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Scientist the first Canadian to win top German medical prize


Toronto, ON November 12, 2003 Dr Tak Mak, a senior scientist at Princess Margaret Hospital’s Ontario Cancer Institute for the past 25 years and founding director of the Advanced Medical Discovery Institute, has been selected to receive Germany’s most distinguished award for biomedical research.

Dr Mak, also a professor of medical biophysics and immunology at the University of Toronto, becomes the first Canadian to be chosen for the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, which comes with an endowment of 100,000 EUROS (approx. C$153,000). The award will be shared with Dr Mark M Davis of Stanford University, and recognizes both of the scientists for their pioneering work on T-cell receptors.

In 1984, Dr Mak became the first to clone the genes for the human T-cell receptor, a key part of the immune system. The T-cell receptor plays a major role in allowing the body to identify virus-infected cells and target them for destruction. His landmark scientific paper has been cited more than 1,200 times since it was published in 1984, and has allowed great advancements in understanding and treating diseases such as AIDS, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

“It is a great honor to receive this international recognition,” says Dr Mak, who is also a leader in determining the role of genes that regulate life and death in cells and has developed numerous models of cancer. Dr Mak holds honorary doctoral degrees from universities in North America and Europe, is an officer of the Order of Canada, and has been elected a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (UK). Dr Mak has won international recognition in the forms of the Emil von Behring Prize, the King Faisal Prize for Medicine, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the Sloan Prize of the General Motors Cancer Foundation.

“We are very proud of Dr Mak and the international recognition he has earned for his important discovery,” says Tom Closson, CEO and president of University Health Network. “He continues to lead an impressive team of scientists and researchers that are continually rewriting the way science and health are understood around the globe.”

Since the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize was created in 1952, more than 90 of the world’s top scientists have been honored for their research. Dr Mak will receive the award for 2004 at a ceremony in Frankfurt on March 14, 2004.