June 25, 1947

(Toronto, Ontario)


PhD, University of Toronto (1972)

Awards & Honours:

2023: Companion of the Order of Canada

2019: Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, University of Toronto

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Advanced cancer therapy through his work on the KIT gene

Dr. Alan Bernstein

A pioneer in gene therapy and cancer research

Alan Bernstein is a world renowned health leader, researcher and mentor. His published work on the KIT gene is classic, still cited often, and is the basis for important advances in cancer therapy. Dr. Bernstein completed his PhD at the University of Toronto and completed postdoctoral research in London at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, where he first began working on retroviruses. Since his return to Canada, he has continued to make important contributions to cancer and stem cell research as well as advanced studies into a vaccine for HIV. In addition to his scientific contributions, Dr. Bernstein has held important leadership positions in the field of health research. In the process, he has transformed the vision of what health research should look like.

Key Facts

Completed his PhD under the supervision of James Till with a focus on genetic analysis of membrane mutants Escherichia coli

Under his leadership, the CIHR saw a three-fold increase in its budget for health research

Authored more than 200 scientific publications

Chaired or is a member of advisory and review boards in Canada, the US, UK, Italy and Australia

Appointed to Canada’s COVID-19 Task Force in 2020

Serves as co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for Stand Up 2 Cancer

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Through the research of Dr. Bernstein, scientists around the world have a better understanding of the behaviour of cells and the use of gene therapy in cancer treatment. On a broader scale, Dr. Bernstein has changed the landscape of health research in Canada through his pioneering vision of cross-discipline collaboration and advocacy for vital projects in health research.  A passionate advocate for women in science, Dr. Bernstein is known for his inclusive and championing actions. A true teacher and inspirer, his willingness to speak to youth and emerging heath leaders at every turn has encouraged and impacted more lives than can be counted. 

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  • Appointed as University of Oxford, Director of Global Health

    Professor Alan Bernstein has been appointed as the new head of Oxford Global Health, which will bring together and showcase the breadth of global health research across the University of Oxford.

  • Alan Fellow

    Dr. Bernstein honoured for his service

    Newly named U of T Professor Emeritus, CIFAR creates the Alan Bernstein Fellowship, paying tribute to his decade of service as President and CEO of CIFAR. The Fellowship is awarded annually to early-career scientists who show promise and commitment to the next generation of scientific leadership.

  • Alan Bernstein Inducted into CMHF

    Inducted in to the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Winnipeg, Manitoba

  • Began tenure as CEO of Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

    CIFAR is a Canadian-based global research organization that convenes extraordinary minds to address the most important questions facing science and humanity.

  • After seven years at the head of CIHR, Dr. Bernstein became the founding Executive Director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise.

    In this role, Dr. Bernstein led the development of the 2010 Scientific Strategic Plan for HIV vaccine development.

  • Alan Bernstein becomes President of CIHR

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    Through his service and leadership as the founding President, CIHR transformed and expanded the landscape of health research in Canada. CIHR currently provides support to more than 14,000 researchers.

  • When the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute in Toronto opened, Dr. Bernstein quickly became part of the team.

    He remained at the Institute for 15 years and served as its Director of Research from 1994-2000. Dr. Bernstein’s leadership developed both the Institute’s reputation and impact.

  • Joined the Ontario Cancer Institute

  • Discovering Passions

    Before pursuing a career in biology, Dr. Bernstein completed a BSc in Mathematics and Physics from Innis College at the University of Toronto.


It’s possible to play at the front edges of science.