(May 24, 2012—Toronto, ON) Dr. Isabella Caniggia, a Principal Investigator at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital, will receive a National Bank Business Excellence Award this evening, in recognition of her fundamental contributions to women’s and infants’ health research. The awards are to be presented on behalf of the Italian Chamber of Commerce (ICCO).
“I am thrilled to be the recipient of such a prestigious award that recognizes both my work and my Italian heritage of which I am extremely proud,” said Dr. Caniggia, who was also named one of the Toronto Star
’s list of “People to Watch” in 2011.
A Lunenfeld scientist since 1994, Dr. Caniggia is a leading authority on placental development and pre-eclampsia—a serious pregnancy-related disorder characterized by high blood pressure and proteinurea (excess protein in the urine). The condition affects more than 10,000 pregnant women in Canada each year and, if left untreated, can be fatal for both mother and child.
“Isabella is a remarkable scientist who brings enthusiasm and innovation to her research. Her family is well known for their contributions to advancing medical discoveries in Italy, and Isabella now continues this tradition in her adopted home of Canada. We are all extremely proud of her achievements,” said Dr. Stephen Lye, Associate Director of Research at the Lunenfeld and Mount Sinai Hospital Auxiliary Chair in Women’s and Infants’ Health Research.
Dr. Caniggia also works closely with clinical colleagues at Mount Sinai, including Dr. Alan Bocking, Chief of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Their collaborative work has been instrumental in applying research findings to the clinic, for earlier diagnoses and better treatment of pregnancy-related complications.
Dr. Caniggia hopes that in the future, a simple blood test will predict whether a pregnant woman is at risk for pre-eclampsia. A few years ago, she licensed her biomarker findings to help develop a diagnostic tool that will detect and manage pre-eclampsia in expectant mothers over the next five years. Potentially, physicians will use a point-of-care kit to detect and measure increased levels of the biomarker endoglin in expectant mothers who are at increased risk of pre-eclampsia.
Currently, doctors have to rely on symptoms such as high blood pressure and protein in urine, to find out whether a pregnant woman has the condition. A test that could diagnose pre-eclampsia early on in pregnancy, or predict which women are at high risk, would allow physicians to closely monitor and manage these risky pregnancies.
Pre-eclampsia occurs in about seven to 10 per cent of pregnancies and may develop from 20 weeks’ gestation, often leading to pre-term delivery or poor fetal growth. Apart from Caesarean section or induction of labour, there is no known cure and previous drug approaches have been unsuccessful. It is the most common and dangerous pregnancy-related complication that affects both mother and unborn child.