Sep 6, 2022

Donnelly Centre Investigator Igor Stagljar Elected to Royal Society Of Canada And European Molecular Biology Organization

Awards, Faculty
white male with short hair in a grey suit
Tonko Buterin
Professor Igor Stagljar is being recognized for research excellence in proteomics and drug discovery.
By Jovana Drinjakovic

Donnelly Centre investigator Igor Stagljar has been elected a 2022 fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the organization announced today. The RSC’s mission is to recognize excellence and to provide counsel to governments and organizations for the betterment of Canadian society. Fellowship in the RSC is one of the highest honours a Canadian scholar can achieve.

Earlier this summer, Stagljar was also elected a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization. EMBO members are recognized for research excellence and outstanding achievement in life sciences. They too are called upon to advise policymakers and us such can influence the direction of the life sciences in Europe and beyond.

Both appointments recognize Stagljar’s research contributions to functional proteomics and drug discovery. Over the past two decades, Stagljar’s focus has been on establishing how protein molecules operate in cells and harnessing this knowledge for the development of new treatments.

Stagljar is a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, at U of T’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine. He is world-renowned for his study of protein interaction networks in human cells. These interactions underly all cellular processes and their disruption can lead to disease. Stagljar’s team has developed several technology platforms, including the Mammalian Membrane Two-Hybrid (MaMTH) and the Split Intein Mediated Protein Ligation (SIMPL), which enabled unbiased large scale studies of interactions involving thousands of human proteins across diverse disease contexts. Among other insights, these efforts have revealed clinically relevant protein targets for various ailments, from lung cancer to cystic fibrosis. An ongoing international trial is investigating the efficacy of drug compounds, which target the oncogenic interactions in the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor identified by Stagljar’s team, in patients with non-small cell lung carcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer.

Read more about Stagljar’s discovery of protein networks in cystic fibrosis.

More recently, Stagljar has applied his research to the development of rapid, sensitive and inexpensive methods for measuring immunity to Sars-CoV-2, which hold potential for the next stages of pandemic management through population immunosurveillance and testing the efficacy of novel vaccines.

Read about Stagljar’s COVID-19 research in Toronto Star.

In addition to his U of T appointments, Stagljar is also a co-director of the Mediterranean Institute for Life Sciences (MedILS) in Split, in his native Croatia. A builder of bridges, he fostered stronger ties between U of T and his alma mater, the University of Zagreb in Croatia’s capital as well as the University of Split on the Mediterranean coast. A partnership between the institutions was signed during the 2019 official visit to U of T of the then President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitanovic, which Stagljar helped organize.

Stagljar has authored more than 130 research articles and holds several patents. Throughout his career, he has strived to translate his research into tangible medical advances through industry partnerships and start-up development. Most recently, he co-founded Perturba Therapeutics, in partnership with the Toronto-based AI company Cyclica, to develop targeted treatments against oncogenic protein interactions, which are only present in cancer cells.

He has received numerous national and international awards, including the EMBO Young Principal Investigator Award, the 2015 U of T Inventor of the Year award, the Zdravko Lorkovic plaque from the Canadian Biological Society and the Rudjer Boskovic national award from the University of Split. Stagljar is also a member of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Science (HAZU).

“As a leading expert in the field of functional proteomics, Professor Stagljar has made tremendous contributions not only to his research field, but also potentially to future pandemic management efforts through the development of novel Sars-CoV-2 serological assays,” said Stephane Angers, Director of Donnelly Centre and Charles H. Best Chair of Medical Research. “On behalf of the Centre, I offer my warmest congratulations on this well-deserved honour.” 

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