McGill’s Hanadi Sleiman wins 2021 Polanyi Award

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Published: 17Nov2021

Recognized for her ground-breaking advancements in the field of DNA nanotechnology and precision medicine to combat major diseases

Hanadi Sleiman, Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in DNA Nanoscience, has transformed the field of DNA nanotechnology and revolutionized precise medical treatments for major diseases, like cancer – and she has just earned national recognition for her research.

Sleiman is the 2021 recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) John C. Polanyi Award. Professor Sleiman and the Sleiman Group created a unique class of DNA nanostructures for precision drug delivery, a fast-growing field in healthcare that tailors a patient’s treatment plan based on the individual’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle factors. The non-toxic nanostructures created by Professor Sleiman are biologically compatible and capable of detecting tumour cells and enabling targeted drug delivery—without affecting normal cells—before biodegrading harmlessly. Her breakthroughs have helped doctors and pharmaceutical companies bypass drug resistance, eliminate the toxic side-effects of chemotherapy, and generate greater success rates for a range of cancer treatments.

Professor Sleiman’s innovations are also being used to advance other fields beyond medicine. Technologies based on her DNA nanomaterials will help the advancement of tissue engineering and help “shape-shifting” structures for robotics.

NSERC awards the John C. Polanyi Award annually to honour an individual or team whose Canadian-based research has led to a recent outstanding advancement in any NSERC-support field of the natural sciences or engineering. The award was established in tribute to the excellence in research that John C. Polanyi continues to exemplify. Dr. Polanyi won the 1986 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“This impressive and well-deserved award is a testament to Professor Sleiman’s research excellence and determination to combat major diseases and to improve the quality of patients’ lives through precision drug delivery, and other medical innovations” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation). “My sincere congratulations to Professor Sleiman for this major recognition.”

“As we saw this year with the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, DNA and RNA-based molecules can make a tremendous difference in medicine,” said Professor Sleiman. “Our group would like to take DNA and RNA therapies, and package them into larger nanostructures that allow us to deliver them only to disease cells, but not to normal cells, so that we can help overcome the challenges standing in the way of DNA and RNA becoming the medicines of the future.”

Click here to read NSERC’s official announcement.

Learn more about Professor Hanadi's DNA Nanostructures in the video below.

Video of A better way to build DNA scaffolds
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