Director Brenda Andrews Named University Professor
Brenda Andrews, director of the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research and Charles H. Best Chair of Medical Research at U of T, has been appointed to the rank of University Professor. It is U of T’s highest academic rank that recognizes extraordinary scholarly achievement and pre-eminence in a particular field of knowledge and is usually awarded to no more than two per cent of the tenured faculty.
Andrews is a pioneer in the field of systems biology that aims to understand how living organisms operate on a systems level as opposed to studying their constituent parts in isolation as was done before. This shift was driven by technological advances with Andrews’ group at the forefront—the tools developed in the lab have enabled research of cell biology on a previously unimaginable scale with an early adoption of artificial intelligence to help analyse the ensuing vast amounts of data. These studies revealed how thousands of genes work together to orchestrate cellular life and are beginning to shed light on the causes of complex genetic diseases.
In her own research and beyond, Andrews is known for championing collaboration among scientists from diverse fields. When U of T’s Faculties of Medicine, Pharmacy and Engineering founded the Donnelly Centre in 2005 as an interdisciplinary hub for the study of genome biology, Andrews was appointed Director and has been at the helm ever since. During this time, the Centre has become internationally recognized as a leading biomedical research institute and continues to attract competitive scientists at all stages of their careers. Before becoming director of the Donnelly Centre, Andrews was Chair of the Department of Medical Genetics (now Molecular Genetics), where she remains a professor, and Chair of Banting & Best Department of Medical Research at U of T.
In 2016, Andrews was named a Companion of the Order of Canada—the highest civilian honour in the country—for her “globally significant research in systems biology and for developing and nurturing prominent scientific communities in molecular genetics”.
As a globally renowned scientist, Andrews sits on many review panels, editorial and advisory boards and is the founding editor-in-chief of the journal Genes|Genomes|Genetics, an open access journal of the Genetics Society of America. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2005), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2011) and the American Academy of Microbiology (2012). In 2005, Andrews was the inaugural Director of the Genetic Networks Program of the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research, where she remains a Senior Fellow.
"Brenda's extraordinary contribution to systems biology has propelled the field forward so that we can begin to address the complex relationship between genes and disease,” says Professor Trevor Young, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “Thanks to her leadership in the Donnelly Centre, Toronto has become globally recognized as a leading hub for systems biology research. I congratulate her on this richly-deserved honour."
Andrews’ many awards also include Ira Herskowitz Award from the Genetics Society of America (2010), the inaugural JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Award from U of T (2013), the Emil Christian Hansen Award for Microbiology from the Carlsberg Foundation (2013), and the Jeanne Manery Fisher Memorial Award from the Canadian Society for Molecular Biology (2017).