Hyman B. Niznik
March 25th, 1957 - March 31st, 2000
Dr. Chaim Niznik passed away suddenly on March 31st this year, only a few days after celebrating his 43rd birthday. The news shocked us all. He was a cherished colleague and dear friend to many in the University of Toronto.
At the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, at the University, and at research centres throughout the world, Chaim was known for his outstanding contributions in molecular neuroscience. His research provided for us, enormous insights into the neurobiological underpinnings of some of the most distressing mental illnesses, in particular, schizophrenia.
In short, he was one of our very best.
In 1986, Dr. Niznik earned his Ph.D. in the Dept. of Pharmacology, University of Toronto under the supervision of Dr. Philip Seeman. After a postdoctoral training period in the same department, he accepted an academic post as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Institute of Medical Sciences and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1994. In 1991, he joined, what was then, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry as head of the Molecular Psychobiology Research Section and maintained this position at our Centre until his death.
The seeds for Chaim's scientific interests were planted during his PhD training where he developed a strong interest in the relationship between Dopamine dysfunction and schizophrenia. Dr. Niznik set his sights very high. His research throughout the 90's stands as a model of excellence, creativity and perseverance. His research characterizing and cloning key Dopamine receptors helped set the foundation for a variety of medication development programs around the world. His group's recent discovery of cross-talk between neuroreceptors, turned heads throughout the world, and revealed to us the presence of a new transduction mechanism in the brain. There is little doubt that this work will rewrite textbooks in our field and permanently change our understanding of how brain cells communicate with each other.
The impact of his work was felt worldwide. Dr. Niznik's research was funded by our most prestigious agencies including the Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH), and his over 100 publications were published only in the very best journals. His accomplishments were recognized internationally by some of our most celebrated scientific awards and honours Including: The John Charles Polanyi prize in Physiology, and Medicine. The Establised Scientist Award from the National Alliance on Research in Schizophrenia and Depression, Le PRIX GALIEN, The John Dewan Prize, and most recently, a senior scientist award from the MRC (which he heard about only days before his death). It's fair to say that what Dr. Niznik achieved in his short life of 43 years, most scientists do not achieve in a lifetime.
As a highly valued member of the scientific community, as a friend, and as a cherished colleague, Dr. Niznik will be greatly missed.
Dr. Niznik is survived by his wife Betty and his two children, Yossie and Aly.