Dr. Gustavo Turecki, Chair of McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry, is among the three leading Canadian scientists in heart, brain and cancer research who have been recognized by the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine for their scientific accomplishments, and for their potential to make further contributions in their fields.

The Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize will be awarded to McGill University’s Gustavo Turecki, who has advanced our understanding of how early life adversity changes the brain to influence suicide and depression. The ninth annual Margolese National Heart Disorders Prize will be awarded to Ruth McPherson of the University of Ottawa, for her international impact on the prevention and treatment of obesity and coronary artery disease.

The sixth annual Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Prize in Cancer Research will be awarded to John Dick of the University of Toronto, for his pioneering discovery of the origins of leukemia and causes for relapse.

Each prize is valued at $50,000, making them among the most prestigious honours bestowed by a Canadian university. The recipients were chosen by a committee of international experts chaired by Robert McMaster, Executive Associate Dean, Research, and Deborah Money, Executive Vice Dean.

Margolese National Brain Disorders Prize: Gustavo Turecki

Gustavo Turecki’s groundbreaking work in depression and suicide has been instrumental in the development of suicide research, intervention and prevention initiatives in Canada and internationally.

Dr. Turecki is a recognized leader in the functional genomics and epigenetics of suicide and depression. A major component of Dr. Turecki’s research has been to understand the molecular changes that occur in the brains of individuals who struggle with depression and feel so hopeless that they consider taking their own life. His work shows how early life adversity affects behavioural and emotional development and influences suicide risk through epigenetic changes in specific areas of the brain.

In this work, Dr. Turecki established the molecular link between social experience and the brain, leading to a new field of study on the epigenetic basis of behaviour. Dr. Turecki’s understanding of how early traumatic life experiences influence the development of the brain has also had significant impact in the clinical setting by legitimizing the experiences of victims of childhood maltreatment. Additionally, Dr. Turecki has produced promising biomarkers of antidepressant response, which could contribute to improved patient management in daily practice. Dr. Turecki’s integration of molecular and clinical science research has positioned him as one of the world’s leading researchers in mood disorders and suicide.

Dr. Turecki is the current Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, the director of the FRQS Quebec Network on Suicide, Mood Disorders and Related Disorders (RQSHA), Co-Director of the Douglas-Bell Canada Brain Bank, and the founding director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS). Additionally, he holds a Canada Research Chair in Major Depressive Disorder and Suicide. In his role as a clinician, Dr. Turecki leads the Depressive Disorders Program at the Douglas Institute, where he provides treatment to youth and adults with refractory major depressive disorder. Dr. Turecki regularly publishes his work in the highest-ranked journals, including Nature and sister journals such as Nature Neuroscience, with more than 400 publications during the length of his career.

Dr. Turecki completed his MD and residency in psychiatry at UNIFESP, Brazil. He received his PhD in Neuroscience from McGill University.

The Margolese prizes were created by an estate gift to UBC by Leonard Herbert Margolese to recognize Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to the treatment, amelioration or cure of brain or heart disorders. Margolese, who died in 2000, was a Vancouver businessman who had a heart condition and whose brother had Alzheimer’s disease.

Congratulations Dr. Turecki!


July 16 2019