“The only way I was happy was to do something very different.”
Dr. Mak, through beautiful molecular approaches, discovered that T cells actually use an entirely different set of genes for antigen recognition. He showed that the T cell receptor for antigen was, in many ways, analogous in design to antibodies, yet totally different in genetic origin and sequence. It is impossible to understate the importance and impact of this seminal discovery on all fields of immunology.
The next twenty-five years saw Dr. Mak blaze a remarkable trail in the molecular biology of the immune system and in cancer. Unraveling one critical component after another, he repeatedly established his findings by producing genetically-altered mice typically deficient in a relevant gene for immune or cancer function. The mice, in addition to the biological discoveries themselves, represent another legacy of the Mak lab to international science.
As Director of The Campbell Family for Breast Cancer Research Institute since 2004, Dr. Mak has earned international recognition by identifying critical molecular pathways that are expressed in cancer cells which begins to explain how these cells escape normal behavoiur in terms of the control of growth and death. He has established one of the finest academic drug discovery engines, having identified two novel drug targets.
Dr. Mak holds honorary doctoral degrees from numerous universities in North America, Asia and Europe. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada (2000), a recipient of the Gairdner International Award for Science (1989), and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (1986). He has received many highly distinguished prizes including the Novartis Prize in Immunology (1998), the Paul Ehrlich Prize (2004) and the Sloan Award (1996).