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Bioscience researchers receive March of Dimes award


Ottawa, ON September 11, 2003 Ontario March of Dimes has announced the co-recipients of the 2003 Dr Jonas Salk Award.

Dr Harold Jennings and Dr Francis H Glorieux are the co-recipients of the $10,000 prize, which will be presented to them at the Paul Martin Sr Society Reception in Toronto on September 17.

Co-sponsored by Aventis Pasteur and Ontario March of Dimes, the award is presented each year to one or more Canadian scientists who have made a new, or significant, contribution to science or medicine in the alleviation or prevention of a disabling condition.

“When you work in this field long enough you realize success doesn’t come easily,” says Dr Jennings, who works for the National Research Council’s Institute for Biological Sciences. “But when it does, it’s sweet.”

For 36 years, Dr Jennings has been working as a chemist, specializing in vaccine research. In 1978, he and his team of researchers invented the world’s first conjugate vaccine that effectively protects infants against Group C meningitis a devastating disease that often targets infants and leaves its survivors challenged by a life of disability. This discovery has not only saved thousands of lives around the world, but it has earned the Ottawa resident the respect of the entire medical community. Today, the vaccine (which is known as NeisVac-C) is licensed in more than 25 countries and nearly 10 million doses have been sold. Currently, Dr Jennings and his team are working on several new conjugate vaccines to battle other deadly diseases, including cancer.

Dr Glorieux was selected for his outstanding achievement in developing an effective treatment for the hereditary disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta, a condition that causes abnormal bone development. Dr Glorieux discovered a treatment that allows children with this condition to improve their bone mass sufficiently enough for them to lead normal lives. In fact, his treatment has helped children with previous disabilities to become ambulatory.

Currently, Dr. Glorieux is director of research and head of the genetics unit at Shriners Hospital for Children in Montreal. Dr Glorieux, who received his medical degree from the University of Louvain, Belgium and his PhD in biology from McGill University, first became affiliated with Shriners Hospital 31 years ago as the founding scientist of research laboratories. Under his direction, the laboratories have grown to be among the most important in their field. They now include between 60 and 70 individuals devoted to research into the causes of physical disabilities in children.

Ontario March of Dimes established the Dr Jonas Salk award in 1992 in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the distribution of the Salk polio vaccine in Canada, under the authority of then minister of National Health and Welfare, Paul Martin. Shortly after the award’s inception, Aventis Pasteur, formerly known as Connaught Laboratories, joined Ontario March of Dimes in sponsoring the award. Both organizations played a key role in supporting the research and development of the Salk vaccine.