Wednesday, May 03, 2006

University Affairs article wins writer health research medal

Toronto freelance writer Michael Smith wrote a "scientific whodunit" for University Affairs magazine (published by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada). And the story of the tragedy and perseverance that yielded powerful new drugs has won this year's sanofi pasteur Medal for Excellence in Health Research Journalism, presented by Canadians for Health Research (CHR).

The award -- a commemorative medal and a $2,500 bursary -- will be presented on June 24 during the Canadian Science Writers' Association (CSWA) annual general meeting in St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador.

The story describes how the work of Queen's University biochemist Michael Axelrad was cut short inthe 1970s by ankylosing spondylitis, a spinal inflammation that created a fatal build-up of amyloid deposits in his brain. His condition and fate became the focal point of ongoing
research by Dr. Axelrad's colleagues, whose subsequent understanding of amyloid chemistry laid the foundation for new treatments of this neurological disease, as well as Alzheimer's and even atherosclerosis.

The award judges praised the way in which the article made a very complex topic accessible to any reader.

"Michael Smith has given us a rich insight into the lives of the people who populate our research community," says CHR president Patricia Guyda. "I was especially moved by a passage which states, 'Dr. Axelrad did not live to see the secrets of amyloid unravelled. But he did pass the torch.' Any scientist would be proud to be remembered in that way."

CHR launched the sanofi pasteur Medal in 1995, and administers the selection process. A national, federally chartered, nonprofit organization founded in 1976, CHR is dedicated to promoting the understanding and communication of medical matters by the public, scientific community and government, with a membership made up of organizations and individuals who
share these goals.

The medal is sponsored by sanofi pasteur, Canada's premier vaccine company. The sanofi-aventis Group is the world's third-largest pharmaceutical company, ranking number one in Europe. In addition to vaccines, it specializes in developing medicine for use in cardiovascular disease, thrombosis, oncology, metabolic diseases, central nervous system and internal medicine.


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