Dr. Aaron Schimmer Receives the Till and McCulloch Award

Stem Cell Network Recognizes Researcher for Leadership in Drug Screening with Stem Cells to Identify Potential Leukemia Therapies

OTTAWA, April 11, 2012 /CNW/ - Canada's most coveted stem cell prize will be awarded to a researcher in Toronto - who acknowledges that he's only been working with the life-giving cells for a short time.

Dr. Aaron Schimmer, associate professor in the University of Toronto's Department of Medical Biophysics and a clinician-scientist in the Princess Margaret Cancer Program/Ontario Cancer Institute at University Health Network, has received the 2012 Till & McCulloch Award, presented each year by the Stem Cell Network in recognition of the year's most influential peer-reviewed article by a researcher in Canada. Dr. Schimmer will accept the award and present a lecture entitled "Novel therapeutic strategies to target leukemia stem cells" as part of the Till and McCulloch Meetings in Montréal on April 30, 2012.

Despite being relatively new to the field of stem cell research, Dr. Schimmer brings extensive knowledge of chemical biology and drug discovery using robotic screening--a method known as high throughput screening that has become a valuable tool for identifying potential new therapies using stem cells. Dr. Schimmer was recognized for his article published in the November 2011 issue of the scientific journal Cancer Cell, entitled, "Inhibition of Mitochondrial Translation as a Therapeutic Strategy for Human Acute Myeloid Leukemia." In the lab, Dr. Schimmer and his team used drug screening techniques on leukemic stem cells and were able to identify existing drugs with strong potential to act as effective treatments for the devastating blood disorder.

"It is incredibly impressive how much progress Dr. Schimmer has made in such a short period of time by using these stem cell screening techniques," said Stem Cell Network Scientific Director Michael Rudnicki. "By identifying drugs which are already approved for human therapies and testing their efficacy in treating diseases such as leukemia, Dr. Schimmer has shaved years off of the clinical trial process. It is likely that his discovery will improve the outcomes for many patients in the near future."

By concentrating on Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and testing their efficacy against leukemic stem cells, Dr. Schimmer's team identified one antimicrobial agent in particular--tigecycline, an antibiotic sometimes used to treat skin and abdominal infections--as a potential treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

"When I was notified by the Stem Cell Network that I had received the award and would be presenting the Till & McCulloch Lecture, I was truly surprised--and very excited," said Dr. Schimmer. "Our lab developed a stem cell focus in very large part due to our involvement with the Stem Cell Network, so it's fitting that the relationship has come full circle. For me to stand among the most prominent names in this field is a great honour."

In 2005, the Stem Cell Network established the Till & McCulloch Award in honour of Canadians Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, whose pioneering work established the field of stem cell research. The Award had been granted at the Stem Cell Network's Annual Scientific Meeting, but became part of the Till & McCulloch Meetings this year. The previous winner was Timothy Caulfield, who was recognized for his global leadership in the field of stem cell ethics.

About the Stem Cell Network
The Stem Cell Network, established in 2001, brings together more than 100 leading scientists, clinicians, engineers, and ethicists from universities and hospitals across Canada. The Network supports cutting-edge projects that translate research discoveries into new and better treatments for millions of patients in Canada and around the world. Hosted by the University of Ottawa, the Stem Cell Network is one of Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence funded through Industry Canada and its three granting councils. For more information on the Stem Cell Network, please visit www.stemcellnetwork.ca.

About University Health Network
University Health Network consists of Toronto General, Toronto Western and Princess Margaret Hospitals, and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. The scope of research and complexity of cases at University Health Network has made it a national and international source for discovery, education and patient care. It has the largest hospital-based research program in Canada, with major research in cardiology, transplantation, neurosciences, oncology, surgical innovation, infectious diseases, genomic medicine and rehabilitation medicine. University Health Network is a research hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. www.uhn.ca

Papers noted:

  1. Skrtić M, Sriskanthadevan S, Jhas B, Gebbia M, Wang X, Wang Z, Hurren R, Jitkova Y, Gronda M, Maclean N, Lai CK, Eberhard Y, Bartoszko J, Spagnuolo P, Rutledge AC, Datti A, Ketela T, Moffat J, Robinson BH, Cameron JH, Wrana J, Eaves CJ, Minden MD, Wang JC, Dick JE, Humphries K, Nislow C, Giaever G, Schimmer AD. "Inhibition of mitochondrial translation as a therapeutic strategy for human acute myeloid leukemia." Cancer Cell, 2011 Nov 15;20(5):674-88.

Media resources:
Podcast on High Throughput Screening - "Robots on Drugs", available: http://experimental-podcast.tumblr.com/post/20443247189/high-throughput-screening

SOURCE Stem Cell Network

For further information:

Lisa Willemse
Director of Communications
Stem Cell Network
Telephone: 613 739 6673 or 613 304 2108
Email: lwillemse@stemcellnetwork.ca

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