SickKids scientist Dr. Jayne Danska named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) scientist Dr. Jayne Danska has been named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women for 2022 by Women's Executive Network (WXN).
Danska was recognized for her work as an advocate and mentor for women in science as well as her research leadership, which has had groundbreaking implications for autoimmune diseases and blood cancers.
WXN recognized a total of 105 women across Canada who have contributed significantly to the advancement of women within their organizations, fields and communities.
“I am honoured to join WXN’s 2022 group of outstanding women who bring diverse lived experience to leadership in their fields. As a committed advocate for women in science and medicine, I believe in celebrating our accomplishments and supporting future leaders to advance by sharing our knowledge and experience,” says Danska, a Senior Scientist in the Genetics & Genome Biology program and Associate Chief, Faculty Development and Diversity at SickKids Research Institute.
Recognizing leadership and innovation in scientific research and research equity
Danska's research focuses on defining the molecular causes surrounding autoimmunity to support targeted treatments and prevention of autoimmune diseases and blood cancers, particularly Type 1 diabetes and acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL).
Danska and her colleagues identified novel roles for an inhibitory signaling pathway in the immune system and designed a novel immunotherapy that unleashes an individual’s own immune cells to destroy cancer cells. This discovery was published in Nature Immunology in 2007 and is now in clinical trials. With support from Industry Partnerships & Commercialization at SickKids and the University Health Network (UHN) commercialization office, she and her colleagues’ discovery led to the development of a protein biologic that blocked this inhibitory signal bolstering the immune system’s ability to destroy cancer and cancer stem cells – a key technology behind a large industry acquisition in 2021.
Another focus of Danska’s research is biological sex as a key determinant for autoimmune diseases, many of which are more common in females. Published in Science in 2013, her group demonstrated the importance of sex in determining the impact of the intestinal microbiome on autoimmunity, challenging the tendency to focus on a single sex study in biomedical research. Findings from this study helped to support policy shifts in agencies funding biomedical research in the U.S. and Canada, with the goal of supporting the development of safe and effective treatments for all genders.
Advancing women in science
Since 2018, Danska has served as Associate Chief, Faculty Development & Diversity at SickKids where she has developed and implemented innovative approaches to faculty recruitment, career development, mentorship and coaching of early-career scientists. She also established the Research Institute’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Office in 2019 and developed an EDI Action Plan, with a focus on embedding EDI best practices across health research community at SickKids.
"The more women who are encouraged into careers in science, the more research can evolve and create new avenues for discovery and translation to clinical and societal impact,” Danska says.
Today, Danska has inventorship on four successful patents and her papers in in high-impact journals, including Nature, Science, Science Immunology, Science Translational Medicine, and Cancer Research, have been cited more than 6,000 times. In addition to her roles at SickKids, Danska is also a Professor at University of Toronto in the Departments of Immunology and Medical Biophysics and she is The Anne and Max Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine at SickKids.
The Top 100 Awards span the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, with the winners selected by WXN's Diversity Council of Canada. The Award will be presented to Danska at an Awards Gala on November 17. See the full list of winners on the WXN website.