Dr. Davor Solter to deliver the 2019 Gairdner Lectures at UPEI

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The University of Prince Edward Island is proud to host the Canada 2018 Gairdner International Award winner for the 2019 Gairdner Lectures. Dr. Davor Solter will deliver a public lecture on Monday, May 6 at 9:30 am in the Faculty Lounge of UPEI’s SDU Main Building. A second lecture for high school students will take place immediately after at 10:45 am.

Dr. Davor Solter is an emeritus member and director of the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics. He is a visiting international professor of the Siriraj Center for Excellence in Stem Cell Research, Mahidol University, and a visiting professor at the University of Zagreb Medical School.

Together, the work of Dr. Solter and Dr. Azim Surani has contributed to the understanding of the developmental consequences and molecular mechanisms of genomic imprinting, starting the field of epigenetics, the study of heritable changes in gene function without changes in the DNA sequence.

In 1984, they released parallel studies that demonstrated the concept of genomic imprinting. All cells in the animal contain two copies of every autosomal gene, one from the mother and one from the father, and in most cases both copies are expressed. However, “imprinted” genes are expressed only from either the maternally or the paternally inherited copy. Genomic imprinting has widespread roles in mammals, affecting embryonic and placental development and transmission of nutrients to the fetus, and regulating critical aspects of mammalian physiology, such as metabolism, neuronal development and adult behaviour. Extensive research based on this discovery led to the identification of numerous imprinted genes whose alleles are differentially expressed depending on the parent of origin.

Faulty imprints can lead to developmental, physiological and behavioural anomalies in mice, and result in diseases in humans. There is growing evidence for the importance of imprinting in disease susceptibility from developmental syndromes like Beckwith-Wiedemann, Angelman and Prader-Willi, to a variety of cancers and neurological disorders and obesity. It also has effects on diverse aspects of mammalian development and physiology, such as stem cells, core body temperature, nutrition and behaviour.

All are welcome to the public lecture. High school classes who would like to attend the student lecture may contact Jane Vessey at javessey@upei.ca.

The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 with the goal of recognizing and rewarding international excellence in fundamental research that impacts human health. Seven awards are given annually: five Canada Gairdner International Awards for biomedical research, one John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for impact on global health issues, and one Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, reserved for a Canadian. The Foundation has bestowed 380 awards on laureates from 35 countries; 89 of those recipients have gone on to receive Nobel Prizes.

The University of Prince Edward Island prides itself on people, excellence, and impact and is committed to assisting students reach their full potential in both the classroom and community. With roots stemming from two founding institutions—Prince of Wales College and Saint Dunstan’s University—UPEI has a reputation for academic excellence, research innovation, and creating positive impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. UPEI is the only degree granting institution in the province and is proud to be a key contributor to the growth and prosperity of Prince Edward Island.


Dave Atkinson
Research Communications Officer
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