N.B.: The detail displayed about each honorary degree recipient varies, as
the database was compiled from a variety of sources. However, more information may
be available at the University Archives.
Name: Dr. James (Jim) Edgar Till, B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
Convocation date: May 29, 2008
Discipline / contribution: biology ; stem cells
Citation / biographical information:
Jim Till was born at Lloydminster, on the Saskatchewan side of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, and received his early education there. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a B.A. in 1952 and a M.A. in Physics in 1954. He earned his Ph.D. in Biophysics at Yale in 1957. Upon graduation from Yale, he returned to Canada and joined Dr. Harold Johns, the developer of the "Cobalt Bomb", as a founding member of the scientific staff of the newly-built Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto. They both were also founding members of the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto, where Jim has had a long and fruitful research career.Degree received: Doctor of Science
Shortly after joining the Ontario Cancer Institute, he started collaborating with Dr. Ernest McCulloch. This led to their pioneering work defining the hallmark properties of stem cells, including their capacity for self-renewal and pluripotency. This seminal discovery was the first evidence for the existence of stem cells, which are currently of great interest because of their potential for use in the treatment of a wide variety of medical disorders. The work of Till and McCulloch also formed the basis of bone marrow stem cell transplants, now widely used in the treatment of patients with leukemia and other blood disorders. Not only has their work stood the test of time, it still forms the basis for much of the work currently being done in the rapidly expanding area of stem cell research.
Dr. Till carried out research ranging from work on hematological stem cells to membrane biology and somatic cell genetics. He subsequently developed an interest in studies on the quality of life issues of cancer patients. This has led to his current advocacy in support of more open online access to the peer-reviewed research literature, for everyone for whom it's not currently freely accessible, including patients. In contrast to many classical academic researchers, he has used his basic knowledge and training and applied it to wide range of different problems. The fact that he has made major contributions to many of these areas illustrates his ability to view problems from a unique perspective.
In 2005 Dr. Till was recognized by the Lasker Foundation with the award of the prestigious 2005 Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research. This award is one of many, which include being made an Officer of the Order of Canada (1994), induction into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2004), and being a recipient of the Gairdner Foundation International Award (1969).
Degree presented by: Jo-Anne Dillon, Dean of Arts and Science
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