Science at the Summit: $5 million Premier’s Summit Awards to Ontario leaders in cancer and gastrointestinal research

Toronto, May 13, 2009 – One is an internationally recognized cancer biologist, the other a worldwide leader in gastrointestinal research – both are at the top of their fields and committed to translating the best research into clinical outcomes.

Two Ontario researchers – Dr. Benjamin Neel and Dr. John Wallace – were named the 2009 recipients of the Premier’s Summit Award for Medical Research at a celebration event last night held at the MaRS Centre.

The Premier’s Summit Award, established in 2007, are one of Canada’s richest prizes awarded in medical research.  Each recipient will receive $5 million over a five-year period, derived from a $2.5 million contribution from the Award program matched by $2.5 million from the sponsoring institution.  MaRS administers the Summit Awards on behalf of the Province of Ontario.

Dr. Neel specializes in the field of cell signaling.  His research focuses on the role of protein-tyrosine phosphate enzymes in the development of cancer, cardiac valve disease, diabetes and obesity.  In 2008, Dr. Neel was appointed Founding Director of The Campbell Family Cancer Research Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital, which is part of the Ontario Cancer Institute at the University Health Network.  He is also Professor of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Neel was recruited to Princess Margaret from his positions as Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Cancer Biology program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre in Boston.  As a leading scientist and trained clinician, Dr. Neel understands how clinical care and science need to be integrated for the benefit of cancer patients.  He is the author of over 140 original papers, several of which have been published in leading scientific journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Medicine and Nature Genetics.  Dr. Neel has received numerous awards, including the inaugural Gertrude Elion Award of the American Association for Cancer Research.  In 2003, he received a MERIT award (renewed in 2008) from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.  Dr. Neel is the only MERIT award recipient in Canada.

Dr. Wallace was recruited to McMaster University from the University of Calgary in 2008 as the inaugural Director of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute where he holds a senior endowed research chair for his work on the pharmacology of inflammation.  He is a Professor in the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, with expertise in the commercialization of new technology.

Dr. Wallace’s research interests are focused on mediators of inflammation and their contribution to mucosal injury and dysfunction.  He is also interested in the mechanisms of injury induced in the gastrointestinal tract by anti-inflammatory drugs, and the factors that regulate healing of ulcers.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Member of the Brazilian Academy of Science and a Fellow of the British Pharmacological Society.  He has published more than 350 peer-reviewed papers and is among the top 0.5% of biomedical scientists in the world in terms of citations.

“These two individuals embody excellence – both in their commitment to outstanding research and in bringing that research into the clinic to improve outcomes for patients,” said MaRS Chair Dr. John Evans. “We are remarkably proud of their achievements and the Province’s commitment to supporting the highest level of research excellence.”

Dr. Evans also chairs the international selection committee for the Awards with: Dr. John Bell, Nuffield Professor of Clinical Medicine and Regius Professor of Medicine, University of Oxford; Dr. David Colman, Director, Montreal Neurological Institute; Dr. Brett Finlay, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories, University of British Columbia; Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President, Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada; Dr. Henry Friesen, former President of the Medical Research Council of Canada; Sir Keith Peter, Regius Professor of Physic and head of the University’s School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge; and Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor, Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 1993

Science at the Summit

Join us to learn more about the impact of medical discoveries on health outcomes at “Science at the Summit” – a free panel discussion to be recorded by CBC Radio’s Ideas – on Friday, May 29, noon-1 p.m. at the MaRS Centre, 101 College St. with the 2009 Summit award winners, moderated Dr. John Dirks, President & Scientific Director, The Gairdner Foundation.



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