Feb 22, 2024

Dr. An-Wen Chan and Dr. Artem Babaian Awarded Inaugural Temerty Medicine Research Excellence Awards

An-Wen Chan and Artem Babaian

The Office of the Vice Dean, Research and Health Science Education launched the Temerty Medicine Research Excellence Award to recognize research excellence and innovation of early to mid-career researchers in our faculty. The award recognizes one faculty member in the clinical sciences and one in the basic sciences who are within the first 15 years of the start of their first independent research position. Each award consists of a $10,000 cash prize along with a nomination of each winner for an external research award of their choosing. The Temerty Medicine Research Excellence Award was made possible by the transformational gift from Jim and Louise Temerty and the Temerty Foundation. Their investment supports discovery, collaboration and innovation across the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine.

We are pleased to announce the two winners of the inaugural Temerty Medicine Research Excellence Award: An-Wen Chan, a professor of medicine (division of dermatology) and a senior scientist at Women’s College Hospital, and Artem Babaian, an assistant professor in molecular genetics at the Terrence Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomedical Research.

Congratulations to our 2023 recipients!

An Wen Chan
An-Wen Chan, recipient of the 2023 Research Excellence Award

About An-Wen Chan

As the gold standard of health care evidence, clinical trials have great potential to improve health. Chan led a program of research, standards development, and global advocacy to improve the conduct, reporting, and appraisal of clinical trials internationally. He pioneered meta-research (‘research on research’) methods to complete landmark studies that characterized a new type of bias in trials: the selective reporting of positive outcomes and suppression of negative outcomes within published articles. These findings led to the widespread implementation of trial registration, which is now mandated around the world.

In response to the systemic gaps identified, Chan developed global standards to improve the conduct and reporting of clinical trials. His signature initiative is the 2013 Standard Protocol Items: Recommendations for Interventional Trials (SPIRIT) guidance that defines the key elements to address in trial protocols. Translated into eight languages, SPIRIT has become the global standard for developing trial protocols and has been widely implemented by over 2,900 trials and 150 medical journals, as well as graduate training programs internationally. Chan co-led a Lancet Series to increase value and reduce avoidable waste in research, securing commitment from research funders worldwide to adopt their recommendations. Chan also conducts clinical trials and epidemiological studies to find better ways of preventing and managing high-risk skin cancer, particularly in solid organ transplant recipients. He is the founding managing director of the Skin Investigation Network of Canada (SkIN Canada).

Chan’s program of work has led to a) high-impact productivity with 152 publications (34 in JAMA, Lancet, BMJ, Nature Medicine), an H-index of 54, over 74,000 citations, and $8.8 million in grants; b) sustainability with 1-3 publications in the top general medical journals every year since 2004; and c) global recognition with leadership roles in the World Health Organization and international initiatives.

Artem Babaian
Artem Babaian, recipient of the 2023 Research Excellence Award

About Artem Babaian

Babaian’s research focuses on developing cutting-edge technologies to detect novel viruses at an unprecedented scale. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Babaian initiated a project (called Serratus) to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-2 through the re-analysis of all public RNA-sequencing data. To achieve this, he established the Serratus Consortium, an international team of leading bioinformaticians and virologists. Together, they searched 5.7 million sequencing libraries for a gene that is found in all RNA viruses (called RdRp); this search uncovered >130,000 novel RNA virus species, including nine novel Coronaviruses. Prior to this project, only 15,000 virus species had been discovered. This breakthrough expanded Earth’s known RNA virome by nearly an order of magnitude and was published in Nature (over 250 citations). Babaian’s work was highlighted by international media and garnered multiple honors, including the prestigious Gairdner Early Career Investigator Award.

Babaian has also contributed to our understanding of ribosomal RNA modifications in human cancer, discovering hidden ribosomal variability between individuals that could serve as a novel therapeutic target (Cell Reports, 61 citations).