Alan Bernstein

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Alan Bernstein
Born (1947-06-25) June 25, 1947 (age 72)[1]
Alma materUniversity of Toronto
Known forHealth research
Science policy
AwardsFRSC (1991)
Order of Canada (2002)
Gairdner Wightman Award 2008)
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (2015)
Order of Ontario (2017)
Scientific career
InstitutionsCanadian Institute for Advanced Research
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise
Imperial Cancer Research Fund
Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto
Ontario Cancer Institute
ThesisA Genetic Analysis of the TOL(A,B) Locus of Escherichia Coli K-12 (1972)

Dr. Alan Bernstein OC, OOnt, FRSC (born June 25, 1947) is President and CEO of CIFAR (the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research). He is recognized as a leader in health research, science policy, mentorship and organizational leadership.


Born in Toronto, Bernstein attended Oakwood Collegiate Institute,[2] and then received his BSc. (Honours) and the James Loudon Gold Medal in Mathematics and Physics from the University of Toronto in 1968.[3] He pursued biomedical research and obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 1972 under the supervision of James Till with a thesis focusing on a genetic analysis of membrane mutants Escherichia coli.[4]


Following his PhD, Bernstein undertook postdoctoral research in London at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, where he began working on retroviruses and their oncogenes.[5]

Bernstein returned to Canada in 1974 to join the faculty of the Ontario Cancer Institute. In 1985, he joined the new Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital as Head of the Division of Molecular and Developmental Biology, and then served as its Director of Research from 1994 to 2000.[6]

In 2000, Bernstein became the inaugural president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), where he oversaw the transformation of health research in Canada and championed women, early career scientists, and the importance of interdisciplinary team research.[7]

In 2007, he became the first executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an alliance of independent organizations around the world dedicated to accelerating the development of a preventive HIV vaccine.[5] As Executive Director, Bernstein oversaw the Enterprise and led the development of the 2010 Scientific Strategic Plan for HIV vaccine development.[8]

In 2012, Bernstein joined CIFAR as president & CEO, where he is responsible for developing and leading the Institute’s overall strategic direction.[9] Under his presidency, the organization has grown substantially, launching two Global Calls for Ideas[10] and the CIFAR Azrieli Global Scholars program for early career investigators, as well as expanding the delivery of knowledge mobilization and public engagement activities,[11] and moving in to offices in the MaRS Discovery District.[12]

Bernstein is an active member of many advisory and review boards in Canada, the U.S., U.K., Italy, and Australia, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation[13] and the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research.[14] He also served as co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up to Cancer Canada with Phillip A. Sharp and chairs the Global Health Award Committee for the Gairdner Foundation.[15]

Bernstein is a vocal advocate for interdisciplinary research, early-career investigators, and intellectual freedom.[16][17] In his public remarks, he often emphasizes the importance of early-career researchers and diversity in science.[18][19]


Bernstein's research interests have centered on blood cell formation (hematopoiesis), cancer and embryonic development. He has authored more than 225 peer-reviewed scientific publications.


For his contributions to science in Canada, and internationally, Bernstein has received numerous awards, including:

He is also the recipient of honorary degrees from Dalhousie University (2007),[32] the University of British Columbia (2009),[33] the University of Ottawa (2009),[34] McGill University (2010),[35] Queen’s University (2013),[36] the University of Sherbrooke (2014),[37] the University of Toronto (2019),[38] and Western University (2019).[39]


  1. ^ "Alan Bernstein". Canadian Who's Who. Grey House Publishing Canada. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  2. ^ Gasner, Cynthia (May 15, 2008). "Oakwood CI marks 100 years". Canadian Jewish News.
  3. ^ Kalvapalle, Rahul (June 10, 2019). "Pioneering health researcher Alan Bernstein receives U of T honorary degree". University of Toronto. U of T News. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  4. ^ Bernstein, Alan (1972). A Genetic Analysis of the TOL(A,B) Locus of Escherichia Coli K-12 (PhD thesis). University of Toronto. ProQuest 302687855.
  5. ^ a b Virginia, Gewin (November 8, 2007). "Physics student turned biomedical scientist becomes executive director of Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise". Nature. 450 (7167). doi:10.1038/nj7167-316a.
  6. ^ "Alan Bernstein, OC, PhD - Canada Gairdner Wightman Award 2008". Gairdner. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  7. ^ Bernstein, Alan (October 12, 2017). "It's time for a bold new vision for Canadian fundamental science". Rogers Media. Maclean's. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  8. ^ "The 2010 scientific strategic plan of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise". Nature Medicine. 16. September 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  9. ^ "Leadership". CIFAR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  10. ^ "Global Call for Ideas". CIFAR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  11. ^ Farrow, Jon. "CIFAR announces public engagement initiatives". CIFAR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  12. ^ "CIFAR is moving to MaRS!". CIFAR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Who We Are: Scientific Advisory Committee". Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  14. ^ "International Scientific Advisory Board". Lady Davis Institute/Jewish General Hospital. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  15. ^ "Gairdner Global Health Advisory Committee". Gairdner. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  16. ^ Bernstein, Alan; Rossant, Janet (April 19, 2017). "A clear call to move Canadian research forward". The Globe and Mail. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Alan Bernstein: Doubt Everything" (Video). November 5, 2015. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  18. ^ "Alan Bernstein, convocation 2019 honorary degree recipient" (Video). June 14, 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  19. ^ "Alan Bernstein - Honouree at Testimonial Dinner & Awards 2019" (Video). April 12, 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  20. ^ "Fellows". Royal Society of Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  21. ^ McLaughlin Medal Archived 2011-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "GSC William F Grant and Peter B Moens Award of Excellence". Genetics Society of Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  23. ^ "Australia honours Bernstein for his work in health research". Friends of CIHR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  24. ^ "Officer of the Order of Canada". The Governor General fo Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  25. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee Medal (2002)". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  26. ^ "Médaille du mérite de l'IRCM" (PDF). l’Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM). Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  27. ^ "Alan Bernstein: Canada Gairdner Wightman Award 2008". Gairdner. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  28. ^ "Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012)". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  29. ^ "Dr. Alan Bernstein, 2017 Friesen Prize". Friends of CIHR. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  30. ^ "The 2017 Appointees to the Order of Ontario". Province of Ontario, Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. January 29, 2018. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  31. ^ "Testimonial Dinner and Awards 2019". Public Policy Forum. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  32. ^ "2000 - 2009 Honorary Degree Recipients". Dalhousie University. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  33. ^ "2009 Honorary Degree Recipients". The University of British Columbia. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  34. ^ "Alan Bernstein". University of Ottawa. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  35. ^ "McGill to recognize outstanding individuals with honorary degrees". McGill University. May 17, 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  36. ^ "Honorary degree recipients straddle science, politics". Queen's University. Queen's Gazette. May 21, 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  37. ^ Dubois, Caroline (September 18, 2014). "Quatre personnalités reçoivent un doctorat honorifique". L'Université de Sherbrooke. Retrieved 4 October 2019.
  38. ^ Farrow, Jon (February 28, 2019). "CIFAR President and CEO Dr. Alan Bernstein to receive honorary degree from the University of Toronto". CIFAR. Retrieved 7 October 2019.
  39. ^ "Western to honour global academic, science and financial leaders at 313th Convocation". Western University. March 26, 2019. Retrieved 4 October 2019.