Lab Canada

Dr John Evans wins international prize in health research (September 17, 2007)

Montreal, AC – Dr John R Evans, the creative genius behind the landmark McMaster University Medical School and Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, has been awarded the 2007 Henry G Friesen International Prize in Health Research in recognition of his exceptional leadership, vision and innovation.

The annual Friesen International Prize recognizes a visionary and groundbreaking medical scientist who has impacted significantly the way the health sector functions worldwide. The award is given by the Friends of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Dr Evans’ contributions began with his development of the McMaster Medical School model in the early 1970s where he became founding dean at the young age of 35.

The McMaster Medical School was considered radical in its day, and often laughed at, by more traditional programs until finally the model caught the attention of Harvard University, which changed its medical school curriculum to match the innovative McMaster model.

Dr Evans brought his spirit of collaboration to his establishment of the MaRS Discovery District (MaRS DD) in the heart of Toronto’s hospitals and research institutes. MaRS is a not-for-profit corporation founded by leaders from business and the public sector to improve the commercialization of Canada’s discoveries in science and technology. The centre opened in 2005, and while it is still early to measure its success, the innovation is helping to ensure that Canadians receive the full economic benefits of their investment in scientific technology research and development.

“MaRS is in place to help Canadian discoveries make a positive difference to the health and quality of life for Canadians and others throughout the world,” he says. “It is important that we strengthen Canada’s ability to commercialize innovation arising from its substantial investment in academic research to benefit the health and economic future of Canadians.”

The MaRS project spans two acres and is home to scientists, venture finance and established businesses as well as legal and management specialists. There are 27 start up companies in the MaRS “incubator” and over 200 companies have benefited from advice from business development mentors.

“Dr John Evans is a remarkable visionary in health research,” says Dr Aubie Angel, president of the Friends of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “From the founding of the McMaster Medical School to his presidency at the University of Toronto and his service with international health initiatives, founding chair of the Canada Foundation for Innovation and now his leadership in the MaRS project, Dr Evans has been the outstanding Canadian medical leader of his generation.”