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McGill genetics pioneer honoured


Published: 21Sep2000

Dr Rima Rozen receives prestigious Léo-Pariseau award

The cutting-edge genetic research and career of Dr. Rima Rozen will be acknowledged by her peers today, with a prestigious Léo-Pariseau award from the Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (ACFAS).

A McGill University professor of Genetics, Pediatrics, and Biology, Dr Rozen has made significant contributions to what we now know about genes. Indeed, her research group was the first to isolate and clone an important gene - MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase - which plays a crucial role in the synthesis of the major circulatory form of folic acid.

Dr Rozen’s team also discovered two potentially dangerous mutations of the MTHFR, which are carried by 10 and 12 percent of North Americans and puts these carriers at a higher risk of developing spina bifida and heart disease than non-carriers. Pinpointing this mutation has been important, since further medical research has demonstrated that consumption of folic acid can help ward off spina bifida and heart disease.

As a geneticist who has seen her research directly affect people’s health, Rozen hopes the public debate on genetic research will eventually be clarified. "We shouldn’t be afraid of genetic knowledge," she says. "We can’t allow fear side-track us from the benefits this type of research can provide to society. My work is one small example of how gene research can identify ways to help people stay healthy."

Dr Rozen received her Léo-Pariseau award for other achievements on her résumé, too, including her work as Scientific Director of Pediatric Research for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and Deputy Director of the MUHC’s Research Institute. As well, she created and continues to head the Molecular Diagnostics Service at the Montreal Children’s Hospital; a service that supplies couples whose future offspring might be at risk with genetic disorders with the scientific information they need to properly assess their options when considering parenthood.

Created in 1944, in honour of the first ACFAS President, the Léo-Pariseau awards are sponsored by Merck-Frosst Inc. and are handed out annually to science, biology or health science researchers who have made outstanding contributions to their fields.