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About Sickkids
About SickKids

David Kaplan, PhD

Research Institute
Senior Scientist
Neurosciences & Mental Health

University of Toronto
Department of Molecular Genetics

Institute of Medical Sciences Graduate Program

Chair Positions

Brain Canada
Co-Chair, Scientific Advisory Council

Phone: 416-813-7654 ext. 301433
Fax: 416-813-2212
Email: david.kaplan@sickkids.ca

For more information, visit:

Freda Miller / David Kaplan Lab

Brief Biography

David Kaplan received his BA from Clark University in Worcester, MA, in 1978, and his PhD from Harvard University in Cambridge, MA in 1987. His PhD thesis work with Dr. Thomas Roberts at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute identified and characterized the regulatory subunit of the signal transducing protein PI-3 kinase. Dr. Kaplan performed his post-doctoral studies from 1988-1990 at the University of California, San Francisco with Dr. Harold Varmus, identifying novel substrates that interact with growth factor receptors.

In 1990, Dr. Kaplan established a laboratory at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, MD where, in collaboration with Luis Parada's laboratory, he identified Trk as the receptor for nerve growth factor. In 1996, Dr. Kaplan relocated his laboratory to the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill where he was a professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery, research head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre, and William Feindel Chair in Neuro-oncology.

In 2002, he became a senior scientist and head of cancer research at The Hospital for Sick Children and professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Cancer and Neuroscience. His laboratory focuses upon examining signal transduction processes in neurons, stem cells and neural tumour cells.

Research Interests

  • Signal transduction by protein kinases in neurons, stem cells and neural tumour cells
  • Signal transduction pathways regulating the development, survival, growth, and regeneration of neurons
  • Signal transduction pathways regulating the survival, proliferation, and migration of neuroblastoma and brain tumor cells.
  • Drug discovery for agents that promote neuronal survival, stem cell function, and cancer cell death

External Funding

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (F. Miller PI, D. Kaplan co-applicant). 
    Aging and degeneration in the mammalian nervous system: role of the p53 family
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (F. Miller PI, D. Kaplan co-applicant).
    Developmental dysgenesis of the mammalian brain: underlying mechanisms
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (D. Kaplan PI, F. Miller co-applicant). 
    Signaling pathways regulating neuronal growth
  • Solving Kid’s Cancer Foundation (USA) (D. Kaplan PI).
    Niche-specific therapeutic development for neuroblastoma
  • James Birrell Neuroblastoma Research Fund (D. Kaplan PI) 
    Niche-specific therapeutic development for neuroblastoma-Partnership for Solving Kid’s Cancer grant
  • Ontario Institute of Cancer Research (J. Dick PI)
    OICR Cancer Stem Cell Program
  • Canadian Stem Cell Network (D. Kaplan PI, A. Schimmer Co-PI, S. Weiss, J. Hassell co-applicants).
    Drug Discovery using Cancer Stem Cells
  • James Birrell Neuroblastoma Research Fund (D. Kaplan PI)
    Drug discovery for cancer stem cells - Partnership for Stem Cell Network grant
  • Lilah’s Fund (Neuroblastoma Research) (D. Kaplan PI)
    Drug discovery for neuroblastoma - Partnership for Stem Cell Network grant
  • Canadian Stem Cell Network (F. Miller PI, D. Kaplan, D. van der Kooy, C. Moorshead, F. Rossi co-applicants).
    Regenerative Networks: Recruiting adult Stem Cells for Tissue Repair
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Emerging Team Grant (F. Miller PI, D. Kaplan, S. Weiss, W. Tetzlaff, B. Kwon, co-applicants). 
    Stem cells to treat spinal cord injury
  • Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute (M. Irwin PI, D. Kaplan Co-investigator).
    Novel therapies for metastatic neuroblastoma
  • Terry Fox Research Institute (G. Cairncross PI, D. Kaplan, M. Marra, S. Robbins, W. Mason, S. Weiss, Co-PIs). 
    Modeling and therapeutic targeting of the clinical and genetic diversity of malignant glioma


  • Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Injury Research, CIHR Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addiction, Barbara Turnbull Foundation, Neuroscience Canada Foundation (2003)
  • William Feindel Chair in Neuro-oncology, Montreal Neurological Institute, McGill University (2001)
  • Research Scientist Award, Canadian Cancer Society (1996-2002)
  • Harold E. Johns Award for most outstanding applicant for a CCS Research Scientist Award, National Cancer Institute of Canada (1996)
  • National Research Service Award for Post Doctoral Fellowship, National Institutes of Health (1988-1990)
  • Richard K. Smith Award and Seminar, Dana Farber Cancer Institute (1986)


Wang, J. (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Gallagher, D., DeVito, L.M., Cancino, G.I., Tsui, D., Keller, G.M., Frankland, P.W., Kaplan, D.R., and F.D. Miller. 2012. Metformin activates atypical PKCs to promote rodent and human neurogenesis and enhance hippocampus-associated memory. Cell Stem Cell, 11:23-35.  

Cancino, G.I. (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Miller, F.D., and D.R. Kaplan. 2012. Haploinsuffiency for p73 leads to tau hyperphosphorylation and kinase dysregulation in the aged brain and in Alzheimer’s disease models. Neurobiology of Aging, May 14 published online.

Grinshtein, N., Datti, A., Fujitani, M., Uehling, D., Prakesch, M., Isaac, M. Irwin, M., Wrana, J.L., Al-awar, R., and D.R. Kaplan. 2011. Small molecule kinase inhibitor screen identifies Polo-like Kinase 1 as a novel target for neuroblastoma tumor-initiating cells. Cancer Research 71:1385-95.

Fujitani, M. (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Cancino, G.I., Dugani, C.B., Weaver, I., Gauthier-Fisher, A., Paquin, A., Mak, T.W., Wojtowicz, J.M., Miller, F.D., and D.R. Kaplan. 2010. TAp73 regulates the self-renewal and maintenance of CNS neural stem cells. Current Biology 20:2058-65.

Smith, K.M., Datti, A., Zhang, L., Fujitani, M., Morozova, O., Blakely, K.M., Rotenberg, S., Hansford, L.M., Miller, F.D., Yeger, H., Irwin, M.S., Moffat, J., Marra, M.A.,  Baruchel, S., Wrana, J., and D.R. Kaplan. 2010. Selective targeting of neuroblastoma tumor-initiating cells by compounds identified in a stem cell-based small molecule screen. EMBO Molecular Medicine 2:371-384.

Naska, S. (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Lin, D.C., Miller, F.D., and D.R. Kaplan. 2010. p75NTR-Rho signaling is required for semaphorins to cause sympathetic neuron growth cone collapse. Molec. Cell. Neurosci. 45:108-120.

Park K.J. (co-supervised with F. Miller), Ayala-Grosso C., Laver, J., Aubert, I., Kaplan, D.R. and Miller, F.D. 2010. p75NTR-dependent, myelin-mediated axon degeneration maintains the specificity of axonal connectivity in the intact nervous system. Nat. Neurosci. 13:559-66. 

Wang J. (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Weaver I., Wang H., Yeomans J., Wondisford F., Kaplan D.R., and Miller F.D. 2010. CBP histone acetyltransferase activity regulates embryonic mouse neural stem cell differentiation in the normal and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome brain. Dev. Cell 18: 114-125.

Wetzel MK (co-supervised with Freda Miller), Naska S, Laliberté CL, Rymar VV, Fujitani M, Biernaskie JA, Cole CJ, Lerch JP, Spring S, Frankland PW, Henkelman RM, Josselyn SA, Sadikot A, Miller FD, Kaplan DR. (2008) p73 regulates neurodegeneration and phospho-tau accumulation during aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Neuron 59:708-721.

Kaplan, D.R. and F.D. Miller. (2007) Developing with BDNF: a moving experience. Neuron 55:1-2.  


  • D.R. Kaplan, D. Martin-Zanca, and L. Parada. “The Trk tyrosine kinase is the physiological receptor for nerve growth factor.”  U.S. Patent 5,321,001, also in Europe, Japan.
  • D.R. Kaplan and L. Parada. “The Trk tyrosine kinase is the physiological receptor for nerve growth factor.”  U.S. Patent 5,811,396.
  • D.R. Kaplan and L. Parada. “The Trk tyrosine kinase is the physiological receptor for nerve growth factor.”  U.S. Patent 5,817,471.
  • L. Parada. D. Soppet, D.R. Kaplan and D. Martin-Zanca, “The nerve growth factor/receptor complex.”  U.S. Patent 6,071,709.
  • D.R. Kaplan, F.D. Miller, and H.N. Marsh.  “Use of SHP-1 and SHP-2 to detect compounds involved in neuronal survival.”  Patent approved in Europe.
  • R. Aloyz, D.R. Kaplan, and F.D. Miller.  “A method for identifying compounds that regulate neuronal survival.” Patent approved in Europe.
  • L. Hansford, K.M. Smith, K. SmithA. Datti, F.D. Miller, and D.R. Kaplan. “Cancer stem cells and uses thereof.” U.S. patent issued on December 15, 2009, No. 7,632,678.
  • F. Miller, D. Kaplan, K. Smith, M. Paris, and S. Naska. “Compositions for proliferation of cells and related methods.” Publication date, December 8, 2011, application number 20110301105.

Companies Founded

  • Aegera Therapeutics (previously Exogen Neurosciences), incorporated in 1997; merged with Apoptogen in 2000.
  • Reveille Inc. 2010

Intellectual Property

  • Chemicals Affecting Neuroblastoma
  • Corporate Ventures