April 2003
Volume 44, Issue 4
Free
Lecture  |   April 2003
Introducing Michael A. Walter, the 2002 Recipient of the Cogan Award
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science April 2003, Vol.44, 1401. doi:10.1167/iovs.02-0586
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      Ian M. MacDonald; Introducing Michael A. Walter, the 2002 Recipient of the Cogan Award. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2003;44(4):1401. doi: 10.1167/iovs.02-0586.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Michael Walter, this year’s Cogan Award recipient, began his early science career at Guelph University in Ontario and was awarded the Biological Science Gold Medal at his graduation. He obtained his PhD with Diane Cox at the University of Toronto in 1990, concentrating on the immunogenetics of the immunoglobulin heavy-chain, variable region. He then joined Peter Goodfellow for a 3-year postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge, England, concentrating on the development of radiation hybrids as tools in gene mapping. 
In human genetics, a pedigree is critical to understanding the heritability of a trait. The same concept of pedigree is helpful in understanding the development of a laboratory. A senior clinician, Bill Pearce had spent many years studying Alberta families with heritable ocular disorders, including anterior segment dysgenesis. He recruited me as a clinician scientist to join him in Alberta. The two of us recognized the need for a dynamic young scientist to build a competitive team. 
After only 3 years of postdoctoral fellowship in England, Mike was recruited to Alberta to set up his laboratory. His success demonstrates the productivity of a strong collaboration between a basic scientist and a clinician scientist in the study of heritable eye disease. His first paper from the laboratory showed that PAX6 was mutated in a family with autosomal dominant keratitis (Mirzayans F, Pearce WG, MacDonald IM, Walter MA. Mutation of the PAX6 gene in patients with autosomal dominant keratitis. Am J Hum Genet. 1995;57:539–548). From this formative start began his interest in anterior segment dysgenesis, glaucoma, and transcription factors. 
In 1998, his laboratory and Sheffield’s independently showed that FKHL7, now renamed FOXC1, was mutated in Axenfeld-Rieger anomaly (Mears AJ, Jordan T, Mirzayans F, et al. Mutations of the forkhead/winged helix gene, FKHL7, in patients with Axenfeld-Rieger anomaly. Am J Hum Genet. 1998;63:1316–1328). One of Pearce’s larger pedigrees had a clinically distinct syndrome called iridogoniodysgenesis. It would take another 4 years before Mike was able to show that the actual cause of disease in this large family was a duplication of FOXC1. Before Mike’s work, FOXC1 was a relatively unknown gene. Now we are beginning to understand its important function as a mediator of ocular development and its basic role in the transcription machinery of the cell. 
Mike is now an Associate Professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Medical Genetics at the University of Alberta. He holds major personal awards from the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, formerly the Medical Research Council of Canada. 
From a student’s perspective, Mike is seen as incredibly supportive, calm, and understanding when experiments to do not turn out exactly as planned. All his students have won external funding for their graduate studies. One of his students, Ramsey Saleem, was named to receive the Cotterman Award last year by the American Society of Human Genetics. 
Mike has made an exceptionally strong contribution to our understanding of the genetics of heritable glaucomas and is truly meritorious of the Cogan Award. His presentation entitled “PITs and FOXs of Ocular Disease” traces his work to date. 
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