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Stem Cell Scientists Win Lasker Award

Researchers also honoured in mental health research and engineering

James Till (DSc Hon. 2004), a biophysicist, and Ernest McCulloch (MD 1948, DSc Hon. 2004), a haematologist, embarked on work at U of T and the Ontario Cancer Institute in the late 1950s that eventually earned them the title “fathers of stem cell research.” Till and McCulloch were the first to identify a stem cell, laying the foundation for all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells. And in September, the University Professors Emeriti received the 2005 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in honour of their achievements. The Lasker Awards, known as America’s Nobel Prizes, recognize scientists whose work has been seminal to understanding disease. Till and McCulloch’s discoveries also explained principles of bone marrow transplantation, which now help prolong the lives of patients with leukemia and other blood cancers.

Fang Liu (MSc 1996, PhD 1999), a psychiatry professor at U of T, recently received an honourable mention from NARSAD – the Mental Health Research Association (founded as the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression) in New York – for her research on neurotransmitters. Liu studies the interaction between two brain proteins that bind dopamine (an important neurotransmitter). These findings could help identify treatments for schizophrenia and stroke.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review magazine has hailed Professor Parham Aarabi (BASc 1998, MASc 1999) as one of the world’s top 35 innovators under 35. He was singled out for his work on an algorithm that calculates the location of a sound source – and then enhances that source while removing noise. His invention could one day filter out extraneous voices in cellphone conversations or enhance voice control in cars. Aarabi is the founder and director of U of T’s Artificial Perception Laboratory, which investigates multi-sensor information systems.

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