Dr. Alan Bernstein
A message from Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.…
A message from Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
When I returned to Canada from New York after leading the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, it was relatively easy to decide to become involved with the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
One of the most exciting fields of scientific research and promising areas of clinical and translational medicine, stem cells hold huge promise for treating a diverse variety of human diseases, from cancer to neurological disorders to diabetes and more. And Canada punches well above its weight, starting with the 1960s discovery of stem cells by Dr. James Till, who I trained with in the 1970s, and his partner Dr. Ernest ‘Bun’ McCulloch. Many other Canadian scientists have subsequently contributed – with the discovery of cancer stem cells, neural stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, to name just a few – to make Canada a world leader in the field.
I also agreed to chair the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Board of Directors because I had enormous respect for the people who were already involved, such as former university presidents Drs. Martha Piper and Peter MacKinnon of the Universities of British Columbia and Saskatchewan, respectively. The board also included the Hon. Anne McLellan, who I had worked closely with when I was head of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and she was Minister of Health.
The list of highly respected people didn’t end with the board. Largely because of the efforts of President and CEO James Price, the Foundation had enlisted prominent Canadians from across the country to join the Till & McCulloch Leadership Circle and show their support for stem cell science and its application to improving health. That was a significant achievement that not only gave the Foundation the credibility it needed but also signaled to the broader Canadian stem cell community that prominent Canadians were active supporters of their goals.
That’s a big reason why Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan, in her mandate letter to the new Canada Research Coordinating Committee last month, named stem cells and regenerative medicine as one of the four key areas for coordination amongst the four federal agencies involved in funding research in this country. This is no accident: it represents the culmination of the efforts of the Foundation and the people associated with it.
In fact, the Foundation has had an important impact on the Federal Government’s appreciation of Canada’s strength in stem cell science and its increased awareness of the important work underway in labs across the country. The now two-year extension of funding to the Stem Cell Network and funding of the $114-million Medicine by Design project at the University of Toronto, much of which is focused on stem cells and regenerative medicine, are indicators of the recognition by government that this is a central component of Canadian research and innovation.
There has been a significant impact on industry, as well. People closely associated with the Foundation, like board member Dr. Allen Eaves, whose Vancouver-based STEMCELL Technologies does business around the globe, have shown you can build successful enterprises and generate the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars into the Canadian economy through stem cell research and development. Similarly, the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars, largely by offshore investors, into BlueRock Therapeutics, a company dedicated to stem cell therapy for cardiac disease, is further evidence of both the strength of Canadian stem cell science and its promise for the treatment of serious human diseases.
Thanks to the efforts of many organizations and many people, the Canadian stem cell effort is in excellent shape. There is positive energy around the country and there are outstanding young people entering the field, which, at the end of the day, is what really matters. They see a great future in stem cells and regenerative medicine.
Because of all this, the Foundation’s board, after an extensive six months of deliberation, decided that our work is now done. The Foundation has accomplished what it was created to do: raise awareness about the importance of stem cell research and the strengths of stem cell science across the country. We were able to make key individuals aware of the value of stem cell research and development – both in terms of improving the health of Canadians and bolstering the Canadian economy.
While it is always easier to start new organizations than end existing ones, the Board of Directors unanimously made the difficult but wise decision to sunset the Foundation and to declare victory. At the same time, the Board also expressed its sincerest thanks to James and to his Executive Assistant, Eileen Emmonds, and Susan DeLisle, Director of Development, for their utmost commitment to the Foundation and its goals and their outstanding efforts on behalf of the Foundation and stem cell science in Canada.
Dr. Alan Bernstein, OC, FRSC, has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation. He is President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
Oscar Wilde once poetically waxed that “Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Two University of Toronto researchers recently published a review paper in journal Neuron that pointed to the fact that we only keep the memories that really matter to us. …
Oscar Wilde once poetically waxed that “Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.” Two University of Toronto researchers recently published a review paper in journal Neuron that pointed to the fact that we only keep the memories that really matter to us. Like a leather bound diary, our memory has finite amount of space and we erase the memories that we don’t have a particular attachment with to make room for new ones. This ultimately helps us with decision making as we only need to scan information that is valuable to us.
“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world,” says Dr. Blake Richards, co-author of the study, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Department of Biological Sciences, and a fellow in CIFAR’s Program in Learning in Machines & Brains, in an article posted on CIFAR’s website. “If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up multiple conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision,” adds Dr. Richards.
Beyond being assured that memory loss is part of a healthy brain and intelligent decision making, the research is interesting because it combined learnings from artificial intelligence (AI) with available stem cell research regarding the role of neural brain cells in memory.
“Canadian researchers are world-class leaders in both stem cell research and artificial intelligence – two fields that have significant potential to transform society. It’s truly exciting to continue this line of collaboration so that we can understand something as complex and important as the human brain” says Dr. Alan Bernstein, President and CEO of CIFAR and Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
Further collaborations between AI and the field of stem cell research could help researchers predict other types of cellular activity and ultimately accelerate the delivery of new treatment developments to the clinic.
Dr. Alan Bernstein, Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, has been awarded the 2017 Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research for his significant contributions to health and innovation. …
Dr. Alan Bernstein, Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, has been awarded the 2017 Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research for his significant contributions to health and innovation. The prize, established in 2005, recognizes “exceptional innovation by a visionary health leader”.
As the press release notes, there are many examples of Dr. Bernstein’s impact on health research and his ability to build strong collaborations.
- As the inaugural President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, he brought together biomedical, clinical and social scientists and set the standard for transdisciplinary research in Canada.
- Serving as the Executive Director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise in New York, Dr. Bernstein built an international alliance of researchers and funders to accelerate the development of HIV vaccines.
- As the President & CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, he promotes collaboration on a global scale by forging partnerships between international researchers to work on health, social and technological challenges.
Dr. Bernstein’s own stem cell and cancer research is rooted in strong partnerships as we wrote about here when he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame. A fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Science, he is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
As the Chair of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, Dr. Bernstein was instrumental in the collaborative effort that brought together 150 scientists, doctors, leaders from health charities, industry experts and philanthropists to craft the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy with a unified vision to deliver 10 new stem cell therapies to the clinic within 10 years.
“Helen Keller is attributed with the quote ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’ and Alan’s career characterizes the sentiment,” noted James Price, President & CEO of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, “We congratulate Dr. Bernstein on this award and thank him for his exemplary leadership”.
The news last week that Dr. Janet Rossant had won the 2015 Gairdner Wightman Award should have come as no big surprise.…
The news last week that Dr. Janet Rossant had won the 2015 Gairdner Wightman Award should have come as no big surprise. The head of research at SickKids Hospital in Toronto, Dr. Rossant perfectly fits the profile of the Wightman winner: a scientist who has demonstrated outstanding national leadership in medicine and medical science.
However, the announcement did give us another reason to celebrate: it brought the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Gairdner Award connections to four — so far.
Dr. Rossant (1) who chairs our Foundation’s Science Leadership Council, has led the way in crafting Canada’s public policy regarding stem cell research and is the immediate Past President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. She also is an articulate advocate for the Canadian Stem Cell Strategy & Action that sets out how Canada can lead the way to deliver five to 10 new stem cell therapies to the clinic within 10 years. (See the Globe & Mail piece she co-authored here).
With the announcement, Dr. Rossant joins Dr. Alan Bernstein (2), Chair of our Board of Directors, as a fellow Gairdner Wightman winner. Dr. Bernstein, now President & CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, won the Wightman in 2008 for his “outstanding contribution to Canadian health research as a scientist, research institute director and as the inaugural President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.”
Dr. Bernstein’s stem cell connection goes all the way back to his PhD studies with Dr. Jim Till, co-discoverer of stem cells (with Dr. Ernest McCulloch) in the late 1960s/early 1970s at the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI). Dr. Till mentored Dr. Bernstein in much the same way that Dr. Bernstein encouraged Dr. Rossant when she came to work at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute (now the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute) at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital in 1985.
Dr. Till (3) is a Gairdner International Award winner, having picked up the prize with Dr. McCulloch back in 1969. His connection to the Foundation? He was original member of the Board of Directors when the Foundation began life in 2006 and has been a trusted advisor ever since. In fact, his “Spleen Team” jersey, from when he led the OCI squad that unveiled the mysteries of hematopoietic stem cells, hangs in a place of honour in the Foundation’s office in Ottawa.
Then there is Dr. Samuel Weiss (4), who won his Canada Gairdner International Award in 2008 in large part for his 1992 discovery of neural stem cells in the brains of adult mammals, which sparked new approaches for brain cell replacement and repair. Dr. Weiss, who leads the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, preceded Dr. Rossant as Chair of our Science Leadership Council and was also a member of the Foundation’s Board.
Quite honestly, we’re proud to be associated with these outstanding scientists. That they have chosen to help us as we advocate for the advancement of stem cell research and development to deliver safe, new and effective treatments for an array of diseases is truly inspiring. And we look forward to finding out who will be (5).
The best and the brightest are teaming up against cancer.
In October, Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada), with support from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC), Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), announced a $10.6 million SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team Research funding opportunity.…
The best and the brightest are teaming up against cancer.
In October, Stand Up To Cancer Canada (SU2C Canada), with support from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC), Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), announced a $10.6 million SU2C Canada Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team Research funding opportunity.
SU2C Canada is an innovative funding initiative created in July 2014 to accelerate advances in cancer research. Sharing a common mission with the U.S.- based Stand Up to Cancer, active since 2008, SU2C Canada provides grants to multidisciplinary groups of scientists, called Dream Teams, who work collaboratively to develop treatments for cancer patients.
The American Association for Cancer Research International – Canada (AACR International – Canada), the Scientific Partner of SU2C Canada, issued a Call for Ideas inviting the Canadian research community to assemble into a Cancer Stem Cell Dream Team. Scientists from across the country are invited to submit a Letter of Intent by December 8th.. Complete proposals must be sent by April 27th, 2015. Please click here for information on eligibility and submission requirements.
The qualifying Dream Team will receive approximately $10.6 million over a four-year term from CSCC, through Genome Canada and CIHR. Additional funds up to $3 million over four years from Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) will be available for clinical trials conducted in Ontario.
The research proposals will be reviewed oby the SU2C Canada Scientific Advisory Committee (CSAC), co-chaired by Nobel Laureate Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Dr. Alan Bernstein, President & CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and Chair of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.
“Dr. Sharp and I are very pleased to launch this collaborative approach to cancer research with an emphasis on working across disciplines and institutional lines to deliver new treatments in an accelerated timeframe,” says Dr. Bernstein in the SU2C Canada press release. “We look forward to reviewing extraordinary approaches to cancer research assembled by the best and brightest minds, and to selecting the best possible science that Canada has to offer.”
Dr. Alan Bernstein, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, has received perhaps the highest national honour in medicine: membership in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.…
Dr. Alan Bernstein, Chair of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation, has received perhaps the highest national honour in medicine: membership in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
Dr. Bernstein, whose career encompasses success in both conducting outstanding research and creating the right conditions for outstanding research to be done, is one of six leading researchers and medical practitioners who will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame April 23 in Winnipeg.
“The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these six medical heroes as honoured members,” Dr. Jean Gray, the Hall’s Chair. Gray, said in a press release. “Their contributions to health in Canada and the world are well documented and their induction to The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is richly deserved.”
An internationally respected scientist, Dr. Bernstein made important discoveries in stem cell and cancer research, publishing more than 225 papers and advancing the understanding of the Friend virus in leukemia. His stem cell roots run deep: he did his PhD studies at the University of Toronto with Dr. James Till who, with research partner Dr. Ernest McCulloch, had discovered stem cells in the early 1960s.
As director of the Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute (now the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute) he built the institute into one of the leading research facilities in the world. A Gairdner Wightman Award winner and Order of Canada member, he led the transformation of health research in Canada as the founding president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and oversaw a close to three-fold increase in Canada’s budget for health research.
After serving as CIHR’s leader for seven years, during which time he refocused and energized the Canadian health research community, Dr. Bernstein went on to head the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise. He now serves as President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, which brings together almost 400 of Canada’s and the world’s best researchers to address questions of importance to the world.
“Alan is one of the giants of Canadian health research,” said Foundation President and CEO James Price. “With his lifetime of achievements, he truly deserves this outstanding honour. We’re delighted to congratulate him and feel extremely fortunate to have him guiding our Foundation as Board Chair.”
The other inductees include:
- Dr. Judith G. Hall, a pediatrician and geneticist who has been at the international forefront of here field for more than four decades;
- Dr. Bernard Langer, a global pioneer of hepatobiliary/pancreatic (HPB) surgery who developed a world-leading academic HPB and liver transplant service at Toronto General Hospital;
- the late Dr. John McCrae, the co-author of the influential Text-Book of Pathology for Students of Medicine and author of In Flanders Fields;
- Dr. Julio Montaner, who led an international consortium of investigators to test the viability of a novel drug combination called ‘highly active antiretroviral therapy’ (HAART) to suppress HIV replication; and
- Dr. Duncan G. Sinclair, an internationally recognized leader in health care reform.