Media Releases

UofT gains two canada excellence research chairs

May 17, 2010

TORONTO, ON – Two international research superstars have been appointed as new Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) at the University of Toronto, Industry Minister Tony Clement announced today.

At a news conference at UofT, Clement announced that Professor Frederick (Fritz) Roth is the Canada Research Excellence Chair in Integrative Biology and Professor Oliver Ernst is the CERC in Structural Neurobiology. They were among a total field of 19 inaugural CERCs at 13 universities across the country. 

“The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting leading-edge research and world-class researchers,” said Clement. “The Canada Excellence Research Chairs program confirms Canada’s standing as a global centre of excellence in research and higher learning. This program supports the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensuring our future economic growth by investing in innovation and research capacity in priority areas.”

The CERC program is one of the largest new research investment initiatives to be launched by the Canadian government in years.  For each CERC, universities will receive up to $10 million over seven years to support chair holders and their research teams.

“The Government of Canada is to be applauded for spearheading this initiative to advance research and scholarship in areas that are essential to the future of global society,” said UofT President David Naylor. “We are particularly proud to have Dr. Roth and Dr. Ernst join UofT’s research community. I know their work, and the work of all the CERCs in institutions across Canada, will result in important benefits to science, the next generations of researchers and to Canada’s innovation capacity.”

The CERC program was announced in the federal government’s 2008 budget. Research conducted by the CERCs will be focused in the areas of environmental sciences and technologies, natural resources and energy, health and related life sciences and technologies and information and communications technologies.

Roth will use his computational expertise to reveal more about how diseases such as cancer develop. His work will contribute significantly to the discovery and development of new drugs to treat complex diseases, while keeping Canada at the forefront of biomedical research. Using leading-edge systems, his studies will also generate new highly qualified personnel in this growing field and contribute innovative products and intellectual property to Canada’s economy.

“I am honoured to be coming to Canada and excited to join the University of Toronto and the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute as a Canada Excellence Research Chair,” said Dr. Roth, who comes to Canada from Harvard University’s celebrated biophysics department.  “Science at UofT and its 10 affiliated hospitals is absolutely world-class and especially so in the application of large-scale experimentation to understand the biology of cells and complex diseases.  I very much look forward to taking my group’s research forward in Toronto.”

Ernst will continue his groundbreaking work on one of the most studied G-protein-couple receptors — the light receptor in the eye. His work will increase our understanding of how these receptors work on the molecular level and will provide insight into their role in the development of neurological and other types of degenerative diseases. Ernst’s research program will be the first of its kind in Canada and promises to mark a major leap forward for structural neurobiologists.

“Canada is one of the world’s leaders in innovation in so many vital areas that have a direct and positive impact on people’s lives,” said Dr. Ernst, who joins the University of Toronto from Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, one of the largest medical institutions in Europe, set up jointly by the Free University of Berlin and Humboldt University.  “I am thankful to the federal government for creating the Canada Excellence Research Chairs program and I am eager to become part of the Canadian research success story.”

The CERC program has also enabled UofT to recruit Professor Cordula Enenkel, who is married to Ernst. Enenkel will be an associate professor in biochemistry and will join a large group of scientists working on protein folding and degradation in health and disease.

“She is an outstanding scientist in the field of the ‘life and death’ of proteins, an area of critical importance to diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” said Professor Reinhart Reithmeier, chair of the department of biochemistry. 

Paul Young, UofT’s Vice President, Research, said he was “delighted” to welcome the new Canada Excellence Research Chairs to the UofT research community. He praised the “tremendous effort of a large number of faculty and staff from the UofT research community in recruiting Professors Roth and Ernst. The process was intense over the past two years and involved the hard work of people throughout the university – too many to list here, but I must extend my sincere thanks to everyone for their contributions.” 

The CERC program is administered jointly by Canada’s three research granting agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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