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Dr. Ian SmithProfile: Dr. Ian Smith

Top scientist at the forefront of non-invasive medical diagnosis

Dr. Ian Smith is a hands-on kind of scientist. And in his field, it’s considered a desirable quality.

A world leader in the field of biodiagnostics, Ian’s career in Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) spans more than four decades. Biodiagnostics is a complex field involving a wide range of technologies and areas of study, but the common denominator involves reading biological information using magnetic resonance or other non-invasive techniques.

Ian’s achievements demonstrate the many ways that the Public Service offers its researchers innovative opportunities to improve lives and promote Canada’s place in the world. Recently, the Government of Canada recognized his lifetime commitment to the Public Service when he was named to the Order of Canada and received the 2008 Outstanding Achievement Award of the Public Service.

Dr. Ian Smith recognized
that technological advances
could best be realized through
collaboration with others.
With his leadership, the Institute
established partnerships with clinical,
academic, research and industrial
organizations across Canada and
around the world.

A closer look at illness

Ian’s research has focused on developing methods to detect, monitor and treat diseases. For example, early in his career he participated in the research to produce a vaccine for infantile meningitis. The vaccine has saved many lives, while the resulting patents have generated significant revenue for the Government. In addition, he played a central role in developing a moveable magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system that allows surgeons to do imaging before, during and after surgery—improving the surgical outcome for many patients.

As Director General of the NRC’s Institute for Biological Sciences in Ottawa, and then as the first Director General of the newly established NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he brought his vision and dedication to the task of administrator. The Institute has benefited greatly from his leadership and is now an internationally recognized leader in MRI, biophotonics and the development of non-invasive diagnostic tools.

The NRC Institute for Biodiagostics is also well known for the commercialization of technology. It has generated seven spin-off companies, including IMRIS, a highly successful provider of advanced medical imaging systems.

Bringing minds together

Ian recognized that technological advances could best be realized through collaboration with others. With his leadership, the Institute established partnerships with clinical, academic, research and industrial organizations across Canada and around the world. For example, Institute scientists collaborated with clinicians at the Ross Tilley Burn Centre in Toronto to develop a device that helps surgeons assess the severity of burn injuries, resulting in timely and appropriate treatment.

Ian is committed to sharing his knowledge with others. He continues to add to his impressive list of publications, now at more than 400. He participates in a variety of science-related university programs and works with companies, life science networks, biomedical technology clusters and not-for-profit organizations to promote scientific innovation. For example, as vice-president and then president of the International Union of Biophysics, he expanded the breadth of scientific workshops to countries that had suffered intellectual exclusion, and he started a new international journal, Biophysical Reviews.

Canadian innovation on the world stage

Dr. Ian Smith

Ian continues a tradition in the science community in Canada: spreading innovation and knowledge everywhere it can be used to improve the lives of Canadians. Around the world, his scientific initiatives foster collaboration and cross-fertilization of ideas. His achievements also focus national and international attention on Canadian scientific efforts; for instance, Ian’s efforts to provide training in magnetic resonance imaging to radiologists in Romania earned him the Order of the Star of Romania. The partnerships he has established have also drawn students and senior researchers from around the world to the Institute, increasing its effectiveness and global impact.

“I believe in the interdisciplinary approach to solving scientific and medical problems,” said Ian. “Physicists, chemists, theoreticians, engineers, biologists and physicians, all working together, can help establish a rational basis for diagnosing and treating disease in humans.”


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