India’s Dr Gagandeep Kang has been awarded the 2024 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for her achievements in global health research.

This was part of the Gairdner Foundation’s announcement of its 2024 Canada Gairdner Award winners, that recognised some of the world’s most significant biomedical and global health research and discoveries.

The Foundation said, in a statement, Dr Kang was awarded for “extensive cohort-based epidemiological, environmental and clinical trial research on enteric diseases in children and their effects on life course, with significant impact on vaccine development and health policy in India and internationally.” Dr Kang is Adjunct Professor, Christian Medical College, (Vellore) and Director, Enteric, Diagnostics, Genomics and Epidemiology, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Outlining her work, the note said, Dr Kang’s research group had established substantial community-based birth cohort studies addressing childhood enteric infections, growth, and development for over 20 years. “Using data and insights from these studies, alongside immunological, mechanistic, epidemiological and implementation research, Prof. Kang has generated extensive information on the complex interactions between the environment and infections in children, and the influence of prior infections on subsequent responses to vaccination.”

Kang conducted the largest single birth cohort study on rotaviral infections in the world, demonstrating that protection after a natural infection is lower in India than in developed countries, which has important implications for the control of diseases by vaccination, the note said.

She has led studies that contributed to the development and introduction of two Indian rotavirus vaccines into the national immunisation programme, it added.

International awards

The five 2024 Canada Gairdner International Award laureates, included Zelig Eshhar (Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel) and Michel Sadelain (Director, Center for Cell Engineering, Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair, Sloan Kettering Institute, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, USA) for their development and application of CD19-CAR T cell therapy for cancer.

Other awardees included Shankar Balasubramanian (Herchel Smith Professor of Medicinal Chemistry, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge) and David Klenerman, (FmedSci Professor of Biophysical Chemistry, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge) and Pascal Mayer, (CEO and Co-founder of Alphanosos; Honorary Chair at the Institute for Advanced Study of the University of Strasbourg (USIAS), awarded for fundamental and applied research that led to a revolutionary and affordable method to sequence DNA on a massive scale, which has accelerated discoveries in the life sciences and medicine.

The 2024 Canada Gairdner Momentum Award went to mid-career investigators recognized for exceptional scientific research contributions with continued potential for impact on human health. The included Meghan Azad (Professor, Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Manitoba; Research Scientist, Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba; Director of Science & Knowledge Mobilization, THRiVE Discovery Lab; Co-Director, Manitoba Interdisciplinary Lactation Centre (MILC); Canada Research Chair, Early Nutrition and the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease), awarded for research on understanding how human breast milk contributes to shaping the infant microbiome and lifelong health. Also receiving this award was

Christian Landry, (Professor of biology and biochemistry, Laval University; Canada Research Chair in Cellular Systems and Synthetic Biology), awarded for the development of novel approaches that combine synthetic biology, experimental evolution, and systems biology to address fundamental questions about gene function relevant to health and human disease, the note said.