TORONTO, ON (April 5 2022)

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

The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the 2022 Canada Gairdner Award laureates, recognizing some of the world’s most significant biomedical and global health research and discoveries.

“Canadian scientists remain an example to follow as they continue to lead in global health research and discoveries that help create a more resilient society, country, and world. Congratulations to this year’s Canada Gairdner Award recipients, your work demonstrates the power of science to improve lives and solve major challenges facing humanity.”
– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health

“Congratulations to the 2022 Gairdner Awards recipients for your outstanding discoveries and contributions to medical science! Pleased to see four Canadians among the world’s most creative and accomplished biomedical scientists. Your work is revolutionizing our understanding of the human body and how to live longer, healthier lives, right down to the cellular level.”
—The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

2022 Canada Gairdner International Award
The five 2022 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates are recognized for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science:

Stuart H. Orkin, MD
David G. Nathan Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center; Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital.

Awarded « For the discovery of the molecular mechanism responsible for the switch from fetal to adult hemoglobin gene expression during human development and translating that knowledge into a novel treatment for the hemoglobin disorders — sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia”

The work:
Dr. Stuart Orkin’s pioneering work in genetic disorders of hemoglobin spans four decades and has unraveled molecular mysteries behind how blood cells develop and how disorders of blood arise. His most recent studies led to the discovery of the molecular mechanism responsible for the switch from fetal (HbF) to adult (HbA) hemoglobin gene expression that occurs during human development. Capitalizing on genetic clues from human population studies, Orkin and colleagues established that the protein BCL11A acts as the critical silencer of HbF expression in adults. Recognizing that turning HbF expression back on could lessen disease severity of sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia –genetic disorders affecting HbA production – he proposed downregulation of BCL11A as a therapeutic approach. Dialing down the amount of BCL11A would reactivate HbF expression and effectively substitute for mutant or deficient HbA in these disorders. His group first demonstrated that downregulation of BCL11A expression corrects sickle cell disease in engineered mice, an important proof-of-principle for therapeutic translation. He and colleagues identified a discrete site in a regulatory element within the BCL11A gene itself that, if deleted by CRISPR gene editing in blood stem cells, would impair BCL11A expression only within developing red blood cells, and safely reactivate HbF expression. This work laid the groundwork for highly promising, ongoing clinical trials in patients with sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia, diseases that affect >5 million individuals worldwide. Reactivation of HbF in patients in these genetic therapy trials has yielded transformative results: freedom from sickle crises and anemia in sickle cell disease and transfusion-independence in beta-thalassemia.

The impact:
Much of what is known about the control of gene expression during blood cell development can be traced directly to Orkin’s pioneering studies. His discoveries have paved the way for clinical approaches that will revolutionize the treatment of hemoglobin disorders – sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia – that affect more than five million people worldwide. Clinical trials that are currently underway establish the therapeutic potential of HbF reactivation. The outcomes of these trials will have significant impact for patients suffering from hemoglobin disorders around the globe, and will encourage the future development of cheaper and more readily accessible therapies for global application.


John E. Dick, PhD, FRS, FRSC
Senior Scientist and Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, UHN; Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

Awarded “For the discovery and characterization of leukemic stem cells, providing insights into the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia”

The work:
Dr. John Dick made the first discovery of leukemia stem cells (LSC) in an acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patient. This finding established that individual cancer cells in the patient are not equal, rather they are organized as a cellular hierarchy where only rare leukemia cells possess self-renewal, the hallmark stem cell property. This discovery required two experimental components that Dick developed: a xenograft assay to detect LSC based on their ability to generate human leukemia upon transplantation into immune-deficient mice, and a method to purify leukemia cells into LSC and non-LSC populations. By combining functional LSC assays with genetic analysis, Dick tracked the complex evolutionary pathways of human leukemia development from normal blood stem cells to pre-leukemic stem cells that eventually generate LSC and AML up to a decade later. This work also showed that LSCs that can cause later relapse have already evolved prior to diagnosis, and can survive normal therapy procedures. Thus, LSC were directly linked to therapy failure and relapse in leukemia patients. The properties of LSC as reflected in their gene expression are predictive of therapy response and overall survival. Dick developed a 17-gene ‘stemness score’ that can be used clinically to determine patient risk of poor outcome and help guide therapeutic choice.

The impact:
Dick’s discovery of LSC changed the understanding of the underlying biology of cancer and stimulated exploration of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in other human cancers, including those affecting the breast, brain, colon, pancreas, skin and liver. His work highlighted the importance of investigating the properties of individual cells of the neoplastic clone, rather than bulk cancer cells and that special attention needs to be on the CSC that are the only cells capable of long term cancer propagation. The focus on CSC is revealing a number of properties that enable their survival in the face of therapy including dormancy, stress signaling as well as stemness programs that enable disease recurrence. Dick’s work points to the need to ensure that CSC are eradicated when therapy is delivered and the need for new therapies that target CSC vulnerabilities. The discovery that pre-leukemic stem cells are present many years prior to disease appearance and that relapse-fated LSC are already present at diagnosis both offer windows of opportunity to target pre-leukemia and relapse earlier to prevent disease and relapse from occurring, respectively. Dick’s findings offer clear direction for improving clinical outcomes in leukemia through LSC targeting and potentially in other cancers that adhere to the CSC model.


Pieter Cullis, PhD
Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of British Columbia

Katalin Karikó, PhD
Senior Vice President RNA Protein Replacement Therapies, BioNTech SE; Professor, University of Szeged; Adjunct Professor, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Drew Weissman, MD, PhD
Roberts Family Professor in Vaccine Research; Director Penn Institute for RNA Innovation, Director, Vaccine Research, Infectious Diseases Division; Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Awarded “For their pioneering work developing nucleoside-modified mRNA and lipid nanoparticle  (LNP) drug delivery: the foundational technologies for the highly effective COVID-19 mRNA vaccines”

The work:
Drs. Karikó and Weissman discovered how to engineer mRNA – a molecule that carries instructions for making proteins – so that it could be used to produce the desired protein after introduction into mammalian cells. They overcame the inflammatory activation and rapid degradation of mRNA by modifying the RNA so that it could resist quick breakdown and avoid activating RNA sensors. Despite skepticism from others, Drs. Karikó and Weissman saw the potential of RNA therapeutics for vaccines and other applications and the data kept leading them forward. However, one major challenge remained: how to introduce the mRNA into the body in a way that it would be protected from degradation, and could enter into the cells for protein production.

Dr. Cullis had been working with such packaging systems for the past 50 years. Dr. Cullis is a pioneer in lipid chemistry and the formation of lipid nanoparticles (LNP). From his foundational work, many different clinical applications of LNPs have been developed, such as delivering anticancer drugs to cancer tissues while limiting toxicity in normal tissues. In the case of mRNA the LNP are designed to form a protective bubble around the mRNA and enable delivery to the interior of target cells. The LNP technology is critical to the potency of mRNA vaccines.

Following the emergence of the SARS-CoV2 virus, various teams around the world began working on potential vaccines using the knowledge gained about the mRNA and lipid nanoparticle through decades. The idea for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was to introduce modified mRNA molecules into the body via LNPs to briefly instruct human cells to produce the coronavirus’ spike protein. The LNP-activated immune system would recognize the encoded viral protein and develop antibodies and immune memory so that the immune system would attack the coronavirus when entering the body.

The impact:
The work of Drs. Karikó, Weissman and Cullis enabled the rapid availability of highly effective and safe COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, which has become an important tool for the control of COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly their pivotal discoveries also have the potential to revolutionize the future delivery of effective and safe vaccines, therapeutics and gene therapies. The success of the mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 suggests paths forward for similar vaccines for viral threats like influenza or HIV. Clinical trials are already underway to test mRNA vaccines to prevent diseases, caused by Zika virus, chikungunya and rabies infections.

The COVID-19 mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are built on over 30 years of established scientific research and highlight the importance of basic and applied research, and international collaboration.


2022 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award
The 2022 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award laureate Is recognized for outstanding achievements in global health research:

Robert Harding Chair in Global Child Health, Co-Director, SickKids Centre for Global Child Health, Senior Scientist The Hospital for Sick Children; Professor Department of Pediatrics, Nutritional Sciences, and Public Health, University of Toronto; Founding Director, Center of Excellence in Women and Child Health and Institute for Global Health and Development, The Aga Khan University South-Central Asia, East Africa, United Kingdom

Awarded “For the development and evaluation of evidence-based interventions in child and maternal health for marginalized populations, focusing on outcomes for the ‘first thousand days’ of life.”

The work:
Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta’s career has focused on the improvement of child and maternal health and nutrition among marginalized and rural populations, using evidence based strategies and interventions to improve outcomes in the “first thousand days” of life (pregnancy, childbirth, and the first two years of life).  Developing a unique collaboration between centres in Pakistan, United Kingdom and Canada, Bhutta has mobilized cluster randomized effectiveness trials (cRCTs) to gather data used to shape and improve intervention packages for community based maternal and newborn care, nutrition, and early childhood development.

The impact:
Dr. Bhutta’s work has been the foundation of multiple international guidelines, including changing WHO policy on the treatment of persistent diarrhea and malnutrition along with establishing lady health workers (LHW) as foundational members of community-based interventions in Pakistan, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Further, his work provided the basis for the “Lancet 10” nutritional interventions used to inform global policy on malnutrition. Over the last two decades, his work on evidence-based interventions has helped guide global action plans to improve newborn health and survival. His rigorous approach to investigation has also challenged conventional wisdom, illustrating both the possibilities and limitations of vital interventions like community health workers.

Dr. Bhutta has worked extensively in low resource areas, using sustainable interventions that are available and affordable to disadvantaged populations. Through systematic investigation and analysis, he has established the foundations for current understandings of maternal and child health in rural, remote and conflict affected regions, and improved the survival and outcomes of world’s most vulnerable women and children. 


2022 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award
The 2022 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award laureate is a Canadian scientist recognized for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout their career:

Deborah J. Cook, MD, FRCPC, MSc (Epid), FRSC, OC
Distinguished University Professor of the Departments of Medicine, and of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact of McMaster University; Fellow, Canadian Academy of Health Sciences; Fellow, Royal Society of Canada; Officer, Order of Canada; critical care physician of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton

Awarded « For pioneering research that has developed and defined evidence-based critical care medicine in Canada, informing best practices around the world.”

The work:
As the foremost authority in critical care medicine and health research methodology, Dr. Cook’s 30-year contributions to the design and the conduct of practice-changing clinical studies have led to major improvements in the care of hospital’s sickest patients. Her multi-method multi-disciplinary research interests include advanced life support, prevention of ICU-acquired complications, research ethics and end-of-life care.

She has addressed complex ethical challenges as patients receiving technology transition from life to death through the internationally-adopted ‘3 Wishes Project’.  This unique inter-professional model of end-of-life care encourages clinicians with different backgrounds to improve the dying experience for hospitalized patients by honouring their lives, easing family grief, and fostering humanism in practice. The 3 Wishes Project helps to identify and meet the needs of patients dying in hospital by eliciting and fulfilling final meaningful wishes for them, which has proven particularly helpful during the pandemic as family visits are limited for hospitalized patients, including those at the end-of-life.

Dr. Cook was a founding member of the first successful critical care research collaboration in the world – the Canadian Critical Care Trials Group – which flourished under her leadership as chair and champion of patient-centred investigator-initiated research.

The impact:
Dr. Cook’s research has helped to alleviate the enormous human and economic costs of critical illness for patients, families, healthcare systems and society. Dr. Cook has designed and conducted several landmark national and international studies on how best to prevent common and often lethal complications of critical illness such as blood clots, lung infections and gastrointestinal bleeding, providing key evidence for reviews and guidelines used at the bedside worldwide. She has passionately improved the field of critical care, reducing morbidity and saving lives in the ICU, impacting critical care practice across the globe. She has also championed compassionate end-of-life care models that impact families, patients and care providers.

Over her career, Dr. Cook has garnered dozens of national and international honours recognizing her outstanding contributions to critical care research. Her research focuses on creating measurable health, social and economic benefits for patients needing advanced life support. Her pioneering research has transformed critical care medicine and has had an enduring global impact on patients, practice, and policy.

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, 402 scientists have received a Canada Gairdner Award and 96 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 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. Gairdner is supported nationally by the Government of Canada.

For further information please contact Jordana Goldman

David Julius and Ardem Patapoutian have won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. Awarded for their discoveries related to how the human body perceives touch and temperature known as somatosensation, secretary general of the Nobel Committee, Thomas Perlmann calls the pair’s work “crucial for our survival., a very profound discovery”.

David Julius was awarded the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2017 for the same body of work, using distinctive molecules from the natural world – including toxins from tarantulas and coral snakes, and capsaicin, the molecule that produces the “heat” in chili peppers – to understand how signals responsible for temperature and pain sensation are transmitted by neural circuits to the brain. His work helps to explain how such positive and negative aspects of pain sensation arise – insight that is critical to understanding the genesis of chronic pain syndromes.

Dr. Julius becomes the 96th Canada Gairdner Award laureate to go on to win the Nobel Prize.

A hearty congratulations to Drs. Julius and Patapoutian!


WATCH: David Julius accepts his Gairdner in 2017


Photo: David Julius, PhD, in his office at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo by Steve Babuljak


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.

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


Kelty Reid

Manager, Communications & Operations

Mobile (416) 988-7078



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

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.


La Fondation Gairdner, en partenariat avec le FRQ-S, dispose d’un fonds établi pour la promotion de la culture et de la réussite scientifique au Québec. Nous lançons un appel ouvert à toutes les organisations scientifiques, institutions de recherche et universités dans les domaines de la biologie humaine et de la médecine pour des événements qui se tiendront en 2021.

Les événements doivent avoir un caractère unique, être gratuits ou à coût modique pour les participants et refléter l’engagement de Gairdner envers l’excellence en recherche. Nous encourageons fortement la participation en ligne et nous fournirons une aide en nature pour les communications. Les programmes en français, en anglais et bilingues sont admissibles à cet appel.

Ce programme n’est pas destiné à financer des rencontres annuelles, des frais administratifs ou une subvention de recherche de quelque nature que ce soit.

Les propositions peuvent cibler les trois volets suivants :

Volet Développement des talents(jusqu’à 5 000 $)
Des programmes qui s’adressent aux étudiants du secondaire et du premier cycle universitaire en vue d’inspirer la prochaine génération de scientifiques et d’innovateurs. Les programmes proposés pourraient inclure des concours, des conférenciers invités ou des conférences d’étudiants.

Volet Engagement du public (jusqu’à 15 000 $)
Des programmes qui introduisent une science extraordinaire dans le discours et l’intérêt public, en ciblant un auditoire profane et un éventail d’intervenants possibles. Les programmes proposés pourraient inclure des conférences publiques, des séances de discussion ouverte et des tables rondes.

Volet Célébration de l’excellence (jusqu’à 25 000 $)
Des programmes qui mettent l’accent sur des avancées scientifiques récentes et apportent au Québec une science internationale exceptionnelle, tout en soulignant l’excellence des chercheurs québécois. Les programmes proposés seraient pour l’essentiel des colloques scientifiques indépendants portant sur un domaine actuel et en plein essor de la biologie humaine ou de la médecine. Nous encourageons également la participation du public et des étudiants à ces événements.

Lignes directrices

Les candidats doivent reconnaître le programme comme un événement Gairdner et respecter les politiques de responsabilité, de leadership et d’équité de la Fondation. Les programmes seront élaborés en consultation avec le personnel de Gairdner et nous encourageons fortement l’inclusion de lauréats et de représentants de Gairdner lorsque cela est possible et approprié. Le fonds global sera réparti entre les propositions retenues à la discrétion de la Fondation Gairdner.

Le montant minimum d’une demande de financement est de 2 500 $ pour garantir que les propositions sont solides, inclusives et atteignent un public important. Les demandes doivent inclure un projet de budget montrant comment les fonds seront dépensés.

Les proposants retenus devront présenter un rapport après la tenue de l’événement.


Les demandes seront acceptées sur une base continue entre le 1er septembre 2020 et le 1er septembre 2021. Nous exigeons que toute proposition soit soumise au moins 12 semaines avant la date prévue de l’événement proposé. Les décisions seront communiquées aux candidats dans les 4 semaines suivant la présentation de la demande.

Les demandes seront évaluées par un comité de chercheurs canadiens possédant une vaste expertise et une bonne connaissance des milieux de la recherche canadien et québécois.

En s’efforçant de récompenser l’excellence scientifique et d’inspirer ceux qui suivront, Gairdner embrasse diverses perspectives de recherche. Dans tout l’éventail des activités associées au programme des Prix Canada Gairdner et aux programmes connexes de sensibilisation au Canada et à l’étranger, Gairdner s’emploie à mobiliser et à promouvoir la participation active de personnes d’origines et de capacités diversifiées.

Des questions?   sarah@gairdner.org

The Gairdner Foundation is saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Zena Werb on June 17th, 2020.

Dr. Werb was one of the world’s leading experts on extracellular matrix influences on cancer development. Her fundamental discoveries led to new paradigms about the role of the cellular microenvironment and intercellular communication in breast development and cancer.

She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, former President of the American Society of Cell Biology, and winner of numerous national and international awards. She was also a member of the Gairdner Foundation’s Wightman Award Committee, responsible for the annual adjudication of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award.

She was an outstanding scientist and mentor and the Gairdner Foundation will remember her fondly for her contributions to our programming and awards. We wish her family, friends and colleagues strength during this difficult time.

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.


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.

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.

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.

À l’occasion du 60e anniversaire de la remise des prix Canada Gairdner, la Fondation Gairdner a le plaisir d’annoncer les lauréats des Prix Canada Gairdner 2019, reconnaissant ainsi certaines des recherches et des découvertes biomédicales les plus marquantes. Les lauréats touchent un montant en espèces de 100 000 $ et ils recevront leur prix officiellement le 24 octobre 2019 lors du gala annuel des Prix Canada Gairdner, à Toronto.

Lire le communiqué de presse complet ici: EN  FR  

Félicitations aux lauréats du prix Canada Gairdner pour 2019!


2013 Canada Gairdner International Award Laureate, Sir Gregory Winter was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry today. His research accomplishments « for the phage display of peptides and antibodies” are recognized alongside fellow laureate George P. Smith. The overall prize is also shared with Frances H. Arnold who is recognized in the same category « for the directed evolution of enzymes. »

Through his work, Sir Gregory discovered how to create synthetic human antibodies against human targets in a way where they will not be rejected by the immune system. This advance has led to the development of modern treatments for inflammatory conditions, cancers and infectious diseases and has impacted human health worldwide.

Sir Gregory becomes the 89th Gairdner laureate to subsequently win the Nobel Prize joining fellow 2018 Nobelist, Dr. James Allison (Nobel Prize in Medicine) earlier this week.

(photo credit: Aga Machaj © 2016)

2014 Canada Gairdner Award Laureate Dr. James P. Allison was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine this morning at an announcement held in Stockholm, Sweden.

The award, which he shares with Dr. Tasuki Honjo is for pioneering an approach to cancer treatment which harnesses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. The approach, called immune checkpoint theory completely changed the way cancer is treated and managed.Immune checkpoint theory opened a new field of cancer therapy and many patients are alive today because of the revolutionary idea.

Dr. Allison was awarded the Canada Gairdner Award in 2014 for “For his discovery of immune checkpoint blockade and its successful application to immune therapy of cancer” and becomes the 88th Canada Gairdner Award Laureate to go on and win the Nobel Prize.

(Photo credit: UT News- University of Austin Texas)


La Fondation Gairdner invite les universités et les établissements de recherche du Québec à présenter une proposition en vue d’accueillir un symposium international à la fine pointe de la science biomédicale qui sera organisé en partenariat en 2019.

Plus d’information:

Appel de propositions : Symposium International 2019 – Québec/Fondation Gairdner (EN)

Appel de propositions : Symposium International 2019 – Québec/Fondation Gairdner (FR)

Date limite: Mercredi le 26 septembre 2018

Le mardi 27 mars, la Fondation Gairdner a fait l’annonce des noms des lauréats des Prix Canada Gairdner 2018 à la Toronto Reference Library.

Accompagnant la Fondation Gairdner pour cette annonce, les lauréats des Prix de 2017, le Dr Frances Shepherd et le Dr Edward Boyden, se sont adressé à l’auditoire pour relater leur recherches et parler de ce que signifie remporter le Prix Gairdner. Les autres lauréats ont participé à l’annonce par webdiffusion d’un peu partout dans le monde.

Des remerciements particuliers vont à l’honorable Reza Moridi, ministre de la Recherche, de l’Innovation et des Sciences, qui nous a communiqué ses souhaits, ainsi qu’au Dr Brad Wouters, vice-président exécutif, Sciences et Recherche, au Réseau de santé universitaire, et à la Dre Sheena Josselyn, scientifique principale en neurosciences et santé mentale à l’Hôpital des enfants malades de Toronto, qui ont participé à la présentation des lauréats.

Félicitations aux lauréats des Prix Canada Gairdner 2018!

On Tuesday, March 27, the Gairdner Foundation announced its 2018 Canada Gairdner Award laureates at the Toronto Reference Library.

Joining Gairdner for the announcement were 2017 awardees Dr. Frances Shepherd and Dr. Edward Boyden who both addressed the audience to recount their research and speak about winning the Gairdner. The other awardees participated in the announcement via webcast from around the world.

Special thanks to the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister, Research, Innovation & Science for sharing his greetings and Dr. Brad Wouters, Executive Vice President, Science & Research at UHN and Dr. Sheena Josselyn, Senior Scientist, Neurosciences & Mental Health at the Hospital for Sick Children for their help in introducing the awardees.

Congratulations to the 2018 Canada Gairdner Award Laureates!


Read full press release here: EN  FR  

The Gairdner Foundation is pleased with the Government of Canada’s historic investment of nearly $4 billion over five years in Budget 2018 to support the next generation of researchers through investments in Canada’s granting councils, the Canada Research Chairs and in essential equipment and infrastructure to support innovative research discoveries. We commend the Government’s recognition of the importance of fundamental research in driving innovation and improved health outcomes for Canadians.

Gairdner is also thrilled that the government will continue to support our activities both within Canada and internationally, with a focus on expanding the diversity of our laureates, through an investment of $1 million over the next five years. Our outreach programs celebrate biomedical and global health research and also play a key role in inspiring the next generation to pursue careers in STEM.

The Government of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research have been a strong supporter of Gairdner since 2008 and we’re thrilled to continue this strong partnership. Together, we have raised the profile of the Canada Gairdner Awards and the reputation of Canada as a leader in science and innovation.

Click here to see the full media release.



The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to share that our President & Scientific Director, Dr. Janet Rossant is one of the five women scientists celebrated by the 2018 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

Dr. Rossant is being awarded “For her outstanding research that helped us to better understand how tissues and organs are formed in the developing embryo.”

Each Laureate will receive €100,000 in prize money for her outstanding contribution to advances in science. They will be celebrated in a ceremony that will be held on March 222018 in Paris, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science programme.

Click here to learn more. 


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. (suite…)


2012 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates, Drs. Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young have been awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.

Together, the trio discovered that our circadian clocks are regulated by a small group of genes that work at the level of the individual cell. Subtle mutations in any of these genes can accelerate or slow our daily rhythms. They worked with fruit flies to isolate a gene that controls normal daily biological rhythm and discovered that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night and degrades during the day, eventually identifying the mechanism that governs the internal clockwork of the cell.

Their discoveries have far-reaching applications including sleep and appetite disorders and insights into the brain, liver, lungs and skin which use the same genetic mechanisms to control their rhythmic activities.

Drs. Hall, Rosbash and Young were awarded the Canada Gairdner International Award in 2012 and have become the 85th, 86th and 87th Canada Gairdner Award laureates to also be awarded the Nobel Prize.

(Photo credit: Chinese University Of Hong Kong Handout/EPA)

Gairdner President and Scientific Director, Dr. Janet Rossant received an honorary degree, Doctor of Science from Cambridge University this month for her contributions to stem cell biology and scientific research.

Dr. Rossant, an alumna of Cambridge’s Darwin College, received the degree for research that has helped uncover the cellular and molecular events that control early-stage embryo development in mice. Dr. Rossant’s research has broad, practical implications for stem cell biology and understanding developmental disorders. Her citation read:

“She has taken cells from the placenta and restored to them the miraculous, protean power of transformation by which they can grow into any tissue—bone, say, or muscle, or white marrow; and so she has opened up a new source of stem cells, which can be exploited without harm to the embryo.”

This is Dr. Rossant’s fifth honorary degree, having already been recognized by Dalhousie University, University of Windsor, University of British Columbia and Mount Allison University during her accomplished career.

« It is an incredible honour to receive this honorary Doctor of Science from Cambridge University where I carried out my PhD studies,” Dr. Rossant said. “ Steeped in tradition, we paraded through town to the sounds of the bells of Saint Mary’s ringing in our honour.  I was thrilled to be one of an outstanding, diverse group of individuals who have all contributed to society in different ways”

Pictured above is Dr. Rossant with her two PhD supervisors, Dr. Martin Johnson and Dr. Richard Gardner.

La Fondation Gairdner invite les universités et les établissements de recherche du Québec à présenter une proposition en vue d’accueillir un symposium international à la fine pointe de la science biomédicale qui sera organisé en partenariat en 2018.

Plus d’information

Appel de propositions : Symposium International 2018 – Québec/Fondation Gairdner (EN)

Appel de propositions : Symposium International 2018 – Québec/Fondation Gairdner (FR)

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

Professeur émérite, Université fédérale de Pelotas, Pelotas, Brésil

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

Professeur émérite, neurologie, Université d’Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

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

Gairdner a développé un solide partenariat avec le Consortium des universités pour la santé mondiale (CUGH) en apportant notre John Dirks Canada Gairdner en santé mondiale à leur Awardee conférence annuelle pour présenter une conférence plénière.

Cette année a marqué la 8e conférence annuelle et le thème était « Gens en santé, des écosystèmes en santé: Mise en œuvre, Leadership & amp; Développement durable dans la santé mondiale « en partenariat avec leur université d’accueil: Johns Hopkins University et de l’Université de Makerere.

Nous avons été honorés d’apporter le Dr Cesar Victora à Washington, DC de Pelotas, Brésil pour partager son travail sur la santé maternelle et infantile et la nutrition dans les pays à faible et à revenu intermédiaire, avec un accent particulier sur l’impact de l’allaitement exclusif sur la mortalité infantile et l’impact à long terme de la nutrition précoce vie

À propos du Dr Victora a parlé de ses quatre décennies de recherche et les cohortes de naissance impressionnants que j’ai menais. Le public a été captivé par sa conférence Conduisant à une ovation digne à sa conclusion.

Nous nous réjouissons de notre partenariat permanent avec CUGH à New York l’an prochain. Pour plus de détails sur la visite de CUGH: http://www.cugh.org/ 

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 »