Gairdner Foundation

2016 Canada Gairdner Awards Honour CRISPR-Cas Researchers and HIV/AIDS Leaders

Toronto (ots/PRNewswire) - The Gairdner Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Canada Gairdner Awards, recognizing some of the most significant medical discoveries from around the world. This year the awards center on two defining themes including the revolutionary Clustered regularly-interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) technique for gene editing and for work in the HIV/AIDS field within Canada and internationally.

Among the world's most esteemed medical research prizes, the awards distinguish Canada as a leader in science and provide a $100,000 (CDN) prize to each scientist which they can spend as they wish. The Canada Gairdner Awards promote a stronger culture of research and innovation across the country, inspiring the next generation of researchers with the programs that bring current and past laureates to Canada to speak at 22 universities.

The selections for the Canada Gairdner International Awards, recognizing five individuals from various fields for seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science, are below. This year, the Gairdner Foundation has given its Canada Gairdner International Awards to leaders from the CRISPR-Cas field breaking it into two awards for: the adaptive immunity discovery and the development of CRISPR-Cas as a usable genome editing tool. There are a number of outstanding scientists who have made a significant impact on the CRISPR field and the Gairdner Foundation's adjudication committees have chosen to recognize five of those leaders by dedicating all five of our 2016 Canada Gairdner International Awards to the following scientists.

The first two Canada Gairdner International Awards are given to two researchers who are being awarded "for establishing and characterizing CRISPR-Cas bacterial immune defense system"

- Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou, Associate Professor, Department of Food, 
  Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences; Todd R. Klaenhammer 
  Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research North Carolina State 
  University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
- Dr. Philippe Horvath, Senior Scientist, DuPont, Dangé-Saint-Romain,
  France  The work: Dr. Barrangou and Dr. Horvath's research focused 
  on understanding the genetic basis for health-promoting and 
  technological properties of beneficial bacteria used in food 
  fermentations. Along with colleagues, they established that 
  CRISPR-Cas systems provide adaptive immunity against viruses in 
  bacteria where it recognizes foreign DNA and uses a special 
  molecular scalpel to target and destroy it. They also showed that 
  CRISPR arrays capture viral DNA for natural vaccination against 
  bacteriophages; and demonstrated that cas genes are implicated in 
  sequence-specific targeting and cleavage of DNA.  The impact: Their
  discovery established CRISPR-Cas as the adaptive immune system of 
  bacteria and has made dramatic impact on the science community, 
  setting the stage for a new research area. This inspired others to 
  investigate CRISPR further. The key advantages of CRISPR over other
  gene-editing systems are its ability to be quick, precise, 
  efficient and relatively inexpensive. And, as the scientific 
  community has shown over the past few years it is transferable to 
  many types of living organisms. The list of possible applications 
  includes: genome editing, antibacterial and antimicrobial 
  production, food safety, food production and plant breeding. 

The next three Canada Gairdner International Awards are being awarded "for development of CRISPR-CAS as a genome editing tool for eukaryotic cells." The three laureates are as follows:

- Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier, Scientific member of the Max Planck 
  Society, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Infection 
  Biology, Berlin, Germany; Professor, Umeå University, Umeå, Sweden
- Dr. Jennifer Doudna, Li Ka Shing Chancellor's Chair in Biomedical 
  and Health Sciences; Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology and 
  Professor of Chemistry at UC Berkeley; Investigator of the Howard 
  Hughes Medical Institute, Berkley, California, USA  The work: In 
  2012 Dr. Charpentier and Dr. Doudna published the description of a 
  revolutionary new genome editing technology that uses an engineered
  single-guide RNA together with the DNA-cleaving enzyme Cas9 to 
  readily manipulate the genomic DNA of individual cells. The 
  CRISPR-Cas9 technology has given biologists the equivalent of a 
  molecular surgery kit for routinely disabling, activating or 
  altering genes with high efficiency and precision. Their collective
  work has led to the breakthrough discovery of DNA cleavage by Cas9,
  a dual RNA-guided enzyme whose ability to cut double-stranded DNA 
  can be programmed by changing the guide RNA sequence. Recognizing 
  that such an activity could be employed as a molecular tool for 
  precision genome engineering in various kinds of cells, their teams
  redesigned the natural dual-RNA guide as a single-guide RNA 
  (sgRNA), creating an easy-to-use two component system.  The impact:
  This technology is transforming the fields of molecular genetics, 
  genomics, agriculture and environmental biology. RNA-guided Cas9 
  complexes are effective genome engineering agents in animals, 
  plants, fungi and bacteria. The CRISPR-Cas9 technology is being 
  used in thousands of laboratories around the world to advance 
  biological research by engineering cells and organisms in precise 
- Dr. Feng Zhang, Core Member, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; 
  Investigator, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts 
  Institute of Technology; W. M. Keck Career Development Professor in
  Biomedical Engineering, Departments of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
  and of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of 
  Technology; Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA; Robertson Investigator, 
  New York Stem Cell Foundation  The work: Dr. Zhang and his team 
  pioneered the development of the microbial CRISPR-Cas system as a 
  genome editing tools for function in eukaryotic cells. They 
  demonstrated that Cas9 can be used to make modifications at 
  multiple sites in the genome in both human and mouse cells, and 
  that the cuts made by Cas9 can be repaired through the 
  incorporation of a new stretch of DNA. Following this initial work,
  Dr. Zhang and colleagues developed a number of applications for 
  studying biology and disease based on the CRISPR-Cas technology and
  discovered additional Cas enzymes with unique properties that 
  further expand the genome editing toolbox.  Impact: These 
  CRISPR-Cas genome editing tools are significantly easier and 
  cheaper to use than previous approaches for gene editing, and they 
  are being used by tens of thousands of scientists around the world 
  to accelerate their research. Ultimately, CRISPR-Cas technologies 
  may prove to be a powerful therapeutic for treating human diseases 
  by editing out harmful mutations. 

The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award recognizes an individual who is responsible for a scientific advancement that has made a significant impact on health in the developing world. The Gairdner Foundation Board of Directors along with CIHR have changed the award name (effective March 23, 2016) to the John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award to recognize the contributions of Dr. John Dirks, President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation. Dr. Dirks is responsible for the development of the award along with building an international adjudication committee and building its brand as a world-renowned global health award.

- Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and 
  Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, 
  Maryland, USA  Awarded "for his many pioneering contributions to 
  our understanding of HIV infections and his extraordinary 
  leadership in bringing successful treatment to the developing 
  world"  The work: Dr. Fauci has made critical contributions to the 
  understanding of how HIV destroys the body's immune defenses. His 
  defining research on the mechanisms of HIV disease along with his 
  work on developing and testing drug therapies have been highly 
  influential in establishing the scientific basis for effective HIV 
  therapies and prevention modalities for patients living with 
  HIV/AIDS.  The impact: As testament to his extraordinary research 
  accomplishments, Dr. Fauci was ranked in a 2015 analysis of Google 
  Scholar citations as the 14th most highly cited researcher of all 
  time, dead or alive, in any field. In addition to his own 
  individual contributions to science, Dr. Fauci has served as 
  Director of the USA National Institute of Allergy and Infectious 
  Diseases (NIAID) for 32 years. In this role he has been a major 
  driving force and thought leader in the biomedical research 
  response to infectious diseases that have devastated many regions 
  of the developing world. He has been a key figure in marshalling 
  U.S. government support for and directing research that led to the 
  development of the antiretroviral drug combinations that have 
  transformed the lives of HIV-infected individuals, providing many 
  with an essentially normal life expectancy. One of Dr. Fauci's most
  important accomplishments was his role as the principal architect 
  of the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), 
  which over the past 13 years has been responsible for saving the 
  lives of millions of HIV-infected individuals and preventing 
  millions of HIV infections through the developing world, 
  particularly in sub-Saharan African. 

The Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, given to a Canadian who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science throughout his/her career, is awarded to:

- Dr. Frank Plummer, Special Advisor to the Chief Public Health 
  Officer, Public Health Agency of Canada; Distinguished Professor, 
  Medical Microbiology, College of Medicine, Faculty of Health 
  Sciences, University of Manitoba and former Tier 1 Canada Research 
  Chair in Resistance and Susceptibility to Infections (2001-2014)  
  Awarded "for his groundbreaking research in Africa in understanding
  HIV transmission and his leadership at the Canadian National 
  Microbiology Laboratory with pivotal roles in SARS, influenza and 
  Ebola epidemics"  The work: In the 1980s, HIV/AIDS was largely 
  viewed as a homosexual disease. Throughout the 1980s, Dr. Frank 
  Plummer conducted research, facilitated by the University of 
  Manitoba, on a large cohort of Nairobi sex workers which found that
  two thirds of them had HIV/AIDS, which was astonishing at the time.
  He also showed that about ten percent of these sex workers remain 
  HIV uninfected despite multiple exposures. This identification of 
  natural resistance to HIV has guided vaccine development 
  strategies. He further went on to conduct work on mechanisms of 
  resistance to HIV, risk factors for heterosexual transmission of 
  HIV, mother-to-child transmission of HIV and developed public 
  health strategies for control of sexually transmitted infections. 
  Further research showed that many groups in addition to these 
  female sex workers are immune to HIV. Over the next 16 years, Dr. 
  Plummer remained in Nairobi, and this led to a series of 
  investigations, international collaborations and some very 
  important discoveries about the susceptibility to HIV infection and
  transmissibility.  The impact: His original and sustained 
  contributions in this field have led to innovative strategies for 
  HIV prevention at an internationally recognized level, and are 
  being used around the world to prevent many thousands of HIV 
  infections. Dr. Plummer, Distinguished Professor, University of 
  Manitoba, is a pioneering HIV/AIDS researcher thanks to not only 
  his ground-breaking work but also his leadership as Scientific 
  Director General at the National Microbiology Laboratory in 
  Winnipeg leading their response to numerous outbreaks including his
  support and contributions to the development of the Ebola vaccine 
  programs in Canada, SARS treatment in 2003 and the 2009 H1N1 
  pandemic influenza outbreak. 

The Canada Gairdner Awards will be presented at a dinner in Toronto on October 27th, 2016 as part of the Gairdner National and Student Outreach Programs, a two week lecture series given by Canada Gairdner Award winners at more than 22 universities from St John's to Vancouver. The National Program reaches students across the country, making the superstars of science accessible and inspiring the next generation of researchers. "The Canada Gairdner Awards distinguish Canada as a leader in biomedical research, raising the profile of science both nationally and on the world stage," said Dr. John Dirks, President and Scientific Director, Gairdner Foundation. "This year's International winners are an exceptional example of the future of gene editing which is taking the research world by storm."

Dr. Dirks is retiring from the Gairdner Foundation on May 4, 2016 when Dr. Janet Rossant (Chief of Research Emeritus, The Hospital for Sick Children; Senior Scientist, University of Toronto) will begin as President and Scientific Director. Dr. Dirks has been President and Scientific Director since 1993 and during his time the profile of the Foundation has grown extensively. He internationalized the adjudication committees and expanded the Gairdner National and Student Outreach Programs to include the 22 universities across Canada. In 2008, Dr. Dirks successfully spearheaded a request to the Government of Canada to support and rename the Gairdner Awards through a grant of $20 million which enhanced the value of the awards from $30,000 to $100,000 each.

The Gairdner Foundation: Making Science Matter

The Canada Gairdner Awards were created in 1959 to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes significantly to improving the quality of human life. They are Canada's only globally known and respected international science awards, and Gairdner is the only national organization that consistently brings the world's best biomedical researchers to Canada to share their ideas and work with scientists across the country. In so doing, it enlarges networks and enhances Canada's international reputation, while providing a realistic and unbiased benchmark for Canada's leading scientists. All winners are chosen by an international adjudication committee and all choices are deemed final.

Sommer Wedlock, Director of Communications, Gairdner Foundation, , Main: +1-416-596-9996 ext.202, Cell: +1-647-293-6785

Original-Content von: Gairdner Foundation, übermittelt durch news aktuell

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