Dr. Michel Chrétien elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London

May 29, 2009

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is pleased to announce that Dr. Michel Chrétien has been elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Dr. Chrétien is an Emeritus Senior Scientist at OHRI, a Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and an endocrinologist at The Ottawa Hospital.

This recognition is considered worldwide as one of the highest honor to be bestowed upon a scientist in all fields. Each year, the Royal Society elects 44 new Fellows. As citizens of a Commonwealth Country, Canadian scientists are eligible and four Canadians have made the list in 2009. Dr. Chrétien is the first French Canadian physician to join this prestigious Society.

Dr. Chrétien is recognized worldwide for his “prohormone theory”, proposed in 1967 to explain how hormones are made. Ten years later he isolated human β-endorphin, a neurohormone that acts as a natural painkiller, and unraveled its complex mode of production. In 1990, with his colleague, Dr. Nabil Seidah at the Institut de recherches cliniques of Montréal (IRCM), he co-discovered proprotein convertases (PCs), the “biological scissors” that are responsible for activating hormones.

These three seminal events led to a revolutionary concept to explain why some genes give rise to multiple end products. Dr. Chrétien’s theory expanded rapidly to a wide range of non-hormonal biomolecules present in most tissues of the body. The identification of PCs in 1990 constituted the final proof that his theory, proposed 23 years earlier, was correct.

Today, we know that PCs are involved in a wide range of diseases, including cancer, heart attack, stroke, viral infection, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Recent results indicate that in certain families, a genetic variant of a PC can help protect against cardiovascular disease. Other PCs are being used as targets to develop new treatments for viruses such as HIV-AIDS and influenza (including swine H1N1 and avian H5N1).

Following his graduation from la Faculté de Médecine de l’Université de Montréal in 1960, Dr. Chrétien trained at McGill, Harvard, UC Berkeley, UCSF and Cambridge, UK. In 1967, he joined the IRCM and later became its Scientific Director (1984-94). In 1988, he chaired the Royal Society of Canada committee report on HIV-AIDS. From 1998 to 2002, he was Scientific Director of the Loeb Research Institute in Ottawa (now known as OHRI). He recently founded the Ottawa Institute of Systems Biology.

Soon after the SARS epidemic of 2003, Dr. Chrétien co-founded the International Consortium on Antivirals (ICAV) with Dr. Jeremy Carver of Trent University. ICAV is a non-governmental organization devoted to developing new and more affordable antivirals against the most deadly viral infections. Under the leadership of Drs. Carver and Chrétien, ICAV has attracted more than 250 participating scientists from 25 countries. ICAV’s collaborators have recently been working to identify and produce new types of antibodies against A/H1N1 influenza, which could be used as a treatment before a vaccine becomes available. Dr. Chrétien plans to make the fight against emerging viral infections his priority for years to come.

The staff of OHRI congratulate Dr. Chrétien on his election as Fellow of the Royal Society.

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University’s Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,300 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

Media contact
Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Tel: 613-798-5555 ext. 19691