Contact if you have questions about: Media inquiries, partnership opportunities, information about our laureates
As the Vice President & Director of Communications Sommer leads a comprehensive portfolio that aims to raise the profile of the Canada Gairdner Awards, Canada’s most prestigious biomedical prize. Her responsibilities include leading the strategic planning process along with the President to increase the Foundation’s brand visibility, stakeholder engagement and fundraising efforts. Prior to joining the Gairdner Foundation, Sommer was a Senior Consultant with Hill+Knowlton, an international public relations agency. In this role she led numerous healthcare client files including pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, patient association and foundations where she developed and executed their strategic communications planning. Previously, Sommer worked for the University Health Network (UHN) in various roles where she focused on media relations, social media strategy and internal communications. Sommer graduated from Western University with a bachelor of health sciences and also received a post-graduate certificate in public relations from Humber College. She brings strong healthcare experience and connections to the Gairdner Foundaiton and an enthusiasm for story telling.
Dr. Janet Rossant, SickKids Chief of Research Emeritus and a world-renowned expert in developmental biology, is the definition of a trailblazer. She started as the Gairdner Foundation’s President and Scientific Director on May 4, 2016.
Widely known for her studies of the genes that control embryonic development in the mouse, Rossant has pioneered techniques for following cell fate and altering genes in embryos. This work continues to resonate in medical genetic research. Her current research focuses on stem cell development and cell differentiation in the developing embryo, important areas for the study of birth defects as well as regenerative medicine. Firmly planted on the front lines of technological change, Rossant has established SickKids as a global forerunner in genetic research.
Dr. Rossant trained at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, United Kingdom and has been in Canada since 1977, first at Brock University and then at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute within Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, from 1985 to 2005. She joined SickKids in 2005. Dr. Rossant has been recognized for her contributions to science with many awards, including the Ross G. Harrison Medal (lifetime achievement award) from the International Society of Developmental Biologists, the Killam Prize for Health Sciences, the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology, the Conklin Medal from the Society for Developmental Biology, and the CIHR Michael Smith Prize in Health Research. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Societies of London and Canada, and is a foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Science. Rossant was most recently recognized in October 2014 with the 10th ISTT Prize, from the International Society for Transgenic Technologies in Edinburgh, Scotland.