Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation announces the winners of the 18th annual Santé Awards to celebrate top health scientists in the province
January 19, 2022 (Saskatoon) - Dr. Ali Rajput, internationally recognized leader in Parkinson’s disease from the University of Saskatchewan, was honoured with an Achievement Award from Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF). The award was one of seven awards recognizing research impact and excellence from within Saskatchewan’s health research community.
For over five decades, Dr. Rajput has contributed to research and clinical innovation while showing foresight and leadership through his observation, curiosity and focus on providing the best care for his patients.
In response to the discovery and early implementation of the medication levodopa for Parkinson’s disease, Rajput established the Saskatchewan Movement Disorders Program in 1968. This not only provided Saskatchewan patients with access to the medication but became the basis for his significant research productivity and continued improvements in patient care.
His leadership resulted in the creation of a brain biobank that will continue to shape the research landscape for years to come and his mentorship and collaborations from across disciplines has inspired many others down a combined path of clinical practice and research.
Though his expertise has been sought after at the national and international level, his continued dedication to Saskatchewan patients and the community led to him becoming a founding member of the Saskatchewan Parkinson’s Foundation. His quest for answers and commitment to his patients will become his legacy and is at the core of why he was presented with this year’s Achievement Award that recognizes exemplary career achievements and inspiring drive, leadership and ingenuity.
More on Dr. Ali Rajput's work here
Impact Awards were also presented in the categories of Early Career and Mid-Career to Dr. Chris Phenix from the University of Saskatchewan and Dr. Mohan Babu from the University of Regina, respectively. These two awards recognize work over different stages of career to build capacity, advance knowledge, inform decision making, and to provide health, economic and social impacts, and future potential to continue their impact in Saskatchewan.
Phenix and his team are working to develop radiotracers to detect Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic degenerative brain disorder that affects more than 100,000 Canadians. The radiotracers are chemical compounds that have been labeled for easy detection, such as with PET scans, and that selectively attach to a specific protein in the body. This work looks at radiotracers for an enzyme, called glucocerebrosidase or GCase, that shows decreased activity in the brains of Parkinson’s patients. Currently, there are no radiotracers available to image GCase in patients, and the radiotracers could be used both to diagnose Parkinson’s, particularly in people with aggressive cases, and to help develop new drugs for the disease. This groundbreaking work has garnered $150,000 (USD) in funding from the extremely competitive Michael J. Fox Foundation, drawn interest from multinational drug companies, and attracted collaborators and clinicians from across the country.
More on Dr. Chris Phenix's work here
Dr. Babu holds the U of R Chancellor’s Research Chair in Network Biology and leads the mitoSYSTEMS Research Centre for Chronic Disease and is the first winner of the newly created Mid-Career Impact Award. His main focus is understanding the mitochondria, or the powerhouse of the cell, and the role dysfunction of the mitochondria can play in a wide-variety of diseases such as cancer, bipolar disorder, Parkinson’s and ALS. The mitochondria generate most of the energy supply for human cells and mitochondrial dysfunction can have far-reaching impacts on variety of physiological processes. However, his work in the field of quantitative systems biology, which brings together multidisciplinary perspectives, computational science and statistics to analyze biological networks, allows him to pivot his work in response to new health challenges, such as the pandemic. Babu was able to use proteomics to develop a saliva test to diagnose COVID and then an antiviral aimed at lessening the severity of the disease in people who become sick.
More on Dr. Mohan Babu's work here
Excellence Awards were presented to the four top-ranked researchers and teams that received SHRF funding for their projects in the past year. The awardees are as follows:
Dr. Michael Dubnewick Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies, University of Regina
Top Establishment Grant: Socio-Health
Dr. Anil Kumar College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan
Top Establishment Grant: Biomedical
Dr. Tarun Katapally Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina
Top Solutions Program: Impact Grant
Ramona Kyabaggu Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina Dr. Cheryl Camillo Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina Dr. Tim Maciag Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Regina
Top Solutions Program: Innovation Grant
With these awards and other activities throughout the year, we celebrate the impact of the work that is helping improve the health of Saskatchewan citizens, creating a high-performing health ecosystem and building a robust culture of research and innovation.
Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) is the provincial funding agency that funds, supports and promotes the impact of health research that matters to Saskatchewan, by collaborating with partners to support local researchers to help find homegrown solutions to the health challenges the province faces.
Visit shrf.ca/sante-awards to see a full list of award recipients and stories about the impact of their work.
For more information, contact:
Rostyk Hursky, Director of Impact and Strategy