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Innovators celebrated in Ontario with awards


Toronto, ON – Ontario’s provincial government celebrated top scientific achievements yesterday at the 2009 Premier’s Innovation Awards.

A total of $12.95 million was awarded to the science and business winners in three categories: Summit , Discovery and Catalyst.

The Summit Awards recognize exceptional medical researchers and help them to expand their programs. These winners are internationally recognized leaders whose work is transformative in their fields. The awards are co-sponsored by MaRS Discovery District, University Health Network and McMaster University.

Each winner will receive up to $5 million over a five-year period: a $2.5 million contribution from the award program matched by $2.5 million from their sponsoring institution.

The Summit Award recipients are:

Dr Benjamin Neel, The Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital, University Health Network, Toronto. Dr Neel’s focus is cell signalling, particularly signalling abnormalities associated with two types of human disease: a set of developmental disorders often linked with several types of childhood and adult leukemia and HER2+ breast cancer.

Dr John Wallace, McMaster University, Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, Hamilton. Recently described as an international superstar in the field of gastrointestinal research, Dr Wallace came to Ontario from the University of Calgary. His focus is on gaining a better understanding of the causes of common digestive disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and colon cancer, as well as the ulcers that can arise from using painkillers and arthritis medication.

The Premier’s Discovery Awards celebrate Ontario’s most accomplished researchers, highlighting their individual achievements and showcasing Ontario’s attractiveness as a global research centre. The awards recognize excellence in research for either a single discovery or a body of work in five categories:

– Life Sciences and Medicine ($500,000)
– Natural Sciences and Engineering ($500,000)
– Social Sciences ($250,000)
– Arts and Humanities ($250,000)
– Innovation Leadership ($250,000)

The Discovery Award recipients are:

1) Life Sciences and Medicine: Dr John Smol, Queen’s University, Kingston. A paleolimnology specialist, Dr Smol’s innovative approaches have provided important insights into acid rain, climate change, biodiversity, fisheries, contaminant transport and other lake and river management issues, and led to the development of applications for effective ecosystem management.

2) Natural Sciences and Engineering: Dr Paul Corkum, University of Ottawa, Ottawa. Dr Corkum pioneered the attosecond laser pulse, which allowed him to capture the first picture of an electron orbiting a molecule at the almost unimaginable speed of a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a second.

3) Social Sciences: Dr Will Kymlicka, Queen’s University, Kingston. Dr Kymlicka is the world’s leading expert on multiculturalism and minority rights in democratic societies.

4) Arts and Humanities: Dr David Bentley, The University of Western Ontario, London. Without Dr Bentley is a specialist in early Canadian literature.

Innovation Leadership: Dr Ming Li, University of Waterloo, Waterloo. Bioinformatics specialist Dr Li’s work has been influential, widely referenced and profitably commercialized through his company, Bioinformatics Solutions. His software for protein structure prediction and for identifying proteins is used by scientists in leading genomics research centres worldwide to advance drug discovery.

The Premier’s Catalyst Awards are presented to companies that have championed a new or significantly improved product or service based on breakthrough technology. Innovations must be commercially successful and have the potential to enhance Ontario’s economy, society or sustainable development. An award of $200,000 is given in each category.

Catalyst Award recipients are:

1) Best Young Innovator: Dr Bin Ma, Bioinformatics Solutions, Waterloo. In 2002 Dr Ma developed software that has filled a pressing need for accurate and rapid protein identification which helps accelerate drug development.

2) Innovator of the Year: Dr Navid Zargari. Dr Zargari’s was instrumental in developing the world’s first transformerless medium voltage motor drive for Rockwell Automation. Medium voltage drives are used by a range of advanced manufacturers and eliminate the need for a transformer.

3) Start-up Company with the Best Innovation: Cinevate, Thunder Bay. Dennis Wood started Cinevate in the basement of his home and the company has become a leader in the field of optical and cinematography products.

4) Company with the Best Innovation: Sanofi Pasteur, Toronto. Founded in 1914 as Connaught Laboratories, the company has been at the forefront of vaccine research and development ever since. Among its innovations is a vaccine for children that protects against five serious diseases – diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio and Heamophilus Influenzae type b – with just one shot.

5) Company with the Best Innovation. Unitron Hearing, Kitchener. The company developed an intelligent hearing aid that uses real-time digital signal processing, user-interface design, mechanical design and ergonomics. The result is a smaller hearing aid that delivers more personalized listening satisfaction in every environment.

6) Lifetime Leadership in Innovation: Dr Scott Vanstone, Waterloo. Dr Vanstone developed the technology used in top-secret, mission-critical and sensitive data and communications. The technology uses sophisticated mathematics to secure a wide array of high technology hardware and software products – from cell phones to smart cards, wireless emails to e-commerce.