Leading cancer researcher to join York as CRC

Cancer researcher Samuel Benchimol, currently with the Ontario Cancer Institute and the University of Toronto, has been awarded a Canada Research Chair (CRC) at York University, where he will build on his groundbreaking work on the tumour suppressor gene known as p53.

Samuel BenchimolBenchimol is internationally renowned for studies which indicated that inactivating mutations in the p53 gene contribute to cancer development. More recently, his group has discovered new genes that affect p53 function. His work has broad implications because the p53 gene is the most commonly mutated gene in human cancer.

Right: Samuel Benchimol

As Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Health Research, with a focus in cell and molecular biology and biomedical science, Benchimol will continue to investigate the role of the p53 tumour suppressor gene in regulating cell growth.

“I look forward to joining York, where I will have the opportunity to develop my interests in functional genomics and build upon the excellent proteomics infrastructure already in place,” said Benchimol, who will take up the post on June 1. He is currently based at Princess Margaret Hospital as a senior scientist in the Division of Cancer Genomics and Proteomics, Ontario Cancer Institute, part of the University Health Network affiliated with the University of Toronto. He is a professor of cellular and molecular microbiology at U of T.

Federal Industry Minister Maxime Bernier, who is responsible for the government’s Canada Research Chairs program, announced the Tier 1 Chair for Benchimol in the latest round of CRC funding announcements. A Tier 1 Chair provides $200,000 in annual funding for seven years.

“The important investments made in university research have re-energized our campuses and given the country’s top researchers – our Canada Research Chairs – the support they need to fully realize their innovative ideas,” said Bernier.

In addition to the Tier 1 CRC for Benchimol, the federal government renewed its commitment to two existing Tier 2 CRCs at York, and will invest $100,000 in each annually for the next five years.

Douglas Crawford, Canada Research Chair in Visual-Motor Neuroscience, will continue to study how neural processes take visual information received by the brain and transform it into action. As a CRC, Crawford, based in the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, has established one of the largest, most productive brain research labs in Canada, and has won prestigious national awards such as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research Young Explorer Award and the Steacie Prize. His discoveries include the neural mechanism used by the brain to maintain head posture (and how it misfunctions during a syndrome called torticollis) and the visual mechanisms used to aim reach movements (and how these are disrupted by damage to the parietal cortex). The goal is to use these research findings to help rehabilitate patients with damage to the parts of the brain that control vision and movement.

Sylvie Morin’s Canada Research Chair in Surface and Interfacial Electrochemistry was also renewed for a period of five years. Her research aims to create new thin film materials with properties that will be useful in developing the next generation of electronic devices, magnetic and bio-sensors and light-emitting devices. Morin, based in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science & Engineering, is using innovative new approaches to assemble and bind molecules and atoms at surfaces, a task which requires an understanding of matter on the nanometer length scale, and is using techniques such as scanning probe microscopy that allows imaging of these components.

In total, the federal government announced $2.7 million in funding for York research today, which includes $300,000 in infrastructure funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Since the CRC program began in 2000, York has been awarded 32 CRCs.

“Federal government investments into university research, through programs such as the CRC and CFI, are crucial to sustaining York’s globally competitive research programs and to attracting the world’s best researchers,” said Stan Shapson, York’s vice-president research & innovation. “The awarding of this Canada Research Chair to Professor Benchimol has allowed us to recruit a leading scientist and build on York’s renowned biomedical and cancer research, while enhancing our ability to undertake leading-edge, interdisciplinary health research. In addition, renewing the CRC appointments of Professors Crawford and Morin recognizes the excellence of their research and allows York to remain at the forefront of science and technology research.”