U of T news

U of T researcher wins inaugural CIHR’s Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery

John Dick is a professor in molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology and a senior scientist with the University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (photo courtesy of UHN)

John Dick, the first scientist to identify cancer stem cells, is the winner of the inaugural Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery awarded this week by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Dick is a professor in molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, a Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Biology and a senior scientist with the University Health Network’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

The $100,000 prize is in recognition of Dick’s pioneering work leading to his ground-breaking discovery in 1994, the CIHR said in a news release, adding his research “holds the promise for improved treatments and quality of life for cancer patients.”

“The University of Toronto congratulates Dr. Dick on winning the first-ever Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery for his cancer stem cell discovery that is continuing to profoundly transform cancer research since his results were published almost three decades ago,” said Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation.

“We’d also like to thank the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for their continued support of critical research that has the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of Canadians and people around the world.”

Dick is also playing a key role in U of T’s Medicine by Design initiative, which is bringing together researchers across U of T and its affiliated hospitals to accelerate breakthroughs in regenerative medicine.

As the chief investigator in charge of the project: Pathways to enhance the clinical utility of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, Dick and his team are working to improve transplant procedures requiring a person’s blood-forming cells – hematopoietic stem cells – to treat blood disorders and cancers.

“John Dick is a pioneer in stem cell research who continues to push the frontiers of knowledge in the field,” said Peter Zandstra, Medicine by Design’s executive director. “We are proud to count him as a leader in the Medicine by Design community and extend our congratulations to him on this well-deserved recognition.”

Medicine by Design is funded in part by a $114-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

The CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes, which will be awarded every two years, are designed to honour and celebrate Canadian discoveries as well as the best and brightest health researchers who are making a difference in the lives of Canadians.

They are awarded in four categories: discovery, impact, outstanding achievements by an early career investigator and transformation: patient engagement.

Prize winners were selected on the recommendation of a Gold Ribbon Panel comprised of individuals with a broad array of expertise across all of CIHR’s health research theme areas.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to the four recipients of the CIHR Gold Leaf Prizes,” said federal Health Minister Jane Philpott. “From cancer and HIV/AIDS to diabetes and the health disparities facing our Indigenous peoples, your research tackles some of the most pressing health challenges facing Canada. By providing the evidence to inform government policy, your research is contributing to improved health and well-being for all Canadians. Thank you for your important work.” 

The winners will receive their medals at a recognition ceremony later this year.