2010 Canada Gairdner Award Recipients Unveiled

TORONTO, April 6 /CNW/ - The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2010 Canada Gairdner Awards. Canada's only international science prizes, they are considered one of the world's most prestigious medical research awards.

This year's winners are:

    
    -   William A. Catterall Ph.D., University of Washington School of
        Medicine, Seattle

    -   Pierre Chambon M.D., Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire
        et Cellulaire (IGBMC), Strasbourg, France

    -   William G. Kaelin M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and
        Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Boston

    -   Peter J. Ratcliffe M.D., University of Oxford, Oxford

    -   Gregg L. Semenza M.D., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of
        Medicine, Baltimore

    -   Nicholas White, M.D. D.Sc., Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research
        Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Bangkok

    -   Calvin Stiller, C.M. M.D., Chair, Ontario Institute for Cancer
        Research; Past Chair, Genome Canada
    

"These awards pay tribute to the passion, dedication and vision that drive these extraordinary individuals to push the boundaries of medical science," said Dr. John Dirks, President and Scientific Director of The Gairdner Foundation. "Their work has changed the face of medicine, from the discovery of the mechanisms underlying electrical signaling in the brain, to the validation of an ancient Chinese remedy as a treatment for malaria."

The awards, which have a track record of identifying significant work early and each of which comes with a $100,000 cash prize, will be presented in October to the seven recipients. In addition to honouring groundbreaking work, the awards distinguish Canada as a leader in science and elevate the profile of science across the country.

"In a very real sense, the Canada Gairdner Awards drive innovation," says 2010 Canada Gairdner Global Health Award recipient Dr. Nicholas White, Chairman of the Wellcome Trust South-East Asian Tropical Medicine Research Programmes and Professor of Tropical Medicine at Mahidol University Bangkok and Oxford University, UK. "Grant support can be very conservative, and there is often little support for really innovative research. The Canada Gairdner prize gives us the freedom to pursue exciting ideas that are right on the edge."

In addition to rewarding medical discovery, The Gairdner Foundation strives to inspire the next generation of medical researchers. The importance of promoting a career in science to students is a sentiment echoed by many of this year's Gairdner recipients.

"Science is not just a job - it's not an ordinary job - it's a passion," said Dr. Pierre Chambon, 2010 Canada Gairdner International Award recipient and researcher at L'Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), Strasbourg. "You tackle problems which, at the beginning, seem impossible to solve. So when you find a solution it's really exciting."

Featured awards include the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, which recognizes a Canadian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science, and the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, the first major international award to recognize individual contributions to health in the developing world.

THE BRAINS SHAPING THE FUTURE OF MEDICINE - 2010 WINNERS AT A GLANCE

Canada Gairdner International Awards:

    
    -   William A. Catterall Ph.D., University of Washington School of
        Medicine, Seattle

        The discovery: Discovered the voltage-gated sodium channel and
        calcium channel proteins that underlie electrical signaling in the
        brain, which is the basis of how the brain receives, processes, and
        sends information. His work has also led to new understanding of the
        molecular mechanisms of function and regulation of these ion channel
        proteins.

        Why it matters: Understanding how these sodium and calcium channels
        work has led to therapies that selectively block excess brain
        activity such as epilepsy medication, which suppresses the
        uncontrolled electrical activity that causes seizures. In the future,
        this work could lead to medications that could relieve chronic pain
        more effectively than existing drugs by blocking electrical signals
        in the spine, and similar medications to treat abnormal heart rhythms
        by blocking electrical signals in the heart.

    -   Pierre Chambon M.D., Institute de Génétique et de Biologie
        Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), Strasbourg, France

        The discovery: Pioneering contributions to mapping out nuclear
        receptors and understanding the fundamental mechanics of DNA
        transcription - the first step in gene expression.

        Why it matters: The implications of this work are staggering, as gene
        expression is at the heart of disease. Mapping out what activates
        nuclear receptors cleared the way for targeted drugs that interfere
        with specific receptors, and thereby interfere with disease. For
        example, anti-estrogens starve estrogen-dependent breast tumours of
        the hormones they need to grow.

    -   William G. Kaelin M.D., Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Howard
        Hughes Medical Institute, Boston

        The discovery: Identified how cells in the body monitor and respond
        to oxygen levels.

        Why it matters: When cells sense low oxygen levels, they go into a
        state of hibernation so they don't die. Manipulating oxygen sensing
        mechanisms may allow us to trick at-risk tissue into hibernating, for
        example to prevent heart tissue from dying in heart disease.

    -   Peter J. Ratcliffe M.D., University of Oxford, Oxford

        The discovery: Identified how cells in the body monitor and respond
        to oxygen levels.

        Why it matters: On a cellular level, oxygen plays a role in a huge
        range of diseases, from heart disease to cancer. This discovery paves
        the way to therapies that manipulate oxygen, for example, by
        improving the supply of oxygen in people with diseases of the heart
        and circulation.

    -   Gregg L. Semenza M.D., Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University School of
        Medicine, Baltimore

        The discovery: Identified how cells in the body monitor and respond
        to changes in oxygen levels.

        Why it matters: Oxygen plays a critical role in a huge range of
        diseases, from heart disease to cancer. This discovery paves the way
        to therapies that block or stimulate responses to low oxygen levels.
        For example, tumours need oxygen to grow. Low oxygen levels in
        tumours stimulate the production of blood vessels to deliver more
        oxygen. Blocking this response results in decreased tumor growth.
    

Canada Gairdner Global Health Award:

    
    -   Nicholas White, M.D. D.Sc., Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research
        Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Bangkok

        The discovery: Proved that artemisinin, a compound derived from a
        plant used for over a thousand years in Chinese medicine, is a highly
        effective treatment for malaria.

        Why it matters: Malaria kills almost one million people worldwide
        every year. Artemisinin not only represents the single most effective
        and fastest-acting treatment for malaria ever identified, but also
        effectively reduces disease transmission.
    

Canada Gairdner Wightman Award:

    
    -   Calvin Stiller, C.M., O.Ont., M.D., Emeritus Professor, University of
        Western Ontario and Chair, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research;
        Past Chair, Genome Canada

        The discovery: Dr. Stiller is a remarkable builder of private and
        public institutions that have greatly enriched the research landscape
        of Canada and the health of Canadians. He was also a pioneer in
        multiple organ transplantation and diabetes.

        Why it matters: Dr. Stiller has played an enormous role in building
        the Canadian life-sciences industry. He co-founded MaRS Discovery
        District and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. He built four
        venture funds to invest in biotechnology and technology, and is
        credited with overseeing the growth of the Canadian biotechnology
        industry from an average annual investment of $50 million in the
        decade prior to his involvement, to dramatic annual growth reaching
        over $800 million annually in the following decade. The venture fund
        he raised was the number one investor over that decade.
    

Winners are selected by a two-tiered peer-review process. The pool of nominated candidates is reviewed by the Medical Review Panel (MRP), a group of leading mid-career Canadian scientists to narrow the list. The Gairdner Foundation's Medical Advisory Board (MAB), which is composed of outstanding scientists from Canada, U.S., U.K., Europe, Australia and Hong Kong, makes the final selection by secret ballot.

The Gairdner Foundation: Making Science Matter

The Canada Gairdner Awards were created in 1959 to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life. They are Canada's only globally known and respected international science prizes, and the Gairdner Foundation is the only national organization that consistently brings the world's best biomedical researchers to Canada to share their ideas and work with scientists across the country. In so doing, it enlarges networks and enhances Canada's international reputation while providing a realistic and unbiased benchmark for Canada's leading scientists.

SOURCE Gairdner Foundation

For further information: For further information: Sarah Bannoff, Edelman, (416) 979-1120 ext 318, sarah.bannoff@edelman.com; Cynthia Innes, Edelman, (416) 979-1120 ext 343, cynthia.innes@edelman.com


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