Teresa Purzner, a Queen’s neurosurgeon who founded a baby food company to support brain development and repurposed a cancer drug to address pediatric brain tumors, has been named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40®. This annual leadership award recognizes exceptional achievement by 40 outstanding Canadians who are under the age of 40.
Dr. Purzner, an expert in pediatric brain development, is an assistant professor at Queen’s in the Department of Neurosurgery, and an attending staff member at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC). According to a release from Queen’s University, Dr. Purzner co-founded Cerebelly in 2018, an innovative baby food brand focused on optimizing neurological development for children. Cerebelly has become a nationally recognized brand in the U.S. with distribution in over 7,000 grocery stores, the university said.
“We are thrilled to express our sincere congratulations to KHSC neurosurgeon Dr. Teresa Purzner for being recognized for her innovative and important work to support early brain development,” said Dr. David Pichora, president and CEO of Kingston Health Sciences Centre. “The KHSC community, including our patients and their families, is also very fortunate to benefit from Dr. Purzner’s expertise and dedication to research and advancing care for individuals with cancer.”
According to the release, Dr. Purzner’s scientific research led to repurposing an experimental adult chemotherapy drug, CX-4945, for the treatment of childhood medulloblastoma—which is the most common pediatric brain tumour. This treatment is now moving through clinical trials. At Queen’s, Dr. Purzner is working to build a translational research program with her partner Dr. Jamie Purzner.
“I just really like complicated problems that take a while to solve, but affect the health and happiness of those around me,” Purzner said, adding that her approach to research is to have “an end goal for people” by creating an accessible product that can make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Out of over 1,200 nominations, four key criteria were assessed to select the 40 recipients: vision and innovation, leadership, impact and influence, and social responsibility, according to the release. Canada’s Top 40 under 40 recipients, including Dr. Purzner, will be honoured at a series of events to take place in the coming months.
“Dr. Teresa Purzner’s diverse set of accomplishments – from neuro-oncology research to clinical neurosurgery to entrepreneurship – demonstrate why she is one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40,” said Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University. “Her interdisciplinary approach to research, and efforts to build a new translational research program here at Queen’s, embody our strategic direction for the future of academic health sciences: one grounded in dynamic research collaboration across specialties.”