A Canadian researcher is being touted as a potential Nobel Prize winner by an organization that predicts which scientists are most likely to take home one of the coveted awards.

Dr. Stephen Scherer, director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, has been selected as a 2014 "Nobel-class" citation laureate in physiology or medicine by Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property & Science. The organization has correctly predicted 35 Nobel Prize winners since 2002.

Scherer, along with Charles Lee, scientific director of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn., and Michael H. Wigler, head of the Mammalian Cell Genetics Section at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, have been recognized for the discovery of large-scale copy number variations and their association with specific genetic diseases.

"I think it's astounding," Scherer said of the honour, which he called a surprise. "This is a big, big thing."

Scherer is known for his work on the genetic underpinnings of autism spectrum disorder, which includes the role of copy number variations – the deletions or duplication of genes in sections of DNA. In subsequent papers, his team showed that about 10 per cent of children with autism have only one copy of a specific gene.

"Just to have a Canadian on the list is huge because there's been an incredible investment in science," he said in an interview Wednesday. "For me, it's really an independent validation of the importance of our work."

The Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates study, begun 12 years ago, identifies leading researchers in the fields of chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and economics by collecting and analyzing research citations, which illustrate the impact a researcher's work has had within the scientific community.

"As imitation is one of the most sincere forms of flattery, so too are scientific literature citations one of the greatest dividends of a researcher's intellectual investment," said Basil Moftah, president of Thomson Reuters IP & Science. "The aggregate of such citations points to individuals who have contributed the most impactful work and allows us to determine candidates likely to receive a Nobel Prize."

This year's list of Nobel-class laureates includes 27 researchers from around the world who are predicted to win in one of the four Nobel categories. The Prize for physiology or medicine will be announced Oct. 6.

"Irrespective of any award outcomes," said Scherer, "it is humbling to be included among such an esteemed list of scientists."