Award and Distinction
The Canadian Society for Chemistry underscores Brigitte Guérin's remarkable contribution to chemistry
Sherbrooke, le 5 juin 2018 – On May 30, research professor Brigitte Guérin received a prestigious distinction, becoming the 25th Canadian woman to receive the Clara Benson Award.
Brigitte Guérin has been a research professor at the Université de Sherbrooke and at the Centre de recherche du CHUS since 2007. A faculty member in the Department of Nuclear Medicine and Radiobiology, she also holds the Jeanne-and-J.-Louis-Lévesque Chair in Radiobiology at the Université de Sherbrooke and heads the radiochemical laboratory at the Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center.
The research program is based on her expertise in radiochemistry, which is a highly specialized niche in organic chemistry. She has forged an international reputation in her field and has consolidated Canada's leadership in developing new radiometals. Radiometals are primarily used for positron-emission tomography (PET) imaging and targeted radiation therapy. In 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency asked her to host a visitor program aimed at promoting scientific collaborations and discussions from around the world. As a result, the expertise developed at Sherbrooke is shared with scientists and exported everywhere across the planet.
A Career Dedicated to Developing Radiometals and Imaging Tools
About 40% of Canadians will have a form of cancer during their lifetime. Despite the progress that has been made, early detection of cancer or its recurrence remains the best chances of beating cancer. PET imaging, combined with the use of radiotracers, is used in research and clinically to diagnose and monitor cancer tumors.
Radiotracers are imaging tools that target the biomarkers specific to certain diseases, including cancer. When taken up by the overexpressed biomarkers on the tumor, the radiotracers can be detected by PET equipment, making it possible to characterize and stage the disease with precision and to promote the development of personalized and targeted cancer treatments. Afterwards, health-care professionals can monitor the progression of chemotherapy and radiation therapy as well as their impact on tumors.
Given her background in organic chemistry and radiochemistry, Professor Guérin has sound experience in developing radiometals and imaging tools very often used in detecting various diseases. More specifically, she works on developing PET radiotracers to enable health-care professionals to detect cancers early on and conduct posttreatment follow-up.
Professor Guérin heads a team involved in the cyclotron-based technetium-99m production project in response to the shortage of medical isotopes. This project led to the installation of major infrastructure at the Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center.
The Lab as Seen by Samia Ait-Mohand
"I studied and worked in France and the United States before coming here," explained Samia Ait-Mohand, PhD in organic chemistry and research professional in Guérin's laboratory. "I've worked in industry. This is a place I wouldn't change for anything in the world. I considered studying medicine, but finally opted for chemistry. I've always dreamed about having something that could be applied directly and this is the ideal place for it. We see what happens with our research; we test it with human beings. So, we’re taking part in something much bigger than just doing chemistry for the sake of chemistry."
Professor Guérin emphasized that "we all have complementary expertise. We work as a team. Most of the people don't work only on my projects. We work collaboratively with many projects at the imaging center."
Dr. Ait-Mohand went on to say, "everyone helps each other and it's great. Our boss [Guérin] lets us make our own decisions. We really appreciate having that degree of freedom. We know what were doing and giving freedom to a researcher is stimulating and generates passion."
IAEA: Out of the Ordinary Collaboration
In 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency asked Guérin to host a visitor program aimed at promoting scientific collaborations and discussions from around the world on radiometal production. "As part of our collaboration, we have interactions and meetings with people from around the world. Recently, we welcomed scientists from Malaysia." As a result, the expertise developed at Sherbrooke is shared with scientists and exported everywhere across the planet.
The program doesn't consist solely in knowledge transfer. It also has a component for issuing recommendations. "A few months ago, during a meeting at the Agency's headquarters, we took part in drafting guidelines for people in the field," explained Professor Guérin. "The group included representatives from six research centers sitting around the table to draft a document on Galium-68. We were there to discuss and share our experiences but also to share our recommendations so that others can avoid making the same mistakes that we did. The Agency allows us to do that."
Clara Benson's Heritage
In 1899, Clara Benson became the first woman to graduate in chemistry from the University of Toronto. In 1903, she was one of the first two women to earn a doctorate at the University of Toronto. After her doctorate, she worked at the University of Toronto's Lillian Massey School of Domestic Science, becoming one of the University's first female professors in 1920. She was a competent professor who stimulated research and had cordial relations with her students. She taught at the University until her retirement in 1945. The Clara Benson Building on the University of Toronto's campus was named in recognition of her efforts to provide students with better sports facilities.
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Marie Gendron, Communications Officer
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences | Université de Sherbrooke
819-821-8000, extension 72581 | Marie.Gendron@USherbrooke.ca