About the Fund

The Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund

Our son, brother and friend, Ian Lawson Van Toch died tragically in August 2007 of heart disease at the age of 22, after having just graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Computing.  He was about to begin graduate studies in Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto.
Ian Lawson Van Toch
During his summers Ian went through the usual series of boring student jobs students: bagging groceries, construction and such.  As the summer before his final undergraduate year was approaching he was trying to decide what direction he would take for graduate studies.  We encouraged him to find some work in his field of study, regardless of the pay.

With the help of his profs at Queen’s Ian landed a non-paying summer internship at Jurisica Labs, a cutting-edge research lab within the Ontario Cancer Institute (OCI), specializing in cancer informatics. This research is developing new computational tools for predicting, finding and curing cancers.  It offers the promise of eradicating forever the “silent killers” such as ovarian cancer and brain tumors.
Ian's whiteboard
Ian was put to work on the team developing NAVIGaTOR, a 3-D graphics tool which allows researchers to visualize millions of protein interactions at once and thereby begin to determine which interactions cause healthy cells to mutate into cancer cells.  Watching the lights go on in Ian’s eyes that summer was truly magical.  Finally, we realized all those hours spent playing Nintendo were paying off as Ian applied his computer skills in visualizing 3D worlds to unlocking the genetic codes that cause healthy cells to transform into cancer cells.  He was on the road to curing cancer when heart disease stole his life.
Ian’s Whiteboard

Young Scientists in Cancer Informatics

Soon after Ian died, we created the Ian Lawson Van Toch Cancer Informatics Fund together with Dr Igor Jurisica to keep his legacy alive.  Rather than focus on the tragedy of what killed him, we decided to focus on the joy of what truly inspired Ian during the last few years of his life.  Therefore, the goal of Ian’s Fund is to provide opportunities for other young scientists to experience the same thrill of discovering their passion and to help them launch their careers in the field of cancer informatics.

Specifically, Ian’s Fund is supporting the following causes:

1-     Summer internships – with pay! – for promising undergraduate students.  So far we have sponsored four interns.  Priority is given to students in the 3rd and 4th years of their undergraduate studies with aspirations to continue research in cancer informatics or computational biology at a graduate level.

2-     Awards for excellence in the study of cancer informatics and computational biology, as demonstrated by research papers and presentations submitted by undergraduate students at research conferences.  Ian’s Fund created and now co-sponsors with IBM and Roche Pharmaceuticals the Outstanding Student Paper Award at the annual International Conference for Computational Biology.  This award has already become one the most prestigious and coveted within the field.

3-     A Memorial Lecture series bringing some of the world’s most renowned scientists in the field of computational biology to the OCI to discuss their research and share it with students. Ian Lawson Van Toch Memorial Seminar Series in Computational Biology

Financial Goals

To date, we have raised over $400,000, enough to create multiple summer internship positions!  Our goal this year is to raise $100,000 which will enable us to hire even more interns.  Our desire is to create as many internships as possible to attract our best and brightest young scientists into the field of cancer informatics.

With your support we will reach our goal to raise $100,000 this year!

Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation-Endorsement Letter

Inspiring Students

Ian’s family is so grateful to Dr. Jurisica for turning Ian on to the enormous challenges and immense opportunities available in the field of cancer informatics and for inspiring him to pursue this field for his post-graduate studies. If Ian’s Fund can open doors for other outstanding young students in the same way, we can think of nothing that would have pleased Ian more or could more fittingly honour his memory.

How to Make a Donation

Ian’s Fund is managed by the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.  All donations over $20.00 are eligible for tax receipts.
To make a donation online, by phone or by cheque, please visit Donate Now.