Tak Wah Mak was born in China in 1946 and raised in Hong Kong and is now a Canadian Citizen. He obtained his bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin (USA), and Ph.D. at the University of Alberta, Canada. He joined the University of Toronto in 1975 and became Professor of the Department of Medical Biophysics and the Department at Immunology since 1983. He also chaired the Department of Cellular and Molecular Biology at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Princess Margaret Hospital. In 1997, he was named University Professor in the Departments of Medical Biophysics and Immunology at Toronto. He is also the Director of the Advanced Medical Discovery Institute at the University Health Network and Founding Director of the Amgen Institute from 1993 – 2002 and the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research.
Professor Tak Mak is an internationally acclaimed scholar and leader in immunology research. His studies centre on immune recognition and regulation, as well as cell survival and apoptosis (programmed cell death) in normal and malignant cells. He is best known for leading a group that first cloned the genes of the human T-cell antigen receptor (Mark Davis achieved this independently). This discovery was a milestone in immunology and is now basic to our understanding of the immune response. His more recent research included the use of genetically altered mice to unravel intracellular programs governing the development and function of the immune system, and the dissection of signal transduction cascades in various cell survival and apoptotic pathways. His basic research on breast cancer contributed significantly to understanding cancer at the cellular level.
Professor Mak’s landmark scientific accomplishments are documented in over 500 publications, most of which are published in elite journals such as Cell, Science, and Nature. His research has had an enormous impact on immunologists throughout the world. He received numerous prestigious Canadian and International awards and honors. He holds Honorary Doctoral Degrees from several universities in North America and Europe. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has been elected a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). He is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London (UK). In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, Professor Mak was awarded the E.W.R. Steacie Award of the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council in Ottawa, the Ayerst Award of the Canadian Biochemical Society, the Robert Noble Prize of the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Emil von Behring Prize, the Gairdner Foundation International Award, the Sloan Prize of the General Motors Cancer Foundation, the Novartis Prize in Immunology and the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaidler Prize.
Professors Tak W. Mak, has been awarded the prize, for independently discovered the structure by which the immune cells recognise and inactivate foreign proteins and viruses. This was an elusive problem that slowed progress in the field of immunology for several decades. In the coming years their work will have major implications for the design of new treatments for cancer and viral infections, as well as the therapy of autoimmune disease.