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Seven scientists win Canada Gairdner Awards for 2009


Toronto, ON – Seven of the world’s leading medical scientists have won Canada’s most prestigious international award, for discoveries ranging from stem cells to cancer vaccines. Over the past 50 years, some 298 scientists have won “Gairdners,” among them 73 who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

Dr John Dirks, president of the Gairdner Foundation, today officially launched the Gairdner’s 50th anniversary program by announcing the 2009 awardees. A Canada Gairdner Award comes with a cash prize of $100,000. Recipients also take part in academic and public lectures and forums held across Canada before they receive their awards at a dinner in Toronto on October 29. The awardees are selected by two separate judging panels made up of Canadian and international medical researchers.

This year, the foundation has also launched its first individual award in Global Health, which recognizes the role medical discovery plays in advancing our knowledge and the reduction of the burden of diseases entrenched in the developing world.

“The scientists who add to our biomedical knowledge face huge odds,” said Dr Dirks. “All the more reason we should celebrate success in medical discovery when it happens.”

The 2009 Canada Gairdner awardees are:

Canada Gairdner International Awards for discoveries in medical science:

– Dr Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, “for his demonstration that the key transcription factors which specify pluripotency may become reprogrammed somatic cells to pluripotent stem cells.”

– Dr Richard Losick, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and Dr Lucy Shapiro, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, “for their discovery of mechanisms that define cell polarity and asymmetric cell division, processes key in cell differentiation and in the generation of cell diversity.”

– Dr Kazutoshi Mori , Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan, and Dr Peter Walter, University of California, San Francisco, CA, “for their dissection and elucidation of a key pathway in the unfolded protein response which regulates protein folding in the cell.”

Canada Gairdner Wightman Award for leadership in Canadian medicine:

– Dr David Sackett, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, “for his leadership in the fields of clinical epidemiology and evidence-based medicine, which have had major impacts internationally in applied clinical research and in the practice of medicine.”

Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for scientific advances relevant to the developing world:

– Dr Nubia Munoz, Emeritus Professor, National Cancer Institute, Colombia, Consultant, Catalan Institute of Oncology, Spain, “for her epidemiological studies that defined the essential role of the human papilloma virus in the etiology of cervical cancer on a global level which led to the development of successful prophylactic vaccines.”

The announcement of the 2009 Gairdner Awardees launches a nation-wide celebration of the Gairdner’s 50th anniversary. Events include:

– 7 major symposia across the country, on subjects ranging from personalized medicine to commercializing biomedical science to opening the frontiers of brain research.

– Three days of lectures, panels, public forums and interviews from October 28-30 in Toronto with 50 past Canada Gairdner Awardees, including 20 Nobel Laureates. This will be the largest gathering of the world’s top scientists ever held in Canada.

– Throughout October, over 50 Canada Gairdner Laureates will take part in talks with academics, researchers, biotech and pharma companies, government leaders, graduate and post-graduate students, high school students, the media, and the public.