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You are here: Home / Dr. Marco Marra receives Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement

Dr. Marco Marra receives Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement

In the pursuit of amazing science, Dr. Marra has contributed to uncovering some of life’s most fundamental mysteries. From the Human Genome Project to Personalized OncoGenomics, he’s not only contributed to decoding life’s recipe book, he’s helped to illustrate the power of its use in the treatment of cancer.

Not much more than twenty years ago, Marco Marra was a graduate student investigating the DNA of the round worm known as C. elegans. This research would lead him to major contributions to the Human Genome Project, then directorship of Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at BC Cancer (GSC), and later to concurrently heading the Department of Medical Genetics in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Marco Marra, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS, OBC is now receiving the Don Rix Award for Lifetime Achievement.

He has spent much of his career working within and leading interdisciplinary teams seeking to study fundamental problems in genomics, the multi-faceted field of science focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping and editing of genomes. 

“We have this idea of the scientist as somebody in a white coat in a dingy basement under a naked light bulb waiting for the Eureka moment. It’s actually not like that. Science is made up of a community of individuals who are working together and sharing their information through their publications all the time. We define important problems and subsequently create amazing opportunities. We do not do this in a vacuum; we do it in the context of a body of science that had been funded and published for centuries. We all take advantage of where our predecessors have come from and the information that they generate and we use that to make the next discovery. I’m grateful to be acknowledged with a Lifetime Achievement Award from LifeSciences BC, and for my colleagues and predecessors who have made this possible.” — Dr. Marco Marra

His current research activities focus on the development and application of methods and technologies to characterize cancer genomes and to identify genetic and epigenetic changes that drive cancer progression and treatment resistance.

As co-leader of BC Cancer’s Personalized OncoGenomics (POG) program, he is developing a new generation of predictive treatment strategies for cancer patients. Remarkably, the patient who sparked the POG initiative was none other than Dr. Don Rix himself.

Dr. Marra’s ongoing research has led to more than 460 peer-reviewed publications and more than 96,000 citations, earning him a spot among the top one per cent of cited researchers in the field of molecular biology and genetics; among “the world’s most influential scientific minds,” as named by Clarivate Analytics/Thompson Reuters.

Other honorable recognitions include Canada Research Chair in Genome Sciences, a member of the Order of British Columbia, a 2017 Canadian Cancer Research Alliance Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Research Award, a 2015 Dr. Chew Wei Memorial Prize in Cancer Research, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Terry Fox Medal, Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and more.

Under Dr. Marra’s leadership, the GSC has worked with local, national and international partners on the Human Genome Project, on many cancer projects and on reference genomes for a diversity of species. In 2003, it was the first in the world to sequence the genome of the SARS coronavirus genome. By 2006, it received one of the first Solexa (now Illumina) sequencer – the vanguard of next-generation sequencing technology – and became known for high throughput and large scale DNA sequencing. Today, the GSC has produced more than 2.2 peta-bases (2.2 X 1015) of DNA sequence, equivalent to the number of base-pairs in 660,000 human genomes.

The GSC has trained more than 1,300 highly-qualified personnel and published nearly 1,300 peer-reviewed papers, which have attracted more than 95,000 citations. It has been part of more than 850 research projects and has contributed to thousands of national and international research collaborations. Its Principal Investigators have been leaders and collaborators on projects awarded more than $1.1 billion from more than 95 funders.

For his significant contributions to the field of genomics, Dr. Marra will be recognized with the Don Rix Lifetime Achievement Award from LifeSciences BC. The ceremony takes place this evening at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

WATCH: Dr. Marra discusses the legacy of Dr. Michael Smith and history of the GSC on Conversations that Matter

To see the full list of 2019 LifeSciences BC award winners, visit:

LifeSciences BC is a not-for-profit, non-government, industry association that supports and represents the life sciences community of British Columbia through leadership, facilitation of investment and partnering, advocacy and promotion of science and industry. It holds annual awards to recognize individuals and organizations that span the life sciences economy in British Columbia, including within academia, health institutions, research and development, small and medium enterprises, government and industry.

Page last modified Apr 05, 2019