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Three Sunnybrook scientists awarded Canada Research Chairs

October 31, 2023

Three Sunnybrook Research Institute (SRI) scientists have been awarded a Canada Research Chair (CRC), the country’s highest research honour. Dr. Iacovos Michael and Dr. Jesse Chao, scientists in Biological Sciences and the Odette Cancer Research Program, and Dr. Mark Chiew, a scientist in Physical Sciences and the Hurvitz Brain Sciences Program, were all announced as chairholders this fall.

“Congratulations to Sunnybrook’s newest Canada Research Chairs,” says Dr. Kullervo Hynynen, Vice-President of Research and Innovation at Sunnybrook. “This recognition is a wonderful achievement and I’m looking forward to seeing how these scientists’ discoveries shape the future of research and healthcare.”

All three researchers were awarded Tier 2 Canada Research Chairs. Tier 2 CRCs, worth $100,000 annually, are awarded to exceptional emerging researchers for a five-year term.

In addition to his role as a Scientist at SRI, Dr. Iacovos Michael is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto. He was awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Tumor Biology and Precision Oncology. His research studies the intricate mechanisms that enable cancer cells to adapt in different environments, such as during metastasis to new organs, and develop resistance to targeted therapies. “Our goal is to discover novel strategies to enhance the efficacy of current treatments and pioneer tailored, patient-specific approaches to treating cancer,” says Dr. Michael. “The CRC recognition will not only fortify our ongoing research efforts but also contribute to the advancement of cancer treatment in Canada and worldwide.”

Dr. Jesse Chao, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto has been awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Precision Cancer Diagnostics and Artificial Intelligence. His research focuses on understanding the potential for a genetic variant to contribute to cancer in a person’s lifetime by extensively leveraging computer vision and AI techniques. “My work will help people identify their risk of developing cancer through genetic testing. If a potentially pathogenic variant is found in a person’s genome, they can undergo surveillance to catch cancer at its onset,” says Dr. Chao. “I’m grateful for the CRC recognition and I’m hopeful it will accelerate my research to the clinic.”

Joining Dr. Michael and Dr. Chao as a new chairholder is Dr. Mark Chiew, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and the University of Oxford. The focus of Dr. Chiew’s research is on the development of techniques to make magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) more rapid, resolved, and robust. “This will lead to improved sensitivity and specificity for diagnostic imaging and treatment monitoring, faster imaging times, and better image quality overall,” says Dr. Chiew, who was awarded a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Computational Biomedical Imaging.

“Being awarded a Canada Research Chair is an incredible honour, and it is a privilege to belong to such an esteemed group of scientists and researchers across Canada,” he says. With the CRC recognition, Dr. Chiew hopes to complete the transition of his research group from the University of Oxford to Sunnybrook.

At SRI, Drs. Michael, Chao and Chiew join existing Tier 1 chairs Dr. Isabelle Aubert, Dr. JoAnne McLaurin, Dr. Donald Redelmeier, Dr. Greg Stanisz, Dr. Bojana Stefanovic, Dr. Graham Wright, Dr. Burton Yang, and Tier 2 chairs Dr. Maged Goubran, Dr. Meaghan O’Reilly, Dr. Walter Swardfager, Dr. Chao Wang, and Dr. Harindra Wijeysundera.