Celebrating the 2019 Gairdner Awards Luncheon
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa
This event is by invitation only.
Special Luncheon hosted by The Honourable Judith Seidman, Senate Representative of the Parliamentary Health Research Caucus, Research Canada, and the Gairdner Foundation.
The Canada Gairdner Awards celebrate the world’s best biomedical and global health researchers. The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 with the main goal of recognizing and rewarding international excellence in fundamental research that impacts human health. Annually, seven awards are given; five Canada Gairdner International Awards for biomedical research; one John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, specifically for impact on global health issues; and one Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, reserved for a Canadian. Three-hundred and eighty-eight awards have been bestowed on laureates from 35 countries and of those awardees, 89 have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes.
Winners of the 2019 Gairdner Awards were announced in Toronto on April 2, 2019. We were proud to host two of these winners the next day for a celebratory luncheon with Parliamentarians.
Dr. Susan Band Horwitz, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor, Rose C. Falkenstein Chair in Cancer Research, Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York
Awarded “For defining novel mechanisms of action and resistance of drugs of natural product origin, most significantly Taxol®, and promoting their use for treatment of cancer”
The Work: Dr. Susan Band Horwitz is best known for elucidating the mechanism of action of Taxol®, a natural product obtained from the yew tree, Taxus brevifolia. Horwitz discovered that Taxol® binds to microtubules in cells, stabilizing them, thereby leading to cell cycle arrest and subsequent tumor cell death. This body of work enabled the successful translation of Taxol® into the clinic. It is one of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world for the treatment of ovarian, breast and lung cancer.
The Impact: Dr. Horwitz’ research played a crucial role in encouraging the development of Taxol® for use in the clinic. Although no one was interested in Taxol® when she began her studies, today it is an important antitumor drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of ovarian, breast and lung carcinomas, as well as Kaposi’s Sarcoma. The drug has been given to millions of cancer patients worldwide. Taxol® also is used in the preparation of stents for cardiac disease. In addition, Taxol® has proven to be an indispensable tool for scientists interested in microtubule structure, dynamics, and function.
Dr. Connie Jean Eaves, Ph.D.
Distinguished Scientist, Terry Fox Laboratory, BC Cancer; Professor, Department of Medical Genetics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC
Awarded “For her pioneering work and leadership in the study of hematopoietic, mammary and cancer stem cells and her dedicated advocacy for early- career investigators and women in science”
The Work: Dr. Eaves’ research has focused on leukemia and breast cancer and the normal tissues in which these diseases originate. Eaves together with her husband, Allen Eaves, and a dedicated group of talented trainees developed methodologies to isolate putative stem cells from living mouse and human tissues, and detect them based on their ability to grow as single cells in specialized tissue cultures or in transplanted mice. This made it possible to quantify blood and mammary gland stem cells in different situations, and discover a hidden population of suppressed normal blood stem cells in patients with leukemia, which has stimulated a search for new therapies. Eaves also showed that leukemic stem cells are actually not dividing most of the time. Her studies of breast cells revealed that similar principles apply to understanding the normal growth of this tissue. More recently, she has developed new methods for creating human leukemia and breast cancer experimentally.
Throughout her distinguished career, Dr. Eaves has demonstrated outstanding national and international leadership. She co-founded the Terry Fox Laboratory at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, was a leader in the Canadian Stem Cell Network and held multiple senior roles in the National Cancer Institute of Canada, where she spearheaded the establishment of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance to create the first national source of breast cancer research funding in Canada.
In addition to the national and international accolades received throughout her career, Dr. Eaves is recognized for her exceptional commitment to the training of more than 100 scientists from around the world, including many now in senior leadership positions. Dr. Eaves is also a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in science, a commitment that led to her recognition as a Status of Women Canada Pioneer.
The Impact: Dr. Eaves has shown great initiative and immense talent across her five-decade career. Her dedication to multidisciplinary research and to providing the best training possible for aspiring researchers has strengthened Canadian science and garnered international recognition.
Eaves’ scientific findings have been paradigm-shifting, driving the field of stem cell research forward. Her provision of reproducible and rigorously quantitative methods for analysing the rare cells responsible for maintaining normal blood and mammary tissues has enabled many new lines of research. Eaves continues to apply cutting-edge technology and elegant experimental design to the most pertinent problems in stem cell biology and cancer research, constantly contributing to the ongoing pursuit of cures.