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Renowned medical researcher wins $100,000 prize

Edmonton, AB – Dr Lorne Tyrrell, renowned Hepatitis B researcher and former dean of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine, has won one of the richest prizes in Canada for his research contributions – the Manning Foundation’s $100,000 EnCana Principal Award.

Dr Tyrrell developed a new oral treatment for Hepatitis B called lamivudine, which is licensed in 120 countries.

The Glaxo Heritage Research Centre where Dr Tyrrell conducts his research was established in 1988 at the University of Alberta with funding from Glaxo Wellcome, the University Hospital Foundation, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research.

Dr Tyrrell was raised on a farm west of Edmonton. He obtained his PhD from Queen’s University. He completed specialty training in internal medicine in 1975 and subspecialty training in infectious diseases in 1976. This was followed by a MRC Centennial Fellowship at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. In 1978 he returned to the University of Alberta. In 1986, he began working with Dr Morris Robins on a system to identify potent antivirals against hepatitis B virus (HBV) which infects about 400 million people worldwide. Through their work they discovered several potent antivirals against HBV and this resulted in a major collaboration with Glaxo Canada (now GlaxoSmithKline).

The collaboration led to the discovery that lamivudine had potent antiviral activity for HBV and today the drug is licensed worldwide as the first oral antiviral for the treatment of HBV infections. Lamivudine has been shown to decrease the development of cirrhosis or liver cancer in chronic HBV carriers. This work also reopened the option for resuming liver transplantation in patients with end-stage liver disease from HBV. More recently Dr Tyrrell collaborated with Drs D Mercer and N Kneteman to develop the first small animal model to support HCV replication.

Dr Tyrrell recently completed 10 years as the dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta in 2004. He currently holds the CIHR/GSK chair in virology at the University of Alberta. He is the chair of the board of the Alberta Health Quality Council; chair of the board of the Institute of Health Economics; is a member of the medical advisory committee of the Gairdner Foundation and is a member of the Research Council of the Canadian Institute of Academic Research. He has won numerous awards at the University of Alberta (Rutherford Undergraduate Teaching Award, J Gordin Kaplan Research Awards, and the University Cup). He won the ASTech Award for Research in 1993 and the Gold Medal of the Canadian Liver Foundation in 2000.