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.


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

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

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

There are three streams that can be applied to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read full press release here: EN  FR  

Congratulations to the 2019 Canada Gairdner Award Laureates!

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)


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

Details and How to Apply: 

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

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

Deadline: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

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. (more…)


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.

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

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

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

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

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

Man at Podium

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

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

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

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

Congratulations to the 2017 Canada Gairdner Award Laureates!


Dr. Akira Endo

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

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

Dr. David Julius

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

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

Dr. Lewis E. Kay

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

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

Dr. Rino Rappuoli

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

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

Dr. Huda Y. Zoghbi

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

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


Dr. Cesar Victora

Emeritus Professor, Federal University of Pelotas, Pelotas, Brazil

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

Dr. Antoine M. Hakim

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

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

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”