Dr. Shaf Keshavjee awarded Governor General’s Award

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee

Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, recipient of a 2020 Governor General’s Innovation Award, pictured with the Toronto Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion System. (Photo by Tim Fraser)

On July 14, the Rideau Hall Foundation, the charitable arm of the office of the Governor General of Canada, announced Dr. Shaf KeshavjeeSurgeon-in-Chief in the Sprott Department of Surgery at University Health Network (UHN), was a recipient of the fifth annual Governor General’s Innovation Award. The Awards recognize and celebrate exceptional Canadian individuals, teams and organizations for their excellence in innovation and their contributions to helping shape Canada’s future and positively impact the quality of life of Canadian. Six recipients from diverse fields were honoured this year. 

Dr. Keshavjee, also Director of the Toronto Lung Transplant Program and Director of the Latner Thoracic Surgery Research Laboratories, received the award for leading the development and continued refinement of the Toronto Ex Vivo Lung Perfusion (EVLP) System.  

EVLP is a dome-shaped chamber that keeps donor lungs “living and breathing” at body temperature prior to transplant. Unlike traditional methods that keep donor organs on ice, EVLP does not cause any harm and can actually repair damaged lungs using nutrients and gene therapy. This means that more lungs can be used for transplant, and more lives can be saved. 

“This is a wonderful and deserved honour for Dr. Keshavjee, and one that he shares with his entire team and our philanthropic supporters who helped make it possible,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, President and CEO of UHN. “The impact of EVLP can not be understated. In the last five years, it has helped double the number of lung transplants performed in Ontario; addressing the shortage of donor lungs needed for life-saving lung transplantation while saving the province millions of dollars in healthcare costs. Congratulations.”  

Using EVLP, transplant surgeons can now objectively assess donor lung function outside of the body for extended periods and then confidently decide whether to use a donor lung for transplant. Since the first clinical trial in 2008, EVLP has been adopted around the world, saving hundreds of lives of patients with end-stage lung disease. The technology is being modified to treat other organs, such as the liver, kidney, and soon, heart, and investigations are underway to determine the role it could play in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“I’m honoured to have received this award,” says Dr. Keshavjee“As with everything at UHN, developing EVLP was a collaborative effort and I want to acknowledge the tireless work of my fellow surgeons and researchers, and the clinicians and nurses that, together provide the best lung care in North America. I would also like to thank our wonderful donor community and volunteers who make sure we have the resources we need to drive forward discovery and help more people live on.” 

The winners will be honoured at a ceremony to be announced at a later date.