The 2012 CAN Young Investigator is Frédéric Charron from the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal (Université de Montréal)
Dr Frédéric Charron is a leader in the field of developmental neurobiology and axon guidance. With his groundbreaking work demonstrating that the morphogen Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) guides growing axons (Cell 2003), he paved the way to a new field of research in developmental neurobiology: the study of the roles morphogens play in axon guidance. Prior to Dr. Charron’s pioneering work (conducted in Marc Tessier-Lavigne’s laboratory, then at Stanford University), morphogens such as Shh were only known to specify cell fate. Dr. Charron’s subsequent work, as an independent researcher, has resulted in the identification of the receptor necessary for the effect of Shh in axon guidance (Nature 2006), and the elucidation of the signaling pathway involved (Neuron 2009). This understanding of the mechanism of action of Shh in axon guidance provides important insight into the development and repair of the nervous system, which in turn could provide novel strategies for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, brain and spinal cord injuries, and brain tumours.
More recently, Dr. Charron, in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Peter Carmeliet, in Belgium, has shown that a key molecule of the vascular system, called VEGF, also acts as chemoattractant for axons during development, independently of its role in angiogenesis (Neuron 2011). The recent identification of this novel actor in axonal guidance demonstrates the continuing leadership of Dr. Charron in the area of axon guidance.
As a collaborator, Dr. Charron has contributed to many important discoveries in Canadian neuroscience, such as that of the gene responsible for mirror movement by the laboratory of Dr. Guy Rouleau (Science 2010). More recently, he collaborated with Dr. Alexandre Prat to show the important role of Shh in maintaining the integrity of the blood brain barrier (Science 2011).
Dr. Charron has published 40 scientific papers to date, many in very high impact journals such as Cell, Nature, Science, Neuron and Developmental Cell. Despite his young age, his expertise is well recognized by his peers.
Dr. Charron has also been very successful in obtaining funding for his research. At the beginning of his career, he was awarded the Peter Lougheed / CIHR New Investigator Award, which is the most important career development award given by the CIHR (Canadian Institutes of Health Research). Dr. Charron’s CIHR New Investigator Salary Award application ranked first of 314 in 2005. Since then, he has successfully maintained external salary support, and has received funding for his research from the CIHR, the Peter Lougheed Medical Research Foundation, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Cancer Society, the Cancer Research Society and the Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (FRSQ).
In addition to his important success in research, Dr. Charron is recognized as a great mentor and a team player. He has launched many students and post-docs on very successful scientific careers, and is well appreciated by his colleagues at the IRCM for his involvement in teaching and as director of his research unit. He has been a reviewer for both national and provincial research councils, and was selected in 2011 to meet with members of an international panel reviewing the CIHR.
The Canadian Association for Neuroscience is proud to present the 2012 Young Investigator Award to Dr. Frédéric Charron, and wishes to thank Drs. Roderick McInnes (McGill University), Pierre Drapeau (Université de Montréal) and Freda Miller (University of Toronto) for nominating him for this award. Dr. Charron is a great ambassador for Canadian Neuroscience.
Visit Dr. Charron’s website to learn more about his current projects, his affiliations and for a list of selected publications.