Wee Yong has been awarded the 2017 J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine, Robarts Research Institute officials announced today. Awarded since 1985, the Taylor Prize recognizes the contributions of outstanding internationally recognized researchers.
Yong, a world-leading multiple sclerosis (MS) researcher at the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, has dedicated his career to understanding the disease and translating his findings in the lab into new treatments.
Most recently, Yong and his team demonstrated that a common acne medication called minocycline delays the onset of MS for patients in the early stages of the disease. While working in his lab nearly two decades ago, Yong discovered that it seemed minocycline could reduce immune cells from attacking the brain. The results of a Phase III clinical trial proving its efficacy were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“Dr. Yong’s elegant work over many years demonstrates that it takes almost a lifetime to advance fundamental discoveries in the laboratory into innovative therapies that benefit MS patients,” said Ravi Menon, a Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry professor and Robarts scientist, who was a member of the prize committee. “From a field of stellar international nominees, it is particularly satisfying to award the Taylor Prize to a Canadian researcher in this, Canada’s 150th year.”
Yong, a Canada Research Chair in Neuroimmunology, co-directs the MS NeuroTeam of the Hotchkiss Brain Institute in Calgary and directs the Alberta MS Network. He is on the editorial board of seven international journals, and he is an elected fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada. He has been the President of the International Society of Neuroimmunology where he co-founded the Americas and the Global Schools of Neuroimmunology to train the next generation of researchers.
“Dr. Yong has made transformative advances in the MS field that cover the spectrum from fundamental research to the development of ground-breaking therapeutic strategies for MS treatment. He is a leader in MS research both nationally and internationally, and plays a key leadership role in the MS community in Canada. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Yong to London,” said Marlys Koschinsky, Scientific and Executive Director at Robarts.
The award will be presented to Yong at the Leaders in Innovation Dinner on Nov. 15 at the London Convention Centre. Yong will also give a keynote address during the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine Symposium taking place earlier that day and will be included as part of a panel of experts on MS moderated by The Globe and Mail health columnist, Andre Picard.
“I am thrilled, delighted, humbled and very honoured to be in good company along with the list of very accomplished individuals who have received this award in the past,” Yong said. “It certainly is a big honour.”
Canada has the highest rate of MS in the world, with an estimated 1 in 340 Canadians living with the disease, according to the MS Society of Canada.
The J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine is named after the founding Chair of the Board at Robarts, and includes a cash prize of $25,000 and a medal bearing the likeness of J. Allyn Taylor. The award is generously supported by the Stiller Foundation and the family of the late J. Allyn Taylor.