Lab Canada

New Douglas Institute director receives L’Oral-UNESCO award

Montreal, QC – Professor Brigitte Kieffer, the newly arrived scientific director of the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Research Centre, is receiving the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award in a ceremony that will take place on March 19 in Paris.

The award, bestowed by the L’Oréal Foundation and UNESCO, recognizes the exceptional career paths and contribution of women scientists worldwide. Brigitte Kieffer has been selected as the winner for Europe for her research at the Institut de génétique et de biologie moléculaire et cellulaire (IGBMC), in Strasbourg. Four other women scientists will receive the prize, one from each continent.

Dr. Kieffer’s work has paved the way for a better understanding of the brain mechanisms involved in pain, mental illness and drug addiction. In 1992, she succeeded in cloning and isolating the gene for an opioid receptor in the brain that plays a key role in alleviating pain, a puzzle which scientists around the world had been trying to solve for over 15 years. Her findings have laid the foundations for new treatments for pain, addiction, and depression.

“We are proud that a scientist of such international stature has chosen to take on the leadership of the research centre, providing great promise for new breakthroughs in mental illness,” said Lynne McVey, RN, MSc., chief executive officer of the Douglas Institute.

Dr. Kieffer graduated from the University of Strasbourg, where she later became a professor. She then went on to become research director at the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale (Inserm) in France. She developed her main research activity at the Institut de génétique et de biologie moléculaire et cellulaire (IGBMC) in Strasbourg in 2001 and directed the institute from 2012 to 2013.

She joined Douglas Institute Research Centre in January, and will pursue her research while directing a team of over 300 people. She also holds the Monique H. Bourgeois chair in pervasive developmental disorders at the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, in addition to a position as professor in the Department of Psychiatry.

The candidates for the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards were nominated by a network of more than 1,000 international scientists. Among them, five winners were selected by an independent jury composed of twelve eminent members of the international scientific community, chaired by Professor Günter Blobel, Nobel Prize in Medicine.