Tak Wah Mak, PhD, is internationally known for his work in the molecular biology of cancer and the immune system. He is a Professor in the Department of Medical Biophysics and the Department of Immunology at the University of Toronto; the Director of the Campbell Family Institute for Breast Cancer Research at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre; and a Senior Scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute.
Mak received his PhD in biochemistry in 1972 from the University of Alberta. After completing his postdoctoral fellowship at Ontario Cancer Institute, the research arm of Princess Margaret Hospital, Mak became a faculty member in the University of Toronto’s Department of Medical Biophysics.
Mak is a world leader in the genetics of immunology and cancer. In 1984, he led the group that discovered the T cell receptor, and his published work on the cloning of T cell antigen receptor genes has been cited over 1,200 times. Since this landmark discovery, Mak has focused on elucidating the mechanisms underlying immune responses and tumorigenesis. He pioneered the use of genetically engineered mouse strains to identify genetic susceptibility factors associated with various immune disorders or different types of cancer. In particular, his team discovered that CTLA4 is a negative regulator of T cell activation (cited 2,000 times), paving the way for the development of anti-CTLA4 agents now in clinical use for autoimmune diseases. Mak’s lab also made major contributions to defining the functions of PTEN (cited more than 2,000 times) as well as the relationship between the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 and defects in DNA repair. Most recently, Mak’s studies of the functions of various gene products in normal and cancerous cells are yielding important information on their biology that is crucial for the identification of new drug targets and the development of more effective cancer therapies.
Since 2008, Mak has served on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the US-based Stand Up To Cancer.
Mak was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2000. Other recognitions include:
Gairdner Foundation International Award (Canada)
Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)
Fellow of the Royal Society (UK)
King Faisal Prize for Medicine (Saudi Arabia)
Sloan Prize of the GM Cancer Foundation (USA)
Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (Germany)