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Neurobiologist receives award for contribution to spinal cord research (December 18, 2006)


Montreal, QC – Dr Pierre Drapeau, a researcher funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and professor and chairman of pathology and cell biology at the Universite de Montreal, has been named the 2006 recipient of the Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research.

The award recognizes Dr Drapeau’s research, which studies the development of the spinal cord in the zebrafish embryo, a leading model for vertebrate development and genetics. Dr Drapeau has developed a way to effectively replace zebrafish genes by human genes. By doing this he is able to test the effect of human genetic mutations, known to result in diseases of the spinal cord and brain, in an animal model organism. He has recently discovered that signaling between nerve cells is important not only in the mature spinal cord but also from the earliest stages of development, for the growth of specialized nerve cells and their correct assembly in the spinal cord.

“This prize arrives at an opportune time, just as I am setting up my new lab at the Universite de Montreal,” says Dr Drapeau. “It encourages me to open new doors and to remember that people like Ms Turnbull will one day benefit from the advancements we achieve in laboratories.”

The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research is an annual prize established in 2001 that supports an outstanding researcher, identified through the CIHR’s investigator-initiated grants competition, who contributes to the advancement of world-leading spinal cord research conducted in Canada.

“This is the only award in Canada that encourages Canadian health researchers to broaden their specialization while adding momentum to the on-going search for a cure to spinal cord injuries,” says Dr Rmi Quirion, scientific director of the CIHR-INMHA. “Dr Drapeau is an eminent neurobiologist and his work with zebrafish is innovative and pushes us closer to understanding spinal cord growth and repair.”

The $50,000 prize aligns the efforts of three national organizations: the Barbara Turnbull Foundation (BTF), NeuroScience Canada (NSC), and CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction (CIHR-INMHA).