The Gairdner Foundation announced on March 31 that MCB’s Maria Moors Cabot Professor of Biology Rich Losick was one of seven recipients of its 2009 Canada Gairdner Awards.
Given annually to leading scientists, the Gairdner is one of the most prestigious awards in biomedical research. The awards are sometimes known as the “Baby Nobels” – of 298 recipients, 73, or one in four, have gone on to win the Nobel Prize.
Losick was in Toronto for the press conference announcement of this year’s awards. “I found out about a month and a half ago, when they swore me to secrecy,” Losick said. “The whole thing was an enormous surprise, and much more than I ever thought I’d do.”
Losick and his fellow honoree, Dr. David Sackett of McMaster University, gave short talks on their work at the announcement luncheon, and then again for a reception at the home of the President of the University of Toronto.
The awards themselves will be presented in late October, at a multi-day, gala event honoring this year’s winners, as well as the Foundation’s 50th anniversary. The festivities include a black-tie dinner, and multiple lectures and symposia. Fifty former Gairdner recipients will be on hand, 22 of them Nobel Laureates.
The other honorees are Sackett, for his work on improving medical care; stem-cell researcher Shinya Yamanaka, of Kyoto University; Nubia Munoz, emeritus professor of the National Cancer Institute in Colombia, for her work on a vaccine for cervical cancer; Kyoto University’s Kazutoshi Mori and Peter Walter, of the University of California at San Francisco, for the investigation of how proteins are folded into cells; and Stanford’s Lucy Shapiro who was honored, along with Losick, for basic research on bacteria growth, division and dormancy.
Losick was particularly pleased that Shapiro, a long time collaborator of his, also received the prize this year.
“We’ve been friends for over 30 years,” Losick said of Shapiro. “We share notes and ideas all the time. [Her award] “is icing on the cake.”