Congratulations Dr. Tak Mak

Dr. Tak Mak was named amongst the 2015 RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrants, a people’s choice program that celebrates inspiring and influential Canadian immigrants. As one of the world’s most cited and accomplished scientists, Dr. Mak was selected for his impact in cancer research.

Canada is fortunate that Dr. Mak has worked most of his career in this country, specifically at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  His incessant curiosity in the sciences, and his perpetual vision and commitment to conquering cancer, have bestowed upon him a national and international legacy – one that has contributed tremendously to Canada’s establishment as a world-class hub for innovation and medical discovery.
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More about Dr. Tak Mak

Mak’s family moved from Hong Kong to the United States in the mid-1960s, and Mak ultimately moved to Canada in 1969 to obtain his doctorate in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta.  After earning his PhD, Mak was recruited by the Ontario Cancer Institute (now Princess Margaret Cancer Centre) in Toronto for a postdoctoral fellowship.  It was at this laboratory, in 1984, that he made the discovery of a lifetime – he identified and cloned the T-cell receptor.  This was considered the “holy grail” in immunology, and his discovery has had vast implications in the scientific world.  In particular, it unleashed a surge of interest in immune therapy – a rapidly expanding field within cancer medicine. 
In 2004, Mak was appointed Director of the newly launched Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, where he established a strong multidisciplinary team committed to studying and finding cures for the most complex forms of cancer.  Together with his Co-Director, Dr. Pam Ohashi, Dr. Mak has been instrumental in developing Canada’s most comprehensive immune therapy program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. 

Read more: The Princess Margaret leads Canada’s most comprehensive immunotherapy program

Through his directorship position, Dr. Mak has also collaborated with many other scientists conducting breakthrough research.  Of particular note is his multi-decade collaboration with Dr. Dennis Slamon of UCLA – best known for his development of the cancer drug Herceptin.  Together, Mak and Slamon received $20M from the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium to co-lead research aimed at developing new drugs for solid tumor cancers.  In 2013, after years of scientific investigational work, Dr. Mak and his team filed and received Investigational New Drug approval for a compound targeting PLK4, an enzyme involved in cancer cell division/growth.  This new first-in-class drug has since moved into Phase 1 testing at The Princess Margaret and UCLA, and has proven successful at stopping the growth and spread of many types of cancer in the laboratory.

We can confidently say that Mak’s impressive scientific record has been a major contributor to The Princess Margaret’s reputation as one of the top 5 cancer research centres in the world. His research has drawn leading scientists from around the world to work in his laboratory. Dr. Mak is always sure to honour his team of scientists, and to recognize the collaborative efforts that enable his laboratory’s success.  In addition, Dr. Mak has attracted substantial grant funding and donor gifts to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  In fact, $50M of the Campbell family’s philanthropy has been directed towards Dr. Mak’s research.

For the past twelve years, women and men from across the province have participated in the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers to raise funds in support of Dr. Mak’s research.  He has always been available to cheer on and thank the thousands of walkers who have risen over $145M for his lab and other programs at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.  Thus, while Dr. Mak is internationally acclaimed in the scientific world, he is also beloved by thousands of cancer patients in the community – providing them with a source of hope, and a face to associate with medical progress and innovation.