(December 1, 2011 – Toronto, ON) Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women will be recognized at a celebratory evening later today, and among them is Mount Sinai’s Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras.
One of only a handful of scientists to be included among the list of Canada’s leading women in their fields, Dr. Gingras is a principal investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, renowned internationally for her studies of protein interactions that play a role in the development of cancer, drug resistance and immunity.
“This award from the Women’s Executive Network Foundation is a wonderful honour, especially to be recognized among such an accomplished group of women,” said Dr. Gingras, who will attend the awards ceremony this evening. “I believe this award also underscores the remarkable work done by the students, postdoctoral students and technicians in my lab, and the high regard in which the Lunenfeld and Mount Sinai Hospital are held in Canada.”
Dr. Gingras, who is the Lea Reichmann Research Chair in Cancer Proteomics, has had a stellar past few years marked by pivotal research breakthroughs, and the accolades just keep coming.
“Anne-Claude is an inspiration to all young scientists, but particularly women as she has become one of the world’s top experts in proteomics and mass spectrometry, which is typically a male-dominated field,” said Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of Research at the Lunenfeld who added, “We are extremely proud of her—she’s an amazing role model for all of us.”
Named early this year as a top ‘scientist to watch’ by the leading life sciences magazine The Scientist and featured in a French CBC radio series starring Toronto’s best scientific minds, Dr. Gingras is among the preeminent scientists in her field. She is a recognized authority in the field of proteomics—the large-scale study of proteins and the cellular pathways that control cell growth.
Dr. Gingras completed PhD studies in biochemistry at McGill University in Montreal, and obtained postdoctoral training at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, before moving to Toronto and joining the Lunenfeld in 2005. She also began teaching at the University of Toronto in 2006 in the Department of Molecular Genetics.
Dr. Gingras is particularly interested in understanding how a specific class of enzymes called phosphatases recognize their cellular targets. “Phosphatases control key cellular processes, and their deregulation is associated with diseases including cancer,” says Dr. Gingras. She explains that, despite their importance to human health, phosphatases have been relatively understudied. “Because proteins such as phosphatases rarely work alone in the cell, but rather associate with other proteins to exert their functions, identifying which proteins these molecules associate with is key to understanding their biological roles.”
In order to conduct her research, Dr. Gingras uses state-of-the-art mass spectrometers, which are instruments that help researchers analyze and identify proteins with incredible sensitivity. As part of her research efforts, Dr. Gingras is working to develop specialized mass spectrometry tools for quantifying interaction proteomics (the study of protein-protein interactions) that will help other researchers worldwide to better analyze basic cellular processes involved in health and disease.
For example, last December Dr. Gingras and her colleagues developed an innovative computational approach—the first of its kind worldwide—designed to analyze interaction proteomics data generated by mass spectrometry. The software, called SAINT (Significance Analysis of INTeractome), will allow researchers globally to quickly assess the reliability and accuracy of protein binding data, helping to further their studies of cancer and other illnesses. Dr. Gingras has encouraged many other scientists to use SAINT, and the software is being implemented at a number of research institutions.
Last May, Dr. Gingras and other Lunenfeld researchers including Drs. Tony Pawson and Mike Tyers created the first global ‘road map’ of important protein interactions implicated in cell signaling—an achievement that will help lead to better design of experiments that will accelerate identification of new therapeutic approaches. The findings were reported in the prestigious international journal Science.
Meet Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras
The basics: Born on Île d’Orléans, an island in the St. Lawrence River near Québec City. The island’s claims to fame are strawberries, maple syrup, migrating snow geese and singer-song writer Félix Leclerc. “The first two are very tasty,” says Dr. Gingras.
What she loves best about Toronto: “The research community of scientists here is extremely driven, and amazingly collaborative. Toronto is really unique this way.”
Favourite cuisine: “I like very simple food made with good and fresh ingredients. And I am like a kid in a candy store when I enter a cheese shop!”
Kinome: the entire collection of protein kinases (528 inthe humangenome) that represent prime targets for therapeutic interventions.