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The Globe and Mail

Michael Hayden has hope for a Huntington's cure

Michael Hayden is a Killam Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia, and has been director of the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT) since 1993 - a genetic research centre at Vancouver's UBC campus, part of the Child and Family Research Institute.

World-renowned geneticist and author of over 600 publications, Mr. Hayden studies the genetic roots of illness in order to develop better treatments for patients suffering from debilitating disease, including diabetes and coronary artery disease. Much of his career has also been devoted to understanding the development of Huntington's disease and seeking a cure for the devastating neurological disorder; he is the world's most cited author on Huntington's disease.

Researchers in Mr. Hayden's lab have found evidence for the prevention of the development of Huntington's in an animal model, a controversial experiment, undertaken despite considerable skepticism, that has since brought hope to thousands of patients and families worldwide.

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Mr. Hayden is the founder of three research networks that have contributed significantly to the health of Canadians through research and predictive genetic testing: The Canadian Collaborative Network for Huntington's Disease, The Canadian Genetics Disease Network and The Canadian Pharmacogenomics Network for Drug Safety, unique in its work identifying patients across the country with severe side effects to drugs, matching the genetic factors responsible for the effects, and ultimately developing strategies for prevention

In 1984, Mr. Hayden established the first annual Summer Camp for Huntington's patients in North America, an event that continues to be a symbol of hope to patients and their families today.

Mr. Hayden initiated and leads an international effort to bring aid to a community living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In collaboration with colleagues around the world, he spearheaded and is building a youth-friendly recreation, counselling, and learning centre in direct partnership with the township of Masiphumelele in Cape Town. This centre aims to promote responsible sexual behaviours among at-risk youth, empower HIV/AIDS-affected youth, and build a sense of self and community-participation within the township.

Nominator: Simon Pimstone

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