Scientist of the Year Award: Dr. Douglas Fraser

Recognized for his high-impact work over the past several years, Dr. Douglas Fraser has been named as Lawson Health Research Institute’s Scientist of the Year as part of the 2022 Lawson Impact Awards. Dr. Fraser, who is a Scientist at Lawson and Critical Care Physician at Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), has led the way in a number of areas of research. Over the past few years, he has published numerous studies and signed multiple licensing agreements that show promise for improving the diagnosis and treatment of concussion, COVID-19 and long-COVID.

“With the new technologies today, it allows us to investigate patients thoroughly and that is giving us a wonderful opportunity called precision medicine,” explains Dr. Fraser. “That lets us look at individuals and see how we can improve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of disease. It is a very exciting time in translational research.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dr Fraser quickly sprang into action to begin researching the SARS-CoV-2 virus. As soon as patients started being admitted to LHSC due to COVID-19, Dr. Fraser began a research study and became the first in the world to profile the immune response and several pathophysiological features of the virus. This work led to critical understanding of how the virus was impacting patients and has revealed potential avenues for therapy.

“In March 2020 when COVID hit, our team was well prepared to ask fundamental questions about the disease and that has continued to this date,” says Dr. Fraser. “Now we are working on long COVID and using blood biomarkers as a diagnostic tool. We have the people and the expertise here at Lawson that allow us to get this important work done.”

Dr. Douglas Fraser
Dr. Douglas Fraser 

He also has continued his groundbreaking work in the area of traumatic brain injuries (TBI). This has resulted in the identification of several protein-based biomarkers for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of concussion. 

“In my clinical practice, we see TBI patients who have long-lasting neurological deficits,” adds Dr. Fraser. “We need to improve diagnosis and prognosis, as well as come up with better therapies. My work is in both adolescent concussions as well as the military who are suffering blast injuries.”

Dr. Craig Campbell, Co-Physician Department Executive, Paediatrics, at LHSC, nominated Dr. Fraser for the award. 

“I nominated Dr. Fraser for Scientist of the Year because in my mind there was no one more deserving. Over the last couple of years, he helped us understand, break down and translate the basic science knowledge around what was happening with the COVID virus in the body of patients,” says Dr. Campbell. “Doug and I worked together as trainees in Ottawa and as Fellows, and I knew very quickly that he was flat out brilliant with his science background and the focused thinking he brought into the clinical realm.”

Dr. Fraser is also a Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of a Canadian biotech company called NeuroLytixs. Through close partnerships with WORLDiscoveries, the technology transfer and business development office for Western, Lawson and Robarts Research Institute, the NeuroLytixs team has recently licensed and patented a blood test that identifies a concussion.

“Commercialization is a way to move beyond a research study. If you truly want to get it out to a large number of people who may benefit then you need to partner with the private sector to scale up these discoveries,” say Dr. David Hill, Scientific Director at Lawson. “It is all about the question: how does research impact people’s lives? Something like a drug discovery can take a decade to translate to care. This type of research that Dr. Fraser is doing is very rapidly translated. As soon as a publication is available, people can learn and adapt their practice for immediate impact on people’s lives.”

His dedication and passion for research and innovation, is something Dr. Fraser says makes working in this field something he truly enjoys.

“Research is exciting to me, and I love showing up to work. We have great colleagues and wonderful resources that allows us to ask good questions, and it is a pleasure coming to work each day.”

Drs. Douglas Fraser and David Hill
Drs. Douglas Fraser and David Hill 

The Lawson Impact Awards celebrates hospital-based research that makes a difference by advancing scientific knowledge and applying it directly to patient care. With awards in eight categories, the annual event honours Lawson scientists, staff, trainees and partners who demonstrate excellence.

Congratulations to Dr. Douglas Fraser and all our 2022 Lawson Impact Award winners.