Canadian Health research: Saving Lives, Making History

Canada's health researchers have made many life-saving discoveries. From Banting and Best's insulin innovation to today's advancements in health care delivery, our country has led the way in making the world a healthier place. Learn more about Canada’s major health research achievements, and take a closer look at some of the research CIHR supported in its first 10 years.



"With the relief of the symptoms of his disease, and with the increased strength and vigor resulting from the increased diet, the pessimistic, melancholy diabetic becomes optimistic and cheerful. Insulin is not a cure for diabetes; it is a treatment."
Dr. Frederick G. Banting, Nobel Prize Lecture, 1923


Insulin changes lives of diabetics
Drs. Banting and Best, Collip and Macleod discover insulin, revolutionizing the treatment of diabetes, and give the Canadian scientific community its first Nobel Prize.


Of hormones and bones
Dr. James Collip discovers parathyroid hormone. The discovery increases understanding of how our bodies regulate calcium concentrations and eventually leads to new treatments for osteoporosis.


"Brain surgery is a terrible profession. If I did not feel it will become different in my lifetime, I should hate it."
Dr. Wilder Penfield


Feeding babies better
Researchers at the University of Toronto announce the creation of Pablum; royalties from its sales still support research at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.


Treating seizures in Montreal
Dr. Wilder Penfield establishes the Montreal Neurological Institute. Dr. Penfield developed a surgical method for treating epilepsy, called the Montreal Procedure.


The roots of CIHR
National Research Council (NRC) establishes the Associate Committee on Medical Research.


"At the age of 20, I had my first course in histology; I enjoyed it and wondered about becoming a histologist. Friends tried to dissuade me: 'Histology,' they said, 'is a dead horse. The future is in biochemistry.' I chose histology anyway, worked at it for 50 years, and never looked back. Many exciting things happened in the field during these 50 years... all powerful kicks for a dead horse."
Dr. Charles Leblond


Jumpstarting molecular research
Dr. Maud Menten, one of Canada's first female physicians, performs the first protein separation using electrophoresis. To this day, electrophoresis is a standard research tool in genetics and other biological sciences.


The polio vaccine: the Canadian contribution
Dr. Raymond Parker of the University of Toronto's Connaught Laboratories discovers a chemical nutrient in which cells can grow and replicate, playing a role in the discovery of the polio vaccine.


Associate Committee is replaced by NRC Division of Medical Research.

Watching the body at work
Dr. Charles Leblond develops autoradiography. This technique is later used to identify stem cells in adult organs and observe the creation of proteins in living cells.



1950s "I have worked on many other projects. Some of them classified and important. But this one (the electric wheelchair) has given me the most satisfaction… It has given me a feeling of helping others, who have not always been able to help themselves."
George Klein


Canada sets the pace for cardiac care
Dr. John Alexander "Jack" Hopps develops the world's first external 'cardiac pacemaker', which electrically stimulates heart muscles.

Blasting away cancer cells
The Cobalt-60 "Bomb", developed by Howard Johns at the University of Saskatchewan, represents a tremendous step forward in cancer radiation treatment. It is estimated to have saved millions of lives, and is still in use in some parts of the world today.

Recognizing strokes
Dr. C. M. Fisher discovers that strokes are often preceded by Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) - brief episodes of impaired consciousness caused by blood clots in the arteries of the brain.


Helping Those Who Can't Help Themselves
George Klein invents the world's first electric wheelchair for quadriplegic patients.


Healing Hodgkin's disease
Dr. Vera Peters pioneers the use of radiation in the treatment of Hodgkin's disease. Once thought to be incurable, Hodgkin's now has a survival rate of more than 90%.


Scientific serendipity
Drs. Robert Noble and Charles Thomas Beer discover that the plant extract vinblastine provides an effective treatment for cancer. The chemical remains an important component of chemotherapies used to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung, breast and testicular cancer.

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