I'm also noticing that two years of skimming the Toronto Star online have paid off, as I'm familiar with most local issues. I don't understand them in depth, but I'm at least aware of them and know the basics.
Here's a cool bit of Canadian news. Two Toronto-area scientists have won the prestigious Lasker Award, sometimes called North America's Nobel Prize. Both recipients are in their 70s, and made their pioneering discovery 45 years ago. From the Star story:
Almost 45 years after their breakthrough discovery, two septuagenarian Toronto scientists — revered within their field of stem cells but largely unknown outside of it — have won North America's most coveted prize in medical research: the Lasker Award.Maybe one day when the W junta has been overthrown, Americans will be able to benefit fully from the fruits of their discovery.
James Edgar Till, 74, and Ernest Armstrong McCulloch, 79, proved the existence of stem cells while toiling away at the old Ontario Cancer Institute labs on Sherbourne St. Their breakthrough 1961 paper on the formation of what were then called colony-forming cells is regarded as the starting point for the science. That paper, and several that followed, also provided the scientific underpinning to bone-marrow transplantation.
Public recognition, however, has largely eluded them. "Both James and I are private people," the soft-spoken but droll McCulloch said in one of the interviews conducted with the pair last week and last year. "We do not seek celebrity."
After all these decades, however, celebrity may be looking for them: Winning the Lasker — begun in 1946 by philanthropists Albert and Mary Woodard Lasker, and known as "America's Nobel" — is often the prelude to capturing the Nobel Prize: Since 1946, 70 Lasker winners have gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including 19 in the past 15 years.
The men will be honoured Friday in New York, sharing a prize of $50,000 (U.S.). Calling Till and McCulloch the "Fathers of Stem Cell Research," today's Lasker Foundation's announcement makes the global impact of their discoveries clear: "Their work laid the foundation for all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells and transformed the study of blood-cell specialization from a field of observational science to a quantitative experimental discipline." They also "explained the basis of bone-marrow transplantation, a procedure that prolongs the lives of people with leukemia and other blood cell-cancers."
While happy to be so honoured, McCulloch wished it had happened "10 to 15 years ago" when his health was better and his legs were stronger, "so that I could really enjoy it."
Till speculated that controversy around "just about everything to do with stem cells — stem-cell science, stem-cell ethics, stem-cell politics — the whole bit" might have been a factor in the delayed recognition of their work.
You can read about the Lasker Awards here.