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Canadian prize celebrates visionary scientist of international stature


Toronto, ON – Canadian neuroscientist Marc Tessier-Lavigne, president of Rockefeller University, has won the 2012 Henry G Friesen International Prize.

The prize, established by the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FCIHR) in collaboration with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, recognizes exceptional innovation by a visionary health leader of international stature. President Tessier-Lavigne will receive the prize and deliver a public lecture on September 19, 2012 in Ottawa.

A quintessential translational scientist in the study of brain development, Dr Tessier-Lavigne has pioneered the identification of the molecules (netrins) that direct the formation of connections among nerve cells to establish neuronal circuits in the mammalian brain and spinal cord. The mechanisms he has identified are important for understanding how the human brain forms during normal development and in other processes, including nerve regeneration following spinal cord injury and neurodegeneration, as seen in Alzheimer’s disease. 

A native of Trenton, ON, Dr Tessier-Lavigne received undergraduate degrees from McGill University and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He received a PhD in neurophysiology from University College London in 1987, and performed postdoctoral work at University College London and at Columbia University. From 1991 to 2003, he held faculty positions at the University of California, San Francisco, and at Stanford University, where he was the Susan B Ford Professor in the Humanities and Sciences. He was also an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He joined Genentech, a leading biotechnology company, in 2003 and was promoted to executive vice president for research and chief scientific officer in 2009. He joined Rockefeller as president and professor in March 2011.

The Henry G Friesen International Prize in Health Research was established in 2005 by the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research in recognition of Dr Henry Friesen’s distinguished leadership, vision and innovative contributions to health and health research. The $35,000 prize is awarded annually.