Public Release: 

Lorne Tyrrell wins Killam Prize

UAlberta professor awarded national prize for his life-long accomplishments in health sciences

University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

(Edmonton) For more than 30 years Lorne Tyrrell has been at the forefront of medical research in Canada. A world-renowned scientist for his work in the area of viral hepatitis, Tyrrell is among the upper echelon of Canada's scientific voices. Now his accomplishments have been recognized through one of Canada's most prestigious awards.

Tyrrell, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology and the director of the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology, has been named the winner of the 2015 Killam Prize for Health Sciences. Five Killam prizes of $100,000 are awarded annually by the Canada Council for the Arts' Killam Program, in support of scholars of exceptional ability engaged in research projects of outstanding merit in the areas of health sciences, engineering, natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Tyrrell has been invited to a presentation ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on May 12.

"Lorne Tyrrell is a superstar in the field of virology who richly deserves this esteemed honour," says Richard Fedorak, dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "Throughout his long career Dr. Tyrrell has explored the boundaries of medical science. His work with viral hepatitis alone has immeasurably helped tens of thousands of people around the world. He continues to be a credit to both the University of Alberta and to our faculty."

The prize is the latest in a long list of honours given to Tyrrell. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 2011 and is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He has also been appointed to the Alberta Order of Excellence.

Tyrrell credits both hard work and excellent collaborators and trainees over the years for the success he's enjoyed. His greatest achievement to date is his work with hepatitis B, a disease which annually kills more than 600,000 people worldwide. His efforts led to the worldwide licensing of the drug, lamivudine, for the treatment of HBV in 1998. It was the first oral antiviral agent to be shown effective for the treatment of chronic HBV infection in patients and is now licensed in more than 200 countries.

Tyrrell has also seen great success in his work on the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In 2001, he, along with collaborators, developed a new form of lab model that could support HCV infection and replication for testing purposes. His laboratory at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology is now working on the development of a vaccine for HCV in collaboration with Michael Houghton, a professor holding a Canada Excellence Research Chair in the U of A's Department of Medical Microbiology & Immunology.

Along with his ongoing work on a vaccine for HCV, Tyrrell is also committed to further developing Alberta's biotech industry in years to come. The future, he believes, is wide open, and filled with opportunities for new discovery at the U of A.

"I really believe that we are in a golden age of research because of the convergence of the sciences and the development of new technologies that can be applied to understand disease processes," says Tyrrell. "We are seeing wonderful things happening in medicine."

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