Dr Sauvageau-11.JPG

Dr. Guy Sauvageau, principal investigator at IRIC

During the radio show Les Années Lumière hosted by Yannick Villedieu, Radio-Canada has bestowed the title of Radio-Canada Scientist of the Year on Dr. Guy Sauvageau for the discovery of a molecule capable of multiplying umbilical cord blood stem cells.

A report entitled “La multiplication de cellules souches sanguines: une révolution toute Québécoise” (The Multiplication of Blood Stem Cells: a Made-in-Québec Revolution) on this international breakthrough will also be broadcasted on Radio-Canada’s Découverte February 1, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

As Principal Investigator at Université de Montréal’s Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC), Dr. Sauvageau heads the Molecular Genetics of Stem Cells Research Unit. He is also appointed  Professor at Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Medicine and is a practicing hematologist at Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.

“A discovery like that of Dr. Sauvageau and his team will undoubtedly have an impact on the lives of many people,” explains the executive vice-president of CBC/Radio-Canada, Louis Lalande. “The title of Scientist of the Year allows us to celebrate the work of those who, like him, work every day to improve the lives of men and women suffering from serious illnesses like cancer. More broadly, scientific communication makes it possible for us to explain how science is important and how it can concretely change our lives, hence the importance it bears for the public broadcaster. Congratulations to Dr. Sauvageau and his team!”

“I’m delighted with the benefits of the discovery of this new molecule,” stated Dr. Sauvageau. “This is an opportunity for me to draw attention on the extraordinary work done by our entire team and to demonstrate how IRIC’s unique model allows us to accelerate the discovery of new cancer drugs and to initiate clinical trials more quickly.”

A molecule with incredible potential

Dr. Sauvageau’s team has made an unprecedented breakthrough with the discovery of a new molecule capable of multiplying the stem cells present in umbilical cord blood. The use of this molecule – named UM171 in honor of Université de Montréal – will make it possible to significantly increase the availability of compatible stem cells for treating patients with illnesses like leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. A human clinical trial is about to start, and the probability of success is excellent.

“I congratulate Dr. Sauvageau and his team on this discovery, which will have positive benefits for thousands of patients,” declared Dr. Guy Breton, Université de Montréal’s Rector. “I also take this opportunity to thank Radio-Canada for continuing to introduce science and people who work the field to a wide audience. These topics are complex and are increasingly important in our lives. We are thus grateful now more than ever before to Radio-Canada’s craftsmen for giving us access to such a close and impassioned look at science.”

Michel Bouvier, IRIC’s chief executive officer, announced that he was “happy to be able to count on peerless researchers like Dr. Sauvageau, who, through their discoveries, enable our Institute to make a significant impact on the fight against cancer. Such an achievement occurred after less than 12 years of the Institute’s existence – a source of great pride for us all.” He also wished to “thank all the financial sponsors who support us in our groundbreaking vision based on an integrated drug discovery chain that links basic research with clinical applications and their commercialization.”

A collaborative effort

Such discoveries are the result of a true team effort. Réjean Ruel, Yves Gareau and Stéphane Gingras, chemists at IRIC’s medicinal chemistry platform led by Dr. Anne Marinier  and the screening platform team, led by Jean Duchaine, played an important role in this discovery, as did postdoctoral student Iman Farès and research officer Jalila Chagraoui, who collaborated on writing the original study, which appeared in the prestigious journal Science. The discovery also came to fruition in part thanks to invaluable collaborators, namely Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Héma-Québec and IRIC’s Drug Discovery and Research commercialization unit.

Awards of recognition for this discovery

Dr. Sauvageau and his team have also been voted Personality of the Year in the Science category by La Presse. Moreover, the UM171 molecule was selected by the magazine Québec Science as one of the top 10 discoveries of 2014. To vote for the Québec Science discovery of the year, we invite you to click here.

About the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer

An ultra-modern research hub and training centre located in the heart of the Université de Montreal, the Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer (IRIC) was created in 2003 to shed light on the mechanisms of cancer and discover new, more effective therapies to counter this disease. IRIC operates according to a model that is unique in Canada. Its innovative approach to research has already led to discoveries that will, over the coming years, have a significant impact on the fight against cancer. For further information: www.iric.ca


Manon Pepin
Director, Communications and Media Relations
Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer | IRIC
Université de Montréal
(514) 343-7283 | manon.pepin@umontreal.ca