The 2017 ICIS Distinguished Service Award

Eleanor Fish, Ph.D., CRC Women’s Health & Immunobiology, Senior Scientist, Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, University Health Network, Professor, Dept. Immunology, University of Toronto

Dr. Fish receives the 2017 Distinguished Service Award in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the Society. Dr. Fish, an accomplished, award winning scientist (including the Milstein Award among many others), has contributed tirelessly to the Society in numerous roles over the years, (President, scientic meeting organizer, awards committee co-chair and as a member of several committees) and reaches out internationally, most notably her research activities involves global outreach, specifically to resource poor regions. The ICIS will on occasion bestow this honor on an ICIS member who has made an extraordinary contribution to the Society. The individual will have devoted significant time and energy over a period of years to elevating the goals of the Society in furthering research on interferon,  cytokines and chemokines.She is a member of a WHO Working Group to evaluate the therapeutic effectiveness of different vaccine and antiviral interventions against Ebola virus. 

Dr. Eleanor Fish is the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Women’s Health & Immunobiology, a McLaughlin Scholar and was elected as a Fellow to the American Academy of Microbiologists. In 2015 Dr. Fish was also elected as a Fellow to the African Academy of Sciences. Dr. Fish is the recipient of the 2015 Canadian Society of Immunology Cinader Award for outstanding research contributions and the depth and breadth of contributions to the community through training, leadership, collaboration and international activities. In 2010 Dr. Fish was awarded the prestigious Vivian & Seymour Milstein Award, recognizing her exceptional contributions to interferon and cytokine research that have led to advancements in human health. This Milstein Award represents the pinnacle of scientific achievement in interferon and cytokine research. In 2012 Dr. Fish received the Canadian Society for Immunology Investigator Award.

Dr. Fish received her undergraduate B.Sc. degree in Biological Chemistry from the University of Manchester, England, and her Master of Philosophy in Virology from King’s College, University of London, England. She received her Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Fish is a member of several societies, including the American Society for Microbiology, the Canadian Society for Immunology, and the International Cytokine and Interferon Society, for which she is Past President (2008-2010). She is on the editorial boards for the Journal of Interferon and Cytokine Research and Viruses. Her work has been published in >160 scientific journals, including the Journal of Immunology, Experimental Hematology, Circulation, Blood, Nature, PNAS, JAMA, Journal of Experimental Medicine, Journal of Virology, Journal of Leukocyte Biology, PLoS One, PLoS NTD and the Journal of Biological Chemistry. Dr. Fish is internationally recognized for her scholarly research and is invited to lecture around the globe.

Dr. Fish studies the interactions of cytokines, specifically interferons and chemokines, with their receptors in normal and diseased tissues and cells. A focus of Dr. Fish’s research is the investigation of host-pathogen interactions at the cellular and molecular level, specifically in the context of viruses and interferons. During the 2003 outbreak of SARS in Toronto, she initiated studies to investigate the therapeutic potential of interferon in SARS patients. Encouraging results have directed her group’s efforts toward examining interferon activity against a number of emerging infectious diseases, such as avian H5N1 and pandemic H1N1 influenza viruses. Recently, her studies have focused on investigating the therapeutic effectiveness of interferon treatment for Ebola virus disease, with a clinical trial in Guinea. Dr. Fish was a member of a WHO Working Group to evaluate the therapeutic effectiveness of different vaccine and antiviral interventions against Ebola virus.  With the end of the Ebola outbreak Dr. Fish has committed to continuing to work with La Fondation Santé et Développement Durable (FOSAD) and Le Centre d’Excellence de Formation et Recherche sure les Maladies Prioritaires et les Paludisme en Guinée (CEFORPAG), to build capacity in science and technology in Guinea, with a focus on medical research. She has secured funding and international partners to that end. Another focus of her work relates to understanding the immune mechanisms that drive autoimmunity, related to rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Most recently, Dr. Fish has initiated research studies in breast cancer, within the context of understanding how chemokine-driven alterations to metabolism influence the growth and metastasis of breast tumors.

Another facet related to Dr. Fish’s research activities involves global outreach, specifically to resource poor regions. For many years, Dr. Fish, as Visiting Professor, has been involved in curriculum development and mentoring both Faculty and students in the Department of Immunology at Moi University in Kenya. This extends now to the ongoing development of basic science courses with relevance for trainee MDs, nurses and dentists.  She has made these courses available to different institutions across Kenya. In addition, she has established an international initiative – Beyond Science Initiative – a consortium connecting scholars from academic institutions around the globe. BSI provides a platform for dialogue, mentorship and outreach to local and global communities, to bridge the gap in access to academic knowledge ( To foster partnerships among the next generation of global scientific leaders who will appreciate cultural sensitivities and global responsibilities. Most recently, in her capacity as a Fellow in the African Academy of Sciences, Dr. Fish is leading an initiative: Pathogen Preparedness Initiative, with the express mandate to build capacity in science and technology across the African continent to enable appropriate responses to emerging pathogen infections. This initiative involves developing the physical infrastructures and human resources to support education and research, focusing on public health and biomedical sciences.