Dr. Tak Mak Wins Gold Leaf Prize

Home page Description: 
Princess Margaret researcher is honoured for groundbreaking discovery of the T cell receptor.

Dr. Tak Mak, Senior Scientist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, has won the Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The prize is awarded every two years to “individuals or teams whose research findings are unique, innovative and represent a ground-breaking discovery in any pillar of health research that has been seen to significantly influence knowledge in the field.”

Dr. Mak was awarded the prize for a pioneering discovery that changed the course of our understanding of the human immune system. In 1984, he cloned one of the genes specifying the elusive T cell receptor, which controls how an immune cell called the T lymphocyte binds to its target. In so doing, Dr. Mak captured what many in the field called ‘the Holy Grail of immunology’.

Dr. Mak’s findings were remarkable not only because they solved a problem that had plagued scientists for decades, but also because they opened up countless new research avenues in T cell biology. The immense progress in immunology research achieved in the last three decades would not have been possible without this breakthrough.

This prize was selected by a Gold Ribbon Panel comprising individuals with a broad array of expertise in biomedical, clinical, health services, health policy, and population and public health research. They evaluated applicants for evidence of an outstanding discovery or breakthrough with a major influence on future research, and evidence that the discovery has significantly influenced knowledge in the field of health research. Dr. Mak will receive a prize of $100,000, and a medal and grant to be presented at a ceremony on June 20. A full list of Gold Leaf Prize recipients can be found here.

Dr. Mak’s award marks the second award in a row for a UHN scientist since the launch of the inaugural competition in 2016. The first CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Discovery was awarded to Dr. John Dick.

Congratulations to Dr. Mak!