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February 26, 2004

SickKids researcher awarded prestigious scientific prize for contributions to medical genomics

TORONTO - Dr. Stephen Scherer of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the University of Toronto (U of T) was awarded today the 2003 Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences for outstanding scientific research carried out in Canada. The prize is one of Canada's most prestigious science awards encompassing a wide range of disciplines including mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics, and biology.

Dr. Scherer received the prize for his seminal contributions in the fields of human genomics and genetic disease research. He is a senior scientist in Genetics and Genomic Biology and an associate chief of Research at SickKids , and an associate professor in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics at U of T.

Traditionally awarded to chemists, physicists and mathematicians, the prize was established in 1964 in memory of former National Research Council (NRC) President E.W.R. Steacie and gives a young scientist under the age of 40 a $15,000 prize and guest lectureship at the NRC Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences in Ottawa. Previous awardees include luminaries such as Nobel Prize Winner John Polanyi from U of T. A distinguished panel, which is appointed annually by the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fund, a private foundation dedicated to the advancement of science and engineering in Canada, selects the winner.

“ You can appreciate that comparing and judging the nominations of outstanding young researchers in all these fields is fascinating, but also very challenging,” said Dr. Robert McKellar, secretary of the Steacie Foundation. “The panel responsible for judging this year's award was particularly impressed with the fact that Stephen Scherer is both a leader and key contributor to the large-scale genomics effort. It was evident that he is a true scientific innovator, trainer and mentor.”

“It is an absolute honour to be awarded the Steacie prize and for our important research to be acknowledged,” said Dr. Scherer, who also holds an investigator award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and an international researcher scholar award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. “Our group is one of few in the world that early on studied the human genome from its highest order structure of chromosomes through to its simplest form of linear DNA sequence. This strategy coupled with the sense of acuity of a paediatric hospital environment allowed us to make numerous discoveries regarding how the genome expresses itself in development and disease.”

Working within Canada's first human genome infrastructure named The Centre for Applied Genomics, which he co-founded, Dr. Scherer's group has contributed to the mapping or discovery of some 20 disease-causing genes, many being on human chromosome 7. Dr. Scherer predicts: “The most exciting times are ahead because genomics now provides an avenue for unifying natural scientists together to provide solutions to complex biomedical problems, once considered unsolvable.”

Dr. Scherer's research is currently supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Genetic Diseases Network, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Genome Canada/Ontario Genomics Institute, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, National Institutes of Health, Ontario Innovation Trust, Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, Premier's Research Excellence Award, and The Hospital for Sick Children Foundation.

The Hospital for Sick Children, affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health. For more information, please visit http://www.sickkids.ca/ .

For more information, please contact:

Public Affairs
The Hospital for Sick Children
555 University Avenue
Suite 1742, Public Affairs, First floor Atrium
Toronto, ON
M5G 1X8
Canada
Phone: 416-813-5058
Fax: 416-813-5328