About the Foundation

"We're dedicated to recognizing the world's most creative and accomplished biomedical scientists."

The Canada Gairdner Awards are Canada’s most prestigious medical award. We recognize and celebrate the research of the world’s best and brightest biomedical researchers. 

Established in 1959, more than 325 Canada Gairdner International Awards have been given to scientists from 15 countries; of these recipients, 84 have subsequently won the Nobel Prize in Medicine. 

Laureates are announced every March and this is followed by receptions in each of their home cities to celebrate alongside their colleagues and family. In October current and past awardees visit Canada to speak with students and faculty at more than 20 universities across the country. The Gairdner Foundation strives to inspire the next generation of students to consider a career in the health sciences.  

The Canada Gairdner Awards are supported by the governments of Canada, Alberta and Ontario.


Our Founder

J. A. Gairdner (known as Big Jim to his grandchildren) was, indeed, a larger than life figure. Described by his friends as a talented maverick and visionary, he was a colourful personality who lived large. He was, by turns, an athlete, a soldier, a stockbroker, a businessman, a philanthropist and a landscape painter. (When he died, he left his house to the town of Oakville as an art gallery.)  While he had always had an interest in medicine, it was the onset of severe arthritis in his early 50s that led Gairdner to become involved with the newly created Canadian Arthritis and Rheumatism Society. In 1957 he donated $500,000 to establish a foundation to recognize major research contributions in the conquest of disease and human suffering. This was to be his most lasting legacy.

Gairdner’s decision to create awards that recognize outstanding discoveries by the world’s top scientists was, and continues to be, an act of extraordinary vision. Much of his original instruction regarding the process of selection and awarding of the prizes remains in place today, contributing to the current stature of the Canada Gairdner Awards.