Lab Canada

CMA’s highest honour goes to Edmonton scientist

Ottawa, ON – Aug 9, 2004 – On August 18, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) will present the 2004 FNG Starr Award to Dr Lorne Tyrrell, of Edmonton. With this award, the CMA expresses its recognition for his outstanding achievements in science, research, and the improvement of medical services in Canada.

Named for Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr (1867-1934), a former secretary general of the CMA, the FNG Starr Award has been described as the “Victoria Cross of Canadian Medicine.” First given in 1936 to Sir Frederick Banting, Dr Charles Best and Dr James Collip, this medal represents the highest award that the CMA can bestow upon one of its members in recognition of outstanding achievement.

“I am extremely honoured to have been recognized by the CMA with this prestigious award,” says Dr Lorne Tyrrell. “It is particularly humbling to be in the company of previous winners. I am truly grateful for the recognition from my colleagues in the CMA”

After pursuing a PhD in pharmacology at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON, Dr Tyrrell did fellowships in internal medicine and infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, where he joined the faculty in 1975. In 1976 he pursued his career at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, as the Medical Research Council of Canada’s Centennial Fellow. It was in Sweden that he developed his interest in virology research. Returning to Alberta in 1978, he was named associate professor of medicine.

His current laboratory research fall within two specific areas of virology related to viral hepatitis. The major effort is directed towards the development of unique antiviral agents for hepadnaviruses with the main emphasis on hepatitis B virus. His work with Dr Morris Robins, a nucleoside chemist led to the worldwide licensing of lamivudine as the first oral antiviral agent for hepatitis B. More recently he collaborated with Dr Norm Kneteman to develop the first animal model for hepatitis C virus. This has led to increased emphasis on immune and antiviral therapy for HCV.

With an impressive publication record in prominent medical journals around the world, Dr Tyrrell’s research has been extensively recognized. He has received the Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research (1998), the Prix Galien Canada (1998), the Gold Medal for the Canadian Liver Foundation and the Canadian Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (2000). He has been named to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2000, and appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002.

In addition to his research, international conference presentations, teaching and administrative responsibilities, Dr Tyrrell makes time to advocate for a quality public health system, serving on numerous health boards and medical education committees. As co-chair of the first Canadian Medical Forum Task Force, he co-authored, with Dr Dale Dauphinee, a report on physician supply in Canada. This report has led to significant increases in enrollment of medical students in Canada’s universities. He is a member of several specialty societies, a past president of the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges and past chair of Alberta’s Provincial Advisory Committee on Health Research. He has been named as the chair of the Board of the Health Quality Council of Alberta.