Publication date: 
March 27, 2018

TORONTO – The co-founders of the groundbreaking Global Burden of Disease study (GBD), Professors Christopher Murray and Alan Lopez, have been selected for an international award honoring the “world’s top scientists who have made outstanding achievements in global health research.”

Since its launch over a quarter of a century ago, the GBD collaboration has generated nearly 20,000 peer-reviewed publications and has received more than 700,000 citations in scientific studies and reports.

The John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award annually honors individuals in science whose pioneering work has shown “a significant impact on health outcomes in the developing world.” Established 10 years ago by the Gairdner Foundation, the award is one of the world’s most esteemed prizes for health research. Murray and Lopez will share the $100,000 prize money.



The foundation will host an awards ceremony in October in Toronto.

“Each year the Gairdner Foundation recognizes the best and brightest researchers from around the world and 2018 is no exception,” said Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, Chair, Board of Directors, Gairdner Foundation. “This year’s cohort of laureates, including Dr. Murray and Dr. Lopez for their work on conceptualizing the Global Burden of Disease, are a fitting addition to the Gairdner’s track record of exemplary awardees.”

Murray serves as the Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle; Lopez is a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne.

Murray and Lopez began their collaboration on GBD in the early 1990s with a study calculating estimates for eight regions, 107 diseases, and 10 risk factors. Under their leadership, the GBD enterprise currently includes a network of 3,191 collaborators in 140 countries and three territories contributing to what has been recognized as the world’s largest publishing collaboration in science.

The latest edition of the study, now published annually in the international medical journal The Lancet, covers 333 diseases and injuries and 84 risk factors in 195 countries and territories, by age and sex, from 1990 to the present. The study allows for comparisons over time, across age groups, and among populations. It is coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“It is a great honor to receive the Gairdner Award,” Murray said. “This is a recognition not only of the work Alan and I have conducted, but also of the nearly 3,200 collaborators contributing to the GBD. Moreover, it is an acknowledgement of the scientific discipline of health data and its impact on improving people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Lopez said he also is greatly honored to receive the award, but much more work in health metrics sciences remains to be done.

“To improve health outcomes for their populations, countries need to be held accountable for the relevance and effectiveness of their health policies and programs,” Lopez said. “To do that, they need to be able to comprehensively and comparably track the importance – and emergence – of major health problems. The Global Burden of Disease study provides this essential health intelligence about what the main health problems are in their country and how they are changing,” he said.

The study has led to policy changes and improvements in health systems in numerous countries, including China, the United Kingdom, India, Rwanda, Colombia, and the Philippines. The US National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation use GBD results to guide their priority-setting and spending decisions.

The award is named in honor of Dr. John Dirks, President Emeritus of the Gairdner Foundation.

Christopher J.L. Murray, MD DPhil

Murray is a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington and Institute Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). His career has focused on improving health for everyone worldwide by improving health evidence. A physician and health economist, his work has led to the development of a range of new methods and empirical studies to strengthen health measurement, analyze the performance of public health and medical care systems, and assess the cost-effectiveness of health technologies.

Alan D. Lopez, AC PhD FAHMS

Lopez is a Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne and the Rowden-White Chair of Global Health and Burden of Disease, Director of the IHME-Big Data Institute Unit at Oxford University, and an Affiliate Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington. He developed the Peto-Lopez method with Sir Richard Peto to guide countries to estimate their tobacco-attributable mortality. He leads the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative to improve the registration and certification of births, deaths, and causes of death to better inform global and national investments for health development.


Video and written profiles of the laureates and a backgrounder of the Gairdner Awards are available from <>.


Interview requests:

For Professor Christopher JL Murray:

Dean Owen, Senior Manager for Marketing & Communications, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.  

[email protected] / +1 206 434 5630

For Professor Alan D Lopez:

Ali Hickerson, Marketing & Communications Manager, University of Melbourne. [email protected] / +61 455 043 324