Public Release:  Ottawa researcher named 2013 Champion of Genetics

Dr. Alex MacKenzie honored by Canadian Gene Cure Foundation

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute

May 8, 2013, Victoria BC - The Canadian Gene Cure Foundation (CGCF), a national, charitable foundation committed to enabling Canadians to lead the world in the discovery and advancement of cures for inherited diseases, has honoured Dr. Alex MacKenzie by naming him a 2013 Champion of Genetics.

The CGCF Champion of Genetics award both honours the work of Canada's established scientists and provides support, inspiration and encouragement to bright young researchers in the early years of their careers.

This year, the CGCF Champions of Genetics nominating committee has honoured Dr. MacKenzie, along with four other scientists, for the significant contribution they have made in translational research. The chosen Champions also must be active mentors with a history of encouraging and enabling students in the field of genetics, and they must be active researchers, continuing to contribute to the Canadian genetics community.

CGCF Board Chair Sandra MacPherson said: "The CGCF Champions of Genetics are highly regarded both at home in Canada, and internationally. Not only are they excellent role models for aspiring young scientists, they are also continuing to work on the forefront of discoveries in the field of genetics. With the focus this year on translational medicine, CGCF is proud to be honouring scientists that have taken their work out of the lab and into patient care. They are Champions in the research community and also to the many families they have helped through their work."

Alex MacKenzie is principal investigator of the Apoptosis Research Centre at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Ottawa. Dr. MacKenzie and his team have focused their research on inherited disorders and orphan diseases in children, identifying gene subsets for three disorders -- Duchenne muscular dystrophy, myotonic dystrophy, and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Dr. MacKenzie is a specialist in the field of SMA, a fatal neurodegenerative disease that often ends lives before age two.

"Our Champions are playing a crucial role in maintaining the reputation of Canada as a world leader in the field of genetics and molecular genomics," said CGCF board member Dr. Anny Fortin. "Dr. MacKenzie's involvement as a research scientist, medical doctor, advocate and spokesperson for the cause of spinal muscular atrophy (FightSMA) makes him one of the greatest examples of knowledge translation in Canada."

As part of the honour of being named a Champion of Genetics, Dr. MacKenzie was given the opportunity to nominate an individual he has personally mentored to apply for a $90,000 Champions of Genetics: Building the Next Generation Grant. The grant, made possible with the help of our funding partner the CIHR- Institute of Genetics, will provide much needed funding for the chosen young scientists. It will provide them the opportunity to advance their own exciting genetic research and discoveries and to mentor yet the next generation of scientists, perpetuating Canada's level of excellence in genetic research.

Also honoured by the Canadian Gene Cure Foundation along with Dr. MacKenzie were:

Dr. Bartha Knoppers, Canada Research Chair in Law and Medicine at McGill University; Director of the Centre of Genomics and Polity, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Human Genetics; Chair of the Ethics Working Party of the International Stem Cell Forum; Co-Chair of the Sampling/ELSI Committee of the 1000Genomes Project and a Member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the International Cancer Genome Consortium.

Dr. Steven Narod, Senior Scientist, Women's College Research Institute; Director, Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, Women's College Research Institute; Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto; Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Breast Cancer.

Dr. Alexey Pshezhetsky, Professor, Dept. of Pediatrics and Biochemistry, University of Montreal; Researcher, Dept. of Medical Genetics, Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center; Scientific Director of Medical Genetics Diagnostic Laboratory and Director of the Lysosomal Biology lab at Ste-Justine Hospital Research Center.

Dr. David S. Rosenblatt, professor of Human Genetics, Medicine, Pediatrics, and Biology at McGill University in Montréal and chair of the university's Department of Human Genetics for the past 11 years. He is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and a Correspondant étranger of the Académie Nationale de Médecine of France.

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