Message from the CIHR President - Canada Loses a Giant in Health Research

It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Dr. Ernest Armstrong McCulloch who, with long-time colleague Dr. James Edgar Till, first described adult stem cells. Dr. McCulloch died in Toronto on January 19 at age 84.

Although in poor health in recent years, Dr. McCulloch had been planning to attend a February 1 reception at Princess Margaret Hospital with Dr. Till to mark the 50th anniversary of their seminal ground breaking publication of the Radiation Research paper regarded to be the basis for stem cell science.

As partners in research at the Ontario Cancer Institute, Drs. Till and McCulloch wrote several more papers in the early 1960s and into the 1970s that explained the function of hematopoietic (blood-based) stem cells. Their work provided the theoretical underpinning for bone marrow transplantation and advanced medical treatment of leukemia and autoimmune diseases. Their work also laid the foundation for the promising field of regenerative medicine.

The two won the Lasker Foundation Award in 2005 and the Gairdner Foundation Award, Canada's top prize in health research, in 1969 - both considered to be among the most prestigious international prizes in medical research. In 2004, they were inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Dr. McCulloch played a major role in mentoring future generations of Canadian stem cell researchers. These efforts were instrumental in creating a strong foundation of stem cell research capacity in Canada and establishing Canada's world-recognized leadership position in the field.

Dr. McCulloch's passing away is a sad loss for Canada. His work led to the survival of thousands of people with leukemia around the world – his most significant legacy.

Dr. Alain Beaudet, MD, Ph.D
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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