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Stem cell scientist receives Till and McCulloch Award


Ottawa, ON – Dr Aaron Schimmer, associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Medical Biophysics and a clinician-scientist in the Princess Margaret Cancer Program/Ontario Cancer Institute at University Health Network, has received the 2012 Till & McCulloch Award, presented each year by the Stem Cell Network in recognition of the year’s most influential peer-reviewed article by a researcher in Canada. Dr Schimmer will accept the award and present a lecture entitled “Novel therapeutic strategies to target leukemia stem cells” as part of the Till and McCulloch Meetings in Montréal on April 30, 2012.

Despite being relatively new to the field of stem cell research, Dr Schimmer brings extensive knowledge of chemical biology and drug discovery using high throughput screening. He was recognized for his article published in the November 2011 issue of Cancer Cell entitled, “Inhibition of Mitochondrial Translation as a Therapeutic Strategy for Human Acute Myeloid Leukemia.” In the lab, Dr Schimmer and his team used drug screening techniques on leukemic stem cells and were able to identify existing drugs with strong potential to act as effective treatments for the devastating blood disorder.

“It is incredibly impressive how much progress Dr Schimmer has made in such a short period of time by using these stem cell screening techniques,” said Michael Rudnicki, scientific director of the Stem Cell Network. “By identifying drugs which are already approved for human therapies and testing their efficacy in treating diseases such as leukemia, Dr Schimmer has shaved years off of the clinical trial process. It is likely that his discovery will improve the outcomes for many patients in the near future.”

By concentrating on Federal Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs and testing their efficacy against leukemic stem cells, Dr Schimmer’s team identified one antimicrobial agent in particular – tigecycline, an antibiotic sometimes used to treat skin and abdominal infections – as a potential treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

“When I was notified by the Stem Cell Network that I had received the award and would be presenting the Till & McCulloch Lecture, I was truly surprised – and very excited,” said Dr Schimmer. “Our lab developed a stem cell focus in very large part due to our involvement with the Stem Cell Network, so it’s fitting that the relationship has come full circle. For me to stand among the most prominent names in this field is a great honour.”

In 2005, the Stem Cell Network established the Till & McCulloch Award in honour of Canadians Drs James Till and Ernest McCulloch, whose pioneering work established the field of stem cell research.