Celebrating the 100th Birthday of Dr. Lou Siminovitch


In honour of Dr. Lou Siminovitch’s 100th Birthday, Gairdner hosted a Zoom call with a selection of his friends from the research community. Each attendee shared their birthday wishes and noted how impacted Dr. Siminovitch was on their own careers. These scientists even tried their hand at singing him Happy Birthday.

Guests included: Heather Munroe-Blum, Phil Sharp, Lorne Tyrrell, Rod McInnes, Leah Cowen, Dan Drucker, Bruce Alberts, Lewis Kay, Cyril Kay, John Dick, Alex Joyner, Jim Woodgett and John Dirks.

You can watch a short video of the call here:

Our President, Dr. Janet Rossant shared her own thoughts on his legacy and impact below.

Dr. Siminovitch received the Canada Gairdner Award in 1981. He perfectly exemplifies the definition of this award with his impactful research and scientific leadership in Canada and beyond.

He studied with Monod and Lwoff at the Institut Pasteur in the early 50s, then returned to Canada, first to the Connaught Labs and then to the Ontario Cancer Institute, where he developed his research program in somatic cell genetics, and collaborated with Till and McCulloch on defining hematopoietic stem cells. This was his most fertile research time, where he worked directly at the bench and was ahead of his time in developing methodologies to detect and identify mutations in cells in culture.

However, his lasting impact has come from his roles in establishing world class centres for molecular genetics, recruiting and mentoring young scientists who went on to be major leaders in genetics from phage to human genetics. He was the first chair of the new department of Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto in 1966, became Geneticist-in-chief at SickKids in 1970 and director of the new Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital in 1985.

At SickKids he recruited and encouraged Lap-Chee Tsui, Ron Worton, Manuel Buchwald, Rod McInnes and others on the path to the first positional cloning of human disease genes, including cystic fibrosis and DMD.

At the Lunenfeld he attracted and mentored a stellar crew of molecular cell and developmental biologists, including Tony Pawson, Alan Bernstein, Alex Joyner and myself. He always promoted the importance of fundamental science as the way forward to understanding human health and disease and the work of his scientific offspring attest to the wisdom of that commitment.

Thank you Lou and best wishes for many more birthdays to come!

Janet Rossant

President & Scientific Director

Gairdner Foundation