Dear Colleagues of the IBBS,
It is extremely difficult to have to announce the sudden, unexpected passing of our close friend and colleague Dr. Danica Stanimirovic on January 17, 2024 at the age of 61.
Danica, or ‘Dana’ as she was known to friends, was the longtime Director of the Translational Bioscience Department at the Center for Research in Human Health Therapeutics of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). In this role, she managed a portfolio of R&D projects aimed at de-risking and advancing a large CNS pipeline of biotherapeutics in preclinical development.
Dr. Stanimirovic held an M.D. and PhD degree in Neurochemistry from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Serbia. At the time she completed her PhD in 1988, Dana was then the youngest Ph.D. holder in the former Yugoslavia. She next trained as a postdoctoral fellow in cerebrovascular and stroke research at the Stroke Branch, NINDS, NIH before finally being recruited to the NRC in the summer of 1993, where she would spend the next 30 years of her professional career. In addition to her NRC roles, Dana was also an Adjunct Professor at the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of Ottawa.
As one of the original founders of the IBBS in 2006 and subsequently a member of the Steering Council for the next 18 years, Dana has long been a key leader in the field. Dana was previously the principal organizer of the International Conference on Cerebral Vascular Biology (CVB), held in Ottawa, Canada in 2007 and was to be the principal organizer (with Stina Syvanen & Jim Gorman) of the 2nd ‘Drug Delivery to the Brain’ Keystone Symposium (February 2025). She also organized a number of other major meetings over the course of her career, e.g. a Washington DC workshop for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine in September, 2017 on the topic ‘Enabling novel treatments for nervous system disorders by improving methods for traversing the blood-brain barrier.’
Dr. Stanimirovic’s most recent research interests were in developing single-domain antibodies for ‘difficult’ targets in the CNS, including ion channels and blood-brain barrier transporters and receptors. Her publications (almost 200 manuscripts and book chapters) and patents (over 20 issued/pending) have had a profound and lasting impact on the field. To list some recent examples, Dana led elegant and highly rigorous work ranging from mechanistic studies into antibody-receptor trafficking across brain endothelial cells (e.g. Yogi et al. 2022; Alata et al. 2022; Haqqani et al. 2018; Thom et al. 2018), method optimization for CNS drug development (e.g. Moreno et al. 2020; Haqqani et al. 2013 & 2019), antibody engineering (e.g. Belanger et al. 2019; Farrington et al. 2014), and the application of BBB models (e.g. Stanimirovic & Jezierski. 2019; Alimonti et al. 2018). Dana’s work has been cited over 13,000 times and she has been recognized with a number of Canadian and international awards, including a Public Service Award of Excellence from the Government of Canada and election as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Her scientific legacy will be felt for many years to come, from her pioneering methods to her elucidation of new BBB targeting approaches via FC5 and IGF1R to her investigations of species differences in the expression of key transporters and receptors at the BBB.
Dana was widely regarded as a world-renowned expert in cerebrovascular physiology, molecular organization of the blood-brain barrier, and CNS drug delivery. She was also a deeply trusted and valued scientific collaborator over decades to many, many people in academia and industry. Dana was such a kind, thoughtful, and deeply intelligent leader in the CNS barriers field. Perhaps most importantly, Dana will be remembered by many of us for demonstrating through her actions and voice just what collegiality, leadership, mentoring, and responsibility should look like in our community. Dana never shied away from investing her own time and effort to make the field better. She will be greatly missed by many. We look forward to coming together as a community to honor Dana's time with us and what she meant to so many of us personally and professionally.
We express our sincerest condolences to Dana’s husband, Dušan Đurić, to the rest of her family, and to her many friends and colleagues.
IBBS intends to establish an award to honor Danica Stanimirovic' work.
Donations to be used for future annual or biennial conference award in honor of Danica Stanimirovic.