Advances by Dr. Kathy Siminovitch in the genomics of autoimmune disease are cited by the Royal Society of Canada in electing her a Fellow of the Society.
She is one of 18 inductees in the Life Sciences division for 2013, and the sole Fellow from Toronto. Dr. Siminovitch is a Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, the Canada Research Chair in Mechanisms Regulating Immunological Disease, and the Sherman Family Research Chair in Genomic Medicine. She is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
The annual election of Fellows acknowledges those who have been “elected by their peers in recognition of outstanding scholarly, scientific and artistic achievement,” according to the Academy’s web site. It announced this year’s slate of new Fellows in early September.
The citation states that Dr. Siminovitch’s “discoveries of molecular pathways responsible for autoimmune disease have [...] profoundly advanced understanding and potential to ameliorate these common debilitating diseases.”
“I am delighted to receive this honor,” says Dr. Siminovitch. “In the past few years the Royal Society has become more inclusive in terms of recognizing the contributions of clinician scientists. It’s a welcome development because clinical scientists are uniquely well positioned to not only capitalize on the unprecedented opportunities today for medically relevant discovery, but also translate basic research discoveries into delivery of better health care.”
Dr. Siminovitch has long worked on the genetics of autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis, and primary biliary cirrhosis. “It’s been a fortuitous combination as genetic data have revealed very significant overlap in the genes that cause autoimmune diseases. This means that the knowledge gained from studying any one of these conditions can often be extrapolated to improve the understanding and treatment of the other diseases,” she says.
“One example of how this work benefits patients is the work we are doing with Dr. Edward Keystone regarding diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis,” she says. Dr. Keystone is Director of the Rebecca Macdonald Centre for Arthritis and Autoimmune Disease at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“We know that earlier treatment of this disease gives patients the best possibility for good outcomes. By taking advantage of information on an individual’s genetic and immunologic make-up, we believe we can predict which individuals in an at-risk population will develop this disease,” Dr. Siminovitch adds. “By this means, we could begin ‘treatment’ before the disease is clinically detectable. We are now setting up a pre-rheumatoid arthritis clinic that will allow us to identify such individuals and potentially treat them with the goal of preventing the disease – a form of individualized or precision medicine.”
“We are also working on the use of genetic information to predict whether a patient will have a good response to a specific medication – a tool for us in selecting the best treatment option for every individual,” she says.
“We're delighted and honoured that Dr. Siminovitch has been recognized by her peers for her many contributions to our understanding of immune disorders and for her visionary work in personalized medicine,” says Dr. Jim Woodgett, Director of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.
The induction event is scheduled for November 2013.