UBC Faculty of Medicine professor Dr. Pieter Cullis is among six health leaders selected as 2024 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame (CMHF) inductees.
The distinction honours Canadians whose outstanding leadership and contributions to medicine and the health sciences have led to extraordinary improvements in human health.
Dr. Cullis, a professor in the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at UBC, is recognized for developing the lipid nanoparticle delivery technology that enables mRNA vaccines, such as the highly effective COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, and other next-generation gene therapies.
“I am incredibly honoured to be inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame,” said Dr. Cullis. “The lipid nanoparticle technology enabling the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines reflect the efforts of literally hundreds of people. I have been extremely fortunate to receive credit for what was really a huge collective effort.”
Dr. Cullis and colleagues at UBC had been developing lipid nanoparticles to package and deliver cancer drugs and nucleic acid-based drugs in vivo for the past 50 years. In the case of the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, the lipid nanoparticles form a protective bubble around the mRNA and enable delivery to the interior of target cells when injected intravenously and intramuscularly.
Dr. Cullis’ work has contributed to five approved drugs, including Onpattro (the first RNAi drug to receive regulatory approval) to treat the previously fatal hereditary condition transthyretin-induced amyloidosis (hATTR), as well as Comirnaty, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine.
“The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame is proud to welcome these six individuals whose outstanding contributions to health have made Canada, and the world, a better place,” said Dr. Cynthia Forbes, CMHF chair. “Their impact is well documented, and they have earned their place alongside our 155 Laureates.”
“The lipid nanoparticle technology enabling the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines reflect the efforts of literally hundreds of people. I have been extremely fortunate to receive credit for what was really a huge collective effort.”
Dr. Pieter Cullis
Dr. Cullis also founded and led pan-Canada research centres including the Centre for Drug Research and Development and the NanoMedicines Innovation Network to advance academic research, commercialization and training of the next generation scientists. He has published over 400 papers and holds over 100 patents.
The CMHF inductees will be celebrated at a ceremony held in association with the UBC Faculty of Medicine on April 13, 2024, in Vancouver during the International Congress on Academic Medicine (ICAM).
“The University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine is honoured to host the 2024 Canadian Medical Hall of Fame induction ceremony,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and Vice-President, Health at UBC. “We look forward to celebrating the incredible achievements of the new laureates, whose ground-breaking work has transformed the lives of patients and communities across Canada and the world, and whose commitment to mentorship has helped inspire countless medical leaders and innovators of tomorrow.”
A version of this story originally appeared on the CMHF website.