Professor Janet Rossant

Department of Medical Genetics and Microbiology

Appointed a University Professor in 2001

Professor Rossant is a world leader in developmental biology. Professor Rossant's contributions to the analysis of mammalian development extend over twenty-five years. In her early work (1975), she established the fates of some of the earliest cells in the mouse embryo. This is a classic work that still resonates in the development biology field today.

Professor Rossant's main contributions revolve around "lineage determination" in the developing embryo – how is it that particular genetically identical cells adopt entirely distinct cell fates during development? The answer to this question is of obvious fundamental importance to those who seek to understand development, but also to our understanding of numerous diseases that reflect perturbations of the normal developmental processes. Her work will have a significant impact on studies of birth defects. Importantly, her major achievements also include the development and application of novel techniques now broadly used in the field. These techniques include the use of novel "reporter genes" in mouse embryos, targeted mutagenesis in mice and gene-trapping. Recently, her research has moved in two new directions. First, stem cell research, with her discovery of a novel placental stem cell type, the trophoblast stem cell. Second, genome-wide functional genomics. She directs the Centre for Modelling Human Disease in Toronto, which is undertaking genome-wide mutagenesis in mice to develop new mouse models of human disease.

Professor Rossant's pioneering efforts have been repeatedly recognized by her peers; she holds a Tanenbaum Chair in Molecular Medicine, a McLaughlin Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, a CIHR Distinguished Scientist Award, the Robert L. Noble Prize from the National Cancer Institute of Canada. She has been elected to the Royal Societies of London and Canada. More than any other individual, Professor Rossant has been responsible for establishing the University of Toronto and affiliated research institutes as a world-force in mammalian developmental biology and genetics.

Professor Rossant is actively involved in the international developmental biology community. She was an Editor of the journal Development for many years. She has organized a number of international developmental biology meetings, including the International Developmental Biology Congress in 1997. She was President of the Society for Developmental Biology in 1996/97. She has also been actively involved in public issues related to developmental biology, most recently serving as Chair of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research working group on stem cell research.

Educated at Oxford and Cambridge, Professor Rossant joined the University of Toronto in 1985 where she has been a superb scientific leader and role model to her students. She was the first Director of the campus-wide Ph.D. Programme in Developmental Biology.