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Dr Janet Rossant wins Henry G Friesen International Prize in Health Research


Toronto, ON – Internationally renowned developmental and stem cell biologist Dr. Janet Rossant has won the 2016 Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research.

Her research has demonstrated the origin of cells in the early embryo that can give rise to all tissues and the entire body of an intact animal, as well as the cells that give rise to the placenta. This fundamental research informed the development of human pluripotent stem cells that have the potential to treat devastating degenerative diseases.

The former chief of research of the Research Institute at the Hospital for Sick Children (2005-2015), she also directed the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative and served as scientific director of the Ontario Institute of Regenerative Medicine. In May 2016, she will become the president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation.

Born in Chatham, Kent (UK), she obtained a BA at Oxford University and PhD at Cambridge University. She joined Brock University in 1977 and in 1985 came to the University of Toronto, first at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital and from 2005 at the Hospital for Sick Children. As university professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto, she supervised dozens of graduate and postgraduate students. She also led the formation of the Collaborative Program in Developmental Biology at the University of Toronto. She and her collaborating progeny have published over 384 peer-reviewed articles in top journals.

As a public advocate, she has played a leading role in setting public policy regarding stem cell research. Her expertise in stem cell biology informed the scientific and ethical debate surrounding cloning and human embryonic stem cell research in Canada and the US. She also had a major role in establishing guidelines for human embryonic stem cell research in Canada and beyond.

She has received many distinctions including 4 honorary degrees, fellowships in the Royal Society of London and Canada, 15 major national and international prizes, including the Michael Smith Prize, the Killam Prize and the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award.

Dr. Aubie Angel, president, Friends of CIHR, notes that: “Janet Rossant’s selfless commitment to science, education and human well-being is exceptional and profound.”

The Friesen Prize, established in 2005 by the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research (FCIHR) recognizes exceptional innovation by a visionary health leader of international stature. Dr. Rossant will deliver a public lecture this fall in conjunction with the annual meetings of collaborating scientific societies and will also visit a number of Canadian universities and institutes. The $35,000 Friesen Prize is awarded annually.