DAVID DOLPHIN AND KEITH SLESSOR
2003 DISTINGUISHED ACADEMICS AWARDS RECIPIENTS
A pair of chemists beat out stiff competition to win the 2003 Distinguished Academics Awards, presented annually by the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. (CUFA/BC) for exceptional research that contributes to the wider community
UBC professor David Dolphin was named Academic of the Year for developing the drug Visudyne, which successfully treats a common type of age-related blindness. SFU professor Keith Slessor received the Career Achievement Award for a lifetime of research excellence dealing with insect pheromones and for promoting science among non-scientists.
“Professors Dolphin and Slessor exemplify the contributions B.C. university faculty make to the wider community through their research and scholarly activity,” said Rick Coe, CUFA/BC President.
“Prof. Dolphin’s development of Visudyne to treat one of the most common causes of blindness benefits more than 200,000 Canadians,” Coe continued. “Prof. Slessor’s research has contributed very significantly to controlling insect populations by using the insects’ own pheromones. This work has had beneficial effects in forestry and the honey industry. Prof. Slessor has also dedicated his career to explaining science both to the wider community and to non-scientists within the university community.”
Bill Richardson, host of CBC Radio One’s Richardson’s Roundup, emceed the award dinner April 23rd at the Law Courts Restaurant in Vancouver.
The CUFA/BC Distinguished Academics Awards are in their ninth year and receive generous support from Sun Microsystems of Canada, the University of British Columbia, Royal Roads University, Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria and the University of Northern British Columbia.
2003 CUFA/BC DISTINGUISHED ACADEMICS AWARDSRECIPIENTS
APRIL 23, 2003
ACADEMIC OF THE YEAR AWARD – DR. DAVID DOLPHIN
DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
David Dolphin has worked throughout his career on compounds call porphyrins (pronounced POUR-fur-ins). Porphyrins are pigments found in both animal and plant life. They are involved in the formation of many important substances in the body including hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in the blood.
Dr. Dolphin used his ability to synthesize these compounds to create a porphyrin to absorb a specific wavelength of light. When injected into tissue and exposed to laser light, this compound was found to be effective in killing skin cancer cells.
In the course of clinical trials, it was discovered that the compound, called Visudyne today, also stopped the growth of new blood vessels, thus closing down the nutrient source for the cancer cells.
This unintended effect proved effective in treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The “wet” version of this disease results in spontaneous growth of new blood vessels in the retina of the eye, which kills off the normal cells, thereby causing blindness. By using Visudyne and laser light to stop the growth of new blood vessels, vision is preserved.
The clinical trials of Visudyne to treat AMD — the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 50 in the Western world — were successful and the treatment has now been approved for use in 70 countries. The causes of AMD are unknown, but thanks to David Dolphin’s work in creating Visudyne, millions of people worldwide will be able to keep their sight.
For this application of fundamental chemistry to a real world problem, Dr. David Dolphin was recognised as the 2003 CUFA/BC Academic of the Year.
CAREER ACHIEVEMENT AWARD – DR. KEITH SLESSOR
DEPARTMENT OF CHEMISTRY, SIMON FRASER UNIVERSITY
Keith Slessor credits his long fascination with science to his high-school chemistry teacher in Ladysmith, B.C. The long-time Maple Ridge resident has turned that fascination into a distinguished career as a teacher and researcher.
Dr. Slessor’s research has focussed mainly on the identification and synthesis of insect pheromones. His research has resulted in methods of monitoring pest populations and forecasting potential outbreaks.
His honours include the Science Council of B.C. Gold Medal for the Natural Sciences in 1992 and the E.C. Manning Award for Innovation in 1997, both of which he shared with SFU Biologist Mark Winston (himself the 2001 CUFA/BC Academic of the Year) for their work in using pheromones to boost honey production in bees — a line of research inspired by Dr. Slessor’s father’s hobby of bee keeping.
Dr. Slessor has always looked beyond the boundaries of his academic field for new ideas. It was this desire that resulted in his creating SFU’s Science 300 course to foster an appreciation in non-scientists of the role and importance of science in our society. He is also working with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to promote research projects that cross the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.
For his research achievements, his commitment to bringing science to the wider community, and his efforts to make links between academic fields, Dr. Keith Slessor received the 2003 CUFA/BC Career Achievement Award.
2003 Distinguished Academics Awards Sponsored by