Lecture to Celebrate Anniversary of Gairdner Foundation

October 26, 2009 - News Release

The Gairdner Foundation, which awards Canada's foremost international research prizes, is marking a half-century of awards and lectures in medical research this year. Anniversary events will include a talk at the University of Guelph Oct. 28 as part of the Gairdner lecture series.

Robert Roeder, a biochemist at Rockefeller University in New York, will give a free public lecture on “Transcriptional Regulatory Mechanisms in Animal Cells” at 10 a.m. in the Lifetime Learning Centre at the Ontario Veterinary College. The talk is open to everyone.

Roeder won a Gairdner Award in 2000 with American Nobel laureate Roger Kornberg for their work on how DNA is copied to make proteins in animal cells.

The Gairdner Foundation was created in 1957 by financier James Arthur Gairdner to recognize medical researchers. Since their launch in 1959, the Gairdner awards have become Canada's most prestigious for scientific discoveries from every field of bioscience. Almost 300 people, including 42 Canadians, have received awards; 76 went on to win Nobel prizes.

Other anniversary events include a three-day symposium in Toronto Oct. 28 to 30. That event will bring together more than 60 past Gairdner Award winners, 22 of them also Nobel laureates. This year, the awards were renamed the Canada Gairdner International Awards.

Those winners have participated in various discoveries, including determining DNA structure, developing a vaccine for human papilloma virus and creating stem cells from body cells, said John Dirks, president and scientific director of the Gairdner Foundation.

Under its week-long national lecture program, the foundation arranges for current and past award winners to speak to high school and university groups across Canada, and holds public lectures in several cities.

“If a top scientist speaks in an understandable way to young students, that may be an inspirational moment,” said Dirks, a kidney researcher who worked at McGill University and the University of British Columbia before taking on the top job at Gairdner in 1993.

Dirks said his group hopes to make science more relevant to today’s students and help raise the profile of science in Canada. He also believes we need to stress the growing role of science in everyday lives.

“This changes our lives more than the election of one federal or provincial government. Science is as much a part of our life and understanding.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338 or lhunt@uguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 or bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

University of Guelph
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