University of Toronto

Innis Alumni & Friends

Alan Bernstein

Class of 1968 – BSc, Innis

Dr. Alan Bernstein is the President & CEO of CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research). CIFAR’s mission is to create transformative knowledge that addresses questions of importance to the world, by connecting some of Canada’s and the world’s most extraordinary researchers into global research networks.

Dr. Bernstein was awarded the Special Council of Innis College Scholarship and received his Honours B.Sc. from Innis College, University of Toronto in 1968, in Mathematics and Physics. Upon graduation, he received both the Innis College Award and the James Loudon Gold Medal in Physics. After receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, and following postdoctoral work in London, Dr. Bernstein joined the Ontario Cancer Institute (1974-1985). In 1985, he was appointed to the new Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto, was named Associate Director in 1988 and then Director of Research (1994-2000).

In 2000, Dr. Bernstein became the founding president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada’s federal agency for the support of health research. In that capacity, he led the transformation of health research in Canada. In 2008, he became executive director of the New York based Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an international alliance of researchers and funders charged with accelerating the search for an HIV vaccine.

Author of over 225 scientific publications, Dr. Bernstein has made extensive contributions to the study of stem cells, hematopoiesis and cancer. He has received numerous awards and honorary degrees for his contributions to science, including the 2008 Gairdner Wightman Award. Dr. Bernstein is a Senior Fellow of both Massey College and the Munk School of Global Affairs, and in 2002 was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

One of Innis College’s most distinguished alumni was once an oversight of the University of Toronto. Dr. Alan Bernstein was a member of the inaugural class of Innis College. Or so he thought: “… my registration files never made it over to Innis College in 1964. So, while I was a student at Innis College, Innis had no official record of my existence! As a result, I missed out on a valuable Entrance Scholarship. Only by chance was this discovered three years later!”

The oversight was ultimately corrected when Dr. Bernstein received the Special Council of Innis College Award upon graduation in 1968. He remembers fondly how the “intimate atmosphere and the family feeling” created by Principal Robin Harris and Professor Geoffrey Payzant, the College’s first Registrar, “contributed so much to my experience at the University of Toronto.”

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