When people ask Dr. Daniel Drucker what he does for a living, he tells them he’s an endocrinologist and studies hormones – “thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, testosterone, estrogen, all diabetes, obesity … That’s usually when [people] walk away.”
Dr. Drucker’s work hasn’t made him a celebrity on the Toronto social scene, but it has drawn serious praise for its origination and impact. Having received the Order of Canada three years ago for his advancements in the treatment of diabetes, the Toronto scientist has been named the 2018 Principal Award winner by the Ernest C. Manning Foundation. The award, which was to be formally announced Wednesday, highlights Dr. Drucker’s achievement in assisting people with short bowel syndrome, a disorder resulting in malabsorption of fluids and food due to a resection of the small intestine.
Three other winners are also being honoured by the foundation, named after the longest-serving premier in Alberta history. The award criteria call for "product discovery, innovation and expansion.” Previous award recipients have been celebrated for building a better robotic arm, a safer trailer hitch, a machine that makes it easier for fish-plant workers to remove meat from a crab, plus the initiation of a theatre troupe for people with developmental challenges. These are only a few of the advancements made since the Manning Awards were first presented in 1982.
For his success with the hormone glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP-2), Dr. Drucker received $100,000.
“In science, product development takes 10 to 20 years and we started working on this particular hormone about 1995,” he explained from Berlin, where he is attending the European Association for the Study of Diabetes conference. “It took about 17, 18 years for it to become a drug. [It] sells about $500-million a year now. It’s the only treatment that has been approved for the chronic therapy of short bowel syndrome.”
SBS patients are plagued by dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss. They have to receive their nutrition intravenously. The GLP-2-inspired drug enables people to eat again while others have come off intravenous feedings completely. Such work has garnered Dr. Drucker, a professor at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, prime recognition among his peers.
He has earned awards from the University of Chicago, the Endocrine Society, the University of Cambridge and the American Diabetes Association.
“I always have an eye on whether what I’m doing on the science side of things might be relevant to my patients,” Dr. Drucker said. “Because at the end of the day, I think all of us go to work and we want to make the world a better place.”
Morgan Wyatt won the Arthur J.E. Child Award and $10,000 for making a kitchen compost container compostable. It began with finding a better way to deal with the plastic bags that would leak inside the bin creating both a mess and a foul smell. With a PhD in chemical biology, Dr. Wyatt produced a formula that “could make paper pulp leak-proof, like the egg-carton material and coffee-cup holders.” And yet, Dr. Wyatt added, “It was one of those things where not only does it have to fulfill the equipment on the consumer front on your kitchen counter by not leaking for a certain amount of time, but we also had to make sure it would break down in all the compost programs across North America and even into Europe.”
Together, Dr. Wyatt and his brother Jackson dubbed their venture Greenlid and have sold three million units worldwide. They have also reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in just four years.
Greenlid is developing a new product, Biotrap. It’s a biodegradable mosquito trap that has been targeted for countries where mosquitos carry dengue, malaria and the zika virus.
Matthew Bromwich was given the David E. Mitchell Award of Distinction and $25,000 for SHOEBOX Audiometry. It’s an e-health hearing test with an iPad-based interactive audio-metre that is smaller than a shoebox. It has been stated that nearly half a billion people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, yet 80 per cent of them have no access to health care.
Kamran Khan and his team at BlueDot won the Facebook Innovation Award and $10,000 for their work “harnessing big data, artificial intelligence and the worldwide adoption of mobile technologies to spread knowledge faster than disease.”
To gain more timely information, Dr. Khan entered into an agreement with various airlines around the world to access their flight itineraries to help predict what diseases would spread and where.
The Manning Awards will be presented Oct. 24 at the Scotiabank Centre in Toronto.