Dr. Louis Siminovitch
Dr. Louis Siminovitch received the 2018 UHN Global Impact Award at yesterday's Annual General Meeting. (Photo: Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration)

Dr. Louis Siminovitch is the recipient of the 2018 UHN Global Impact Award for his "massive contributions to medical research" for more than half a century.

Dr. Siminovitch, joined the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI), the research institute of Princess Margaret Hospital, in 1956, going on to become its Director. He was cited by nominators for a range of impacts throughout his career; from "seminal discoveries" and "visionary scientific leadership" to the establishment of university research institutes, mentorship and public policy development at the provincial and national level.

"Professor Siminovitch has had a massive and transformative effect on biomedical research in Toronto, Canada and internationally," Dr. Peter St George-Hyslop, University Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, and Professor of Experimental Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, wrote in a nomination letter.

Dr. Siminovitch also held key positions at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute, the Samuel Lunenfeld Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital and various departments at the University of Toronto. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1997.

Awarded since 2004, the UHN Global Impact Award recognizes the outstanding contributions of University Health Network staff, such as Dr. Siminovitch, who have revolutionized health and healthcare nationally and around the world.

Born in Montreal in 1920, Dr. Siminovitch earned his PhD in chemistry at McGill University in 1944. He went on to the Pasteur Institute in Paris where, under the mentorship of Jacques Monod and Andre Lwoff, he contributed to Nobel Prize-winning work in molecular genetics.

At OCI, he pioneered a method for obtaining mutants in mammalian cells in tissue culture, which laid substantial groundwork into the genetic roots of diseases such as cancer and the discovery of the genes for muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. That resulted in more than 200 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals in the fields of virology, stem cell differentiation and haematopoiesis.

"He was instrumental in establishing an expectation that research at OCI would meet the highest international standards," says Dr. Christopher Paige, a member of the Global Impact Award nominating committee, and former UHN Executive Vice-President of Science and Research.

Mentorship and leadership came naturally for the accomplished researcher as well. Dr. Siminovitch taught many as a professor at the University of Toronto and influenced and trained two generations of Canadian biomedical researchers. He later served as a Chairman and led the development of the U of T's Medical Genetics Department.

Dr. Siminovitch gained unwavering support from his peers and colleagues for his demonstration of excellence in scientific leadership and imagination as well as his active role in the scientific community within numerous advisory boards and contributions to the developments in scientific policy.

Dr. Siminovitch is regarded as one of the country's most distinguished and internationally-renowned scientists, earning titles such as Canada's "pioneer of human genetics," and the "founding father of genetics" amongst his peers.

Congratulations to Dr. Louis Siminovitch on this honour.

The names, photos and citations of the Global Impact Award recipients are posted in UHN hospital lobbies. Previous winners are:

2004 – Frederick Banting, Vera Peters, Harold Johns

2005 – William Bigelow, Ernest McCulloch, Jim Till

2006 – William Gallie

2007 – Joel Cooper, Griff Pearson

2008 – Charles Hollenberg, Bernard Langer,

2009 – Mary Agnes Snively

2010 – Robert Jackson

2011 – Charles Tator

2012 – Dimitrios Oreopoulos, Robert Uldall

2013 – Victor Ling

2014 – Alan Hudson

2015 – Jenny Heathcote

2016 – Karel terBrugge

2017 – Gordon Whitmore, Jack Cunningham

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