This year, the Gairdner Foundation hosted three distinct symposia on October 28-30th entitled: Global Preparedness for Pandemics: Lessons from Ebola, the 2015 Canada Gairdner Awardees Lecture – Minds that Matter, and RNA and New Genetics. Held at the Macleod Auditorium, an amazing panel of the world’s leading experts gathered to share their life’s research accomplishments.
Importantly, two Molecular Genetics faculty members were featured in this year’s Gairdner Awards Symposium. Dr. Janet Rossant, former SickKids Chief of Research, was awarded with the 2015 Canada Gairdner Wightman Laureate Award, one of the most prestigious research awards in Canada. This award is only given to one Canadian scientist a year who has demonstrated outstanding leadership in the biomedical sciences. During the Minds that Matter Symposia, Dr. Rossant gave a truly inspirational talk about how her whole career began because of her love of the blastocyst and the process of how it develops to a fully functional embryo. Dr. Rossant was officially presented the Gairdner Award later that night at the dinner banquet. The last day of the Symposium was devoted to recent groundbreaking discoveries in the field of non-coding RNA and their importance in the regulation of various biological processes in the cell. One of the invited speakers was none other than MoGen’s very own Dr. Benjamin Blencowe, who discussed his work on alternative splicing regulation, specifically in the identification of microexon splicing, which can have dramatic impact on the regulation of neurological development.
Eesha Sharma, a graduate student in the Blencowe lab who attended the Gairdner Symposium in support of her supervisor had this to say, “this year’s symposium really highlighted some of the major questions being tackled at the very frontier of RNA research today.” When asked about the impact of her lab’s research that was described in Dr. Blencowe’s talk, Eesha commented, “against the backdrop of exciting basic scientific problems being addressed, it was fascinating to see the work on a single alternative splicing factor that affected a special class of highly conserved alternatively spliced exons implicated in neurological disease. It will be interesting to see how this work might translate into therapeutic strategies in the future.”