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McGill scientist named one of world’s best

Published: 15 April 2008

Dr. Nahum Sonenberg to be awarded major award for contributions to medical science

Distinguished McGill University researcher Dr. Nahum Sonenberg’s outstanding contributions to the field of medical science have been recognized with the Gairdner International Award, one of the most prestigious awards in all of science.

Dr. Sonenberg, a James McGill Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and the McGill Cancer Centre, is being celebrated for discovering important mechanisms that control the synthesis of proteins in human cells, which has led to the possibility of developing cures for diseases including cancer, obesity, memory impairment and virus infections.

"The Gairdner International Award consistently identifies some of the world's greatest scientists, a disproportionate number of whom go on to win Nobel prizes," said Denis Thérien, Vice-Principal (Research and International Relations). "McGill is very proud to be the home of such a scholar. Dr. Sonenberg is truly among his peers in this group and we are delighted to celebrate this success with him."

The Gairdner Awards ( were established by Toronto businessman James Gairdner to honour outstanding achievement in medical science. The 2008 recipients are being announced at a Toronto luncheon on Tuesday, April 15. They will receive their awards and a $30,000 cash prize at a gala dinner in October. Dr. Sonenberg is one of three Canadians among the six recipients.

Dr. Sonenberg has long been recognized internationally for his important contributions to our understanding of molecular and cellular biology. His research, which has led to a better understanding of basic biologic processes in normal and cancer cells, now plays a major role in the creation of new cancer treatments.

Dr. Sonenberg, 59, received his BSc and MSc (Microbiology and Immunology) from Tel Aviv University. Upon completing his PhD (Biochemistry) at the Weizmann Institute of Science, he joined the Roche Institute of Molecular Biology with a Chaim Weizmann postdoctoral fellowship. He joined McGill in 1979.

In 2002, Dr. Sonenberg was awarded the Robert L. Noble Prize by the National Cancer Institute of Canada. He is an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Distinguished Scientist and has been a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada since 1992. Dr. Sonenberg was also awarded the 2005 Killam Prize for Health Sciences, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as a Foreign Honorary Member in 2006.

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