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HIV/AIDS specialist to be named Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year


Ottawa, ON – Canada’s top health researchers will be recognized tonight at the 6th annual Canadian Health Research Awards. The awards are among the Canadian research community’s highest honours.

This year’s Health Researcher of the Year in the category of Biomedical and Clinical Research will be Dr Francis Plummer of the National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Dr Plummer will be awarded the prestigious CIHR Michael Smith Prize for his world-class research on HIV resistance and work on an HIV vaccine.

The Health Researcher of the Year in the Health Services and Systems and Population Health Research category will be Dr Peter Singer from the University of Toronto. Dr Singer will receive the esteemed CIHR Michael Smith Prize for his research focusing on using life sciences to improve health in developing countries.

Canada’s Premier Young Researcher will be Dr Michael B Reed from McGill University. He will be presented with the Peter Lougheed/CIHR New Investigator Award for his important research on tuberculosis. Dr Wilbert J Keon, Senator, will be named the 2007 Champion of Health Research. He will receive the CIHR Distinguished Leadership Award for his pioneering efforts creating Canada’s largest research and clinical artificial heart development program.

The Canadian Health Research Awards, which will be held tonight in Ottawa at the National Gallery of Canada, are hosted by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), in collaboration with the federal government, the Health Charities Coalition of Canada, Research Canada – An Alliance for Health Discovery, the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations, the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, Canada’s provincial health research organizations and the Globe and Mail.

The following individuals and organizations are among those being recognized for their outstanding contributions to improving the health of Canadians:

– Dr Francis Plummer (chief science advisory and scientific director general, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada) is the recipient of the CIHR Michael Smith Prize in Health Research – Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in the category of Biomedical and Clinical Research. Dr Francis Plummer is one of the world’s leading specialists in HIV/AIDS. His work has also led to low-cost interventions to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, tools that have been adopted by UNAIDS and the World Bank.

– Dr Peter Singer (senior scientist, McLaughlin Rotman Centre, University Health Network and professor of medicine at the University of Toronto) is the recipient of the CIHR Michael Smith Prize in Health Research – Canada’s Health Researcher of the Year in the category of Health Services and Systems and Population Health Research. His core ideas include learning how to move life sciences technologies from ‘lab to village’ and discovering how determining how countries can accelerate commercialization of life sciences for health and economic development.

– Dr Wilbert J. Keon (Senator, the Senate of Canada) is the 2007 Champion of Health Research. He receives the CIHR Distinguished Leadership Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership qualities and support by individuals for health research. Dr Keon’s has pioneered many groundbreaking clinical innovations that are now standard practice; these include surgical reperfusion in acute heart attacks. As a senator he has participated in numerous major health- and science-related reports, including reports on Canada’s health care system and on mental health.

– Dr Michael B Reed (assistant professor, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University) is the recipient of the Peter Lougheed/CIHR New Investigator Award – Canada’s Premier Young Researcher. This award is given to Canada’s brightest young health researchers at the beginning of their careers. Dr Reed’s research focuses on better understanding strain variation within the tuberculosis bacterium, studying and characterizing the unique attributes of the Beijing strain lineage that help it adapt to the diverse environmental conditions it encounters within the human host.

– Dr Thomas Kerr (Michael Smith Foundation for Health research scholar, research scientist, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, assistant professor, department of medicine, University of British Columbia) is the national recipient of the CIHR Knowledge Translation Award. This award recognizes an exceptional individual or team currently involved in a collaborative health research or development project that aims to advance and expand the understanding of knowledge translation. Dr Kerr’s research evaluating North America’s first safe injecting facility, Vancouver’s Eastside medical injection site program, has contributed significantly to academic, public and government discussions on the subject of injection drug use and HIV/AIDS.

– Dr Ron Zernicke (executive director, Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute) is the recipient of the CIHR Partnership Award for his work in designing one-stop clinics for hip and knee replacements where patients have access to a multidisciplinary team of health-care providers. This award recognizes partnerships that bring health research communities together to create innovative approaches to important research challenges. The Alberta Bone and Joint Health Institute worked with the Alberta Orthopaedic Society, three Regional Health Authorities and Alberta Health and Wellness on a one-year randomized controlled study of the new approach. The model is now being expanded to all health regions in Alberta, and the knowledge is being shared with health-care providers across Canada.

– Pamela Kolopack (graduate student, University of Toronto) is the recipient of the CIHR Douglas Kinsella Doctoral Award for Research in Bioethics. Ms Kolopack’s work will contribute to the development of an improved framework for the analysis of the ethics of proposed public health research initiatives.

– Dr Filio Billia (clinician-scientist trainee, University Health Network) is the recipient of the CIHR BIOTECanada Schering Plough Canada Fellowship. The award is presented to the highest-ranked postdoctoral fellowship candidate in the fields of immunology, infectious and inflammatory diseases, cardiovascular conditions, allergies and respiratory problems. Working under Dr Rudiger van Harsdorf of the University Health Network, Dr Billia is studying why the cardiac muscle cells that make up the heart are unable to replicate, by identifying signaling pathways that are responsible for keeping the cells in this state of arrest.

– Bechara Saab (PhD student, Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto) is the recipient of the CIHR Synapse Youth Mentorship Award. This award recognizes the efforts of a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow who has made exceptional efforts to promote health research among Canada’s high school students.