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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