gairdner Foundation is thrilled to learn about Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi being awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine “for his discoveries of mechanisms for autophagy.” Dr. Ohsumi is the 84th Gairdner laureate to go on to receive a Nobel Prize. Our President, Dr. Rossant discussed Dr. Ohsumi’s work with the Globe and Mail explaining that it is one of the key areas of research for understanding disease.

More about the October 3rd announcement can be found on the Nobel website.
Gairdner gave Dr. Ohsumi the 2015 Canada Gairdner International Award “for pioneering the molecular elucidation of autophagy, an essential intracellular, degradation system and when disordered, is linked to many diseases including neurodegeneration, cancer, and infection.”

His work: He was the first person to visually observe the function of autophagy (self-eating), whereby cells clean up the garbage within them by killing invaders and keeping healthy cells. It works as a cell recycling system to maintain homeostasis within the body. He then clarified the mechanism of autophagy and the genes involved.

His impact: Autophagy is now regarded as a vital cell-recycling system and may aid in future developments to treat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and other age-related diseases. Dr. Ohsumi’s research findings have since been applied to autophagy in animals as well, and many researchers are now working to further clarify the molecular mechanism and physiological significance of this process

Congratulations to Dr. Ohsumi on receiving this deserving honour. You can listen to his 2015 lecture from the Gairdner Awardees Lecture on our YouTube Channel.

From the desk of our President, Dr. Janet Rossant, comes a very important update on the Gairdner team:

In my first few months at the Gairdner Foundation I have been immersed in learning about our programs, stakeholders and laureates but what I’ve been most impressed with are the incredible team members at the helm of the Foundation. I strongly believe in recognizing and celebrating not only our laureates’ achievement’s but also those who ensure the Foundation’s mission and vision are followed and embraced every day.

I am pleased to announce the promotion of Sommer Wedlock to Vice President & Director of Communications. Sommer joined the Foundation in January of 2014 and has made a significant impact on our brand recognition, cohesive communications materials and has added her personal touch and planning skills to our Annual Gala and various programs. In her new role Sommer and I will work very closely on developing a new strategic plan focused on enhancing our outreach, education and public policy impact, in Canada and internationally.

In addition we have also promoted Sarah Devonshire to Projects Manager & Executive Coordinator. Sarah joined the Gairdner Foundation in May of 2011 as an Administrative Assistant and will continue to assist with administrative needs but will take on a new leadership role within the Global Health Program and with multimedia and communications projects.

Please join me in congratulating Sommer and Sarah. We look forward to sharing more updates on our growing team soon.

Janet Rossant
President & Scientific Director

After 23 years as President and Scientific Director, Dr. John Dirks is retiring from the Gairdner Foundation. He previously served on the Medical Advisory Board (MAB) from 1983-1993. During his time the profile of the Foundation has grown extensively. He internationalized the MAB to its current profile with Canadian representatives and major figures from US, UK, Europe and Japan. Furthermore, the Medical Review Panel which performs the initial review of nominations now includes 30 scientists from 20 universities across Canada, covering all biomedical disciplines.

The Gairdner profile has been increased enormously, highlighted by major celebrations for the 40th Anniversary (1999), the Genome Year (2002), and the 50th Anniversary (2009), The annual dinner held at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is attended by 550 guests and is renowned for its networking opportunities.

Dr. Dirks expanded the Gairdner outreach program so that currently Gairdner speakers visit 22 universities across all 10 provinces. At 19 of these universities, laureates also speak with high school students as part of our mission to inspire the next generation.
Beginning in 2010, Dr. Dirks developed a regular set of international visits were organized through Canadian Embassies and Consulates to celebrate each laureate in their home country.

The Foundation is grateful for his leadership and dedication to the Gairdner Foundation and wish him well during his retirement. On May 4th, Dr. Janet Rossant began as the Foundation’s President and Scientific Director.


On March 23rd, The Gairdner Foundation announced the winners of the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards, recognizing some of the most significant medical discoveries from around the world. This year the awards center on two defining themes including the revolutionary Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) technique for gene editing and for work in the HIV/AIDS field within Canada and internationally.

For only the second time in Gairdner’s history, all five of the Canada Gairdner International Awards are being given to one topic, and that is the revolutionary CRISPR-Cas technology. These five laureates are the youngest cohort of International winners in our Foundation’s history. The first two awards “for establishing and characterizing CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune defense system” are given to Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou of North Carolina State University, and DuPont Senior Scientist Dr. Philippe Horvath.

The next three awards are “for development of CRISPR-CAS as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells.” This was awarded to Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier of Umea University in Sweden, and Dr. Jennifer Doudna of University of California, Berkeley for publishing the description of new genome editing technology dubbed CRISPR-Cas9. The technology allows biologists to disable, activate or alter genes with efficiency and precision. Along with Drs. Charpentier and Doudna, Dr. Feng Zhang of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, was awarded the Canada Gairdner International Award. Dr. Zhang and colleagues developed a number of applications for studying biology and disease based on the CRISPR-Cas technology and discovered additional Cas enzymes with unique properties that further expand the genome editing toolbox.

The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award recognizes an individual who is responsible for a scientific advancement that has made a significant impact on health in the developing world. The 2016 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award goes to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He is being awarded “for his many pioneering contributions to our understanding of HIV infections and his extraordinary leadership in bringing successful treatment to the developing world.” He has made critical contributions to the understanding of how HIV destroys the body’s immune defenses. His defining research on the mechanisms of HIV disease along with his work on developing and testing drug therapies have been highly influential in establishing the scientific basis for effective HIV therapies and prevention modalities for patients living with HIV/AIDS.

The 2016 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, given to a Canadian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout his/her career, is awarded to Dr. Frank Plummer of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the University of Manitoba. He is being given this award “for his groundbreaking 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.”

All seven laureates will be coming to Canada in October to visit 22 universities across the country to speak about their research with faculty, trainees, undergraduate and high school students. They will also be speaking at the University of Toronto on October 27 through our Minds that Matter Awardees Lecture. More details to come soon.

After a rigorous international search process, we are happy to announce that the Gairdner Foundation’s new President and Scientific Director will be Dr. Janet Rossant, starting May 4, 2016. Dr. Rossant brings with her many years of distinguished scientific leadership and brings a unique perspective to the Foundation as 2015 Canada Gairdner Wightman Awardee. You can learn more about her leadership and research in the video below.

Dr. Rossant is a Senior Scientist and Chief of Research Emeritus at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and University Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. She is a world-renowned expert in developmental and stem cell biology.

For the past 22 years the Gairdner Foundation has experienced widespread growth and success under the superb leadership of its President and Scientific Director, Dr. John Dirks, who will be retiring in 2016. The Foundation and its Board of Directors thank him for his dedicated service.


The Gairdner Foundation congratulates the latest laureates of The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2015. These include Professor Satoshi Omura who was our 2014 Canada Gairdner Global Health Award winner, and Dr. William Campbell for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites. The other half of the prize goes to Youyou Tu for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria. Remarkable discoveries that have all changed the face of disease around the world.
Professor Omura is our 83rd Canada Gairdner Awardee to go on to win a Nobel Prize and our first Canada Gairdner Global Health Award winner to do so.

In 2014 we awarded Professor Omura:

“For the discovery of the microorganism Streptomyces avermitilis and its extraordinary biologic activity that in partnership with Merck led to the identification of avermectin and development of ivermectin, a highly successful treatment for many parasitic diseases, and the global consortium directed at eliminating river blindness”