Top award for spinal cord injury research

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Innovative research aims to improve the quality of life for those living with spinal cord injuries

A researcher from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre has received the 2015 Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research. This annual prize is supported through a partnership between the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, Brain Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This award is in honour of the late Barbara Turnbull for her work in raising awareness about spinal cord injuries and the need for exceptional research in this area to improve the lives of those affected.

Dr. Samuel David, a researcher from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, is the 2015 recipient of this prestigious award for his outstanding contribution to the advancement of world leading spinal cord research conducted in Canada.

  • Dr. David and his research team are studying the mechanisms that control the delivery and release of iron in the nervous system. Iron is required for the survival and functioning of nerve cells. However, too much iron can cause damage to nerve cells. Their work has an impact on our understanding of damage following spinal cord and brain injury and diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and ways to promote recovery after nervous system damage.

The announcement took place during the 14th Annual Charles H. Tator-Barbara Turnbull Lectureship Series in Spinal Cord Injury.

Quick Facts

  • Barbara Turnbull was a renowned Toronto journalist and a champion of research into spinal cord injury and repair. In 1983, when she was 18 she was shot during a convenience store robbery and as a result was paralyzed from the neck down. Following this tragedy, Ms. Turnbull created a non-profit charitable foundation that promotes and supports spinal cord research in Canada.  Ms. Turnbull received Honorary Degrees from University of Toronto and York University. She was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Award in 2012. In 2015, she was appointed as a member of the Order of Canada. In May 2015, Ms. Turnbull passed away at age 50.

  • The Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research was established in 2001 to support research and raise awareness of the more than 86,000 Canadians who are living with a spinal cord injury, with 4,300 new cases each year. The prize is presented annually by CIHR, the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, and Brain Canada, to the researcher who submitted the best application in the CIHR competition in the field of spinal cord injury and repair. This award is for $50,000.

  • Approximately 51% of current spinal cord injury cases are the result of traumatic injury (accident), while the rest 49% are the result of non-traumatic injury (disease). (Source: Spinal Cord Injury Canada)

Quotes

“CIHR salutes Dr. David for his remarkable work aimed at accelerating our understanding of spinal cord injuries and improving the health of thousands of Canadians living with central nervous system disorders. We remain fully committed to partnering with other organizations to support the best and most innovative research addressing recovery following spinal cord injuries.”

Dr. Anthony Phillips
Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

“The Barbara Turnbull Award is a partnership to support transformative spinal cord research in Canada. Brain Canada is proud to recognize the excellent work of this year's recipient, Dr. Samuel David, and we congratulate him on his outstanding contributions to advance the field. This year is especially poignant as we remember and honour Barbara Turnbull; she was a shining light and continues to inspire us.”

Inez Jabalpurwala
President and CEO, Brain Canada     

“This year’s award marks the first time that Barbara Turnbull is not with us to present and speak at the awarding of this eponymous research supplement that recognizes and supports an outstanding scientist in Canada whose excellent investigative work in the field of spinal cord injury and repair has been selected through the CIHR peer review process. Barbara’s vision, commitment, and message will live on through this award.”

Gary Goldberg
Director, Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research

I am delighted to be the recipient of this year's Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research.  Barbara Turnbull was, and continues to be, an inspiration to those living with spinal cord injury, as well as researchers who are striving to make medical advances in this field. I would like to thank Brain Canada for their contribution to this award and their strong support for neuroscience research. My sincere thanks also to CIHR for supporting this award, as well as biomedical research across Canada.

Dr. Samuel David
Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department and Faculty of Medicine
Centre for Research in Neuroscience, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre 

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About CIHR

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's health research investment agency. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to enable its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened health care system for Canadians. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

About Brain Canada

Brain Canada is a national non-profit organization that enables and supports excellent, innovative, paradigm-changing brain research in Canada.  For more than one decade, Brain Canada has made the case for the brain as a single, complex system with commonalities across the range of neurological disorders, mental illnesses and addictions, brain and spinal cord injuries.  Looking at the brain as one system has underscored the need for increased collaboration across disciplines and institutions, and a smarter way to invest in brain research that is focused on outcomes that will benefit patients and families.

The Canada Brain Research Fund 

The Canada Brain Research Fund is a public-private partnership designed to encourage Canadians to increase their support of brain research, and maximize the impact and efficiency of those investments. Brain Canada has committed to raising $100 million from private and non-governmental sources, which will be matched by government on a 1:1 basis. The Fund was announced in federal budget 2011, which proposed to “allocate up to $100 million to establish the Canada Brain Research Fund, which will support the very best Canadian neuroscience, fostering collaborative research and accelerating the pace of discovery, in order to improve the health and quality of life of Canadians who suffer from brain disorders.”

For more information about Brain Canada and the Canada Brain Research Fund please go to: www.braincanada.ca.

Fact Sheet

A scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre won the 2015 Barbara Turnbull Award for Spinal Cord Research. This recognition highlights his outstanding work to improve the health and quality of life of those living with spinal cord injuries.

Dr. Samuel David

Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department and Faculty of Medicine, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre 

Understanding the mechanisms controlling iron transportation and accumulation in the nervous system: its role in health, injury and disease

Iron is essential for life. In the nervous system, iron is required for the survival and functioning of nerve cells; and for the formation of myelin, the insulating fatty coat that surrounds nerve fibers that is required for proper conduction of nerve impulses. However, too much iron can cause damage to nerve cells. How normal iron levels are maintained in the nervous system and how iron is delivered to different types of cell in the nervous system is still not known. The aim of this proposal is to study the delivery and release of iron in the nervous system. In particular to study the role of a molecule called "ferroportin" in myelination, and in damage caused by excessive iron after nervous system injury and disease. This work will have an important impact for spinal cord and brain injury and diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, and help to develop treatments to promote recovery after nervous system damage.

Funding partners

This annual prize is supported through a partnership between the Government of Canada through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Barbara Turnbull Foundation, and Brain Canada.

Total funding for 2015

  • $25,000 — Government of Canada funding awarded through CIHR
  • $12,500 — Brain Canada
  • $12,500 — The Barbara Turnbull Foundation 

Contact Information

Contact: 
Media Relations
Organization: 
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Email: 
mediarelations [at] cihr-irsc.gc.ca
Office Phone: 
613-941-4563