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Innovation and research awards honour the work of deserving Canadian academics

The Governor General’s Innovation Awards, inaugural CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes, and Killam Prizes and Fellowships, were all handed out in May.

By UA/AU | MAY 25 2017

What do a stem-cell researcher, an Indigenous rights scholar and a biotechnology entrepreneur have in common? The answer may vary, but life-changing work seems to be at the heart of the matter.

At the height of the spring awards season, numerous Canadian academics are among the recipients of high-profile honours: the Governor General’s Innovation Awards, the inaugural CIHR Gold Leaf Prize, and the Killam Prizes and Fellowships. Each of these awards was presented by Canada’s Governor General, David Johnston.

GG Innovation Awards

On May 23, the second annual Governor General’s Innovation Awards were presented at Rideau Hall to six Canadian individuals, teams and organizations whose transformative work has had a positive impact on the quality of life in Canada. The winners were nominated by non-profit organizations and chosen by a committee of leaders from academe, business and cultural institutions.

Marie-Odile Junker, a linguistics professor at Carleton University, was recognized for pioneering research that explores how endangered Aboriginal languages can be preserved using information technologies. Dr. Junker was nominated by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences of Canada.

University of Guelph immunogenetics professor, Bonnie Mallard, received a GGIA in recognition of her work nationally and internationally on the High Immune Response Technology (HIR) for improving the health of dairy cattle. Dr. Mallard was nominated by Universities Canada.

Paul Santerre, a chemical engineer at the University of Toronto, was recognized for inventing Endexo technology, a special coating to help reduce clotting when patients are treated using medical devices like catheters. Dr. Santerre was nominated by the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation.

Creators of the Strongest Families institute, Drs. Patricia Lingley-Pottie and Patrick McGrath, were recognized for their work using proprietary software technology to give families more flexibility when accessing evidence-based programs across long distances. They were nominated by the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation.

Audra Renyi, founder of the World Wide Hearing Foundation, received a GGIA for her work using affordable technology to help underprivileged people with hearing loss. Ms. Renyi is also the founder and CEO of earAccess, a for-profit social enterprise, and was nominated by Grand Challenges Canada.

David Brown, a biotechnology entrepreneur, was recognized for founding MyCodev Group to produce and sell a valuable pharmaceutical ingredient that is vital to a wide variety of medical devices and drugs around the world. He was nominated by Futurpreneur Canada.

Inaugural CIHR awards

Earlier, on May 16, Rideau Hall and the Governor General also hosted the inaugural Canadian Institutes of Health Research Gold Leaf Prizes recognizing Canada’s “best and brightest” health researchers. Each prize is worth $100,000.

John Dick, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, was awarded the CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery. He is being recognized for his pioneering work as the first scientist to identify cancer stem cells. His research holds the promise for improved treatments and quality of life for cancer patients.

The CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Impact goes to an institution: the British Colombia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. For 25 years, the centre has been providing care and treatment for those living with HIV, educating health professionals and promoting evidence-based policy to protect people from the virus.

Dr. Gregory Steinberg, winner of the CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Outstanding Achievements by an Early Career Investigator. Photo courtesy of CIHR.

The CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Outstanding Achievements by an Early Career Investigator was given to Gregory Steinberg, a professor in the endocrinology and metabolism division of the department of medicine at McMaster University. His work to understand, at the molecular level, how obesity causes type 2 diabetes and the role that nutrition and exercise play in maintaining good health, shows enormous promise for the more than 10 million Canadians who have diabetes or are at high risk of developing the disease.

And finally, Charlotte Loppie, director of the Centre for Indigenous Research and Community-Led Engagement and professor at the University of Victoria, took home the CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation: Patient Engagement. Dr. Loppie is being acknowledged for her continued dedication to bringing Indigenous peoples into research projects that touch their lives.

Killam Prizes and Fellowships

The Governor General will be busy on May 30, as well, as he hands out the Killam Prizes and Killam Research Fellowships at Rideau Hall. The prizes are funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and are each worth $100,000. They honour “eminent Canadian scholars and scientists actively engaged in research,” whether in industry, government agencies or universities. The winners in each discipline are:

Natural sciences: W. Ford Doolittle is an evolutionary and molecular biologist at Dalhousie University integrating the philosophy of biology and genomic research on notions of the “tree of life” and Gaia Theory. His work in molecular genetics includes the study of lateral gene transfer, a key driver of microbial evolution and the proposition of an alternative “web of life” theory.

Social Sciences: John Borrows is a scholar and lawyer at the University of Victoria specializing in Indigenous legal rights and comparative constitutional law. He is a strong supporter of incorporating Indigenous legal concepts into the practice of Canadian law. Dr. Borrows is Anishinabe/Ojibway and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario.

Humanities: Tom Hurka is a University of Toronto philosopher whose research and teaching are about moral and political philosophy, especially normative ethical theory and asking the question “What makes a good life?” According to Dr. Hurka, the answer is pleasure, knowledge, achievement, virtue, and friendship.

Health sciences: Julio Montaner, a physician and HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of British Columbia, is credited for saving millions of lives worldwide with his bold work on highly active antiretroviral therapy and championing the “treatment as prevention” strategy. He is also a supporter of harm reduction, including safe injection sites and needle exchange programs and is currently working with the World Health Organization on prevention strategies for viral hepatitis.

Engineering: Molly Shoichet is a U of T researcher whose work centers on tissue and polymer engineering, focusing on targeted drug delivery, tissue regeneration and stem cell research. She is a strong advocate of women in science and technology careers and is widely considered to be one of the world’s finest female scientists.

In addition, six scholars have received Killam Research Fellowships, worth $70,000 a year over two years, granting them full teaching and administrative release so they may pursue independent research on a specific project. They are: Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto; Deborah J Cook, McMaster University; Eric Helleiner, University of Waterloo; Dominic McIver Lopes, University of British Columbia; Louis Taillefer, Université de Sherbrooke; and Christine Wilson, McMaster University.

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