LifeSciences B.C. to honour SFU quartet

March 25, 2010

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Biomedical physiologist Andy Hoffer is one of four SFU scientists who will be honoured with 2010 LifeSciences B.C. awards April 14 in a ceremony at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Hoffer will receive the Innovation and Achievement award for his pioneering work over more than 30 years conceiving and developing implantable medical devices.

Scientists Rob Holt, Marco Marra and Steven Jones in SFU’s molecular biology and biochemistry department will receive LifeScience B.C.’s Genome B.C. Award for Science.

Over the past decade Hoffer developed the Neurostep, the first fully implanted medical device that stimulates paralyzed feet to enable walking. The pacemaker-like apparatus is implanted inside the thigh where it supplants brain-control circuitry that has been destroyed or damaged due to stroke and other neurological disorders. The Neurostep, which will soon be on sale in Europe and begin clinical trials in the U.S., could help an estimated 2.5 million people worldwide affected by conditions including epilepsy, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and urinary incontinence.

Currently, Hoffer is developing the Lungpacer, a device designed to wean patients from ventilators and let them breathe independently again sooner, which could significantly reduce hospital stays and health care costs.

Holt, Marra and Jones all hold leadership roles at the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the B.C. Cancer Agency where they were instrumental in discovering a gene mutation occurring in a prevalent type of ovarian cancer.

They also led the first sequencing of a breast cancer genome, a breakthrough featured on the cover of Nature. Most recently, they were first to identify a mutation in a specific gene linked to B-cell lymphomas, a significant finding subsequently published in Nature Genetics.


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