David TyrrellDavid Lorne John Tyrrell, Medical Microbiology and Immunology
1999 University Cup
2000 Alberta Order of Excellence
Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (1994-2004)
Officer of the Order of Canada (2002)
David Lorne John Tyrrell grew up on his family's farm near Duffield, Alberta. Upon the completion of his BSc in Chemistry from the University of Alberta in 1967, Tyrell received a Gold Medal in Science. Tyrrell remained at the University of Alberta, working toward an MD. In his second year of medicine, he received a Life Insurance of North America Studentship, providing him an opportunity to complete a combined MD and PhD program. Following an internship at the University of Alberta Hospital, Dr Tyrrell entered Queen's University and completed his PhD in pharmacology in 1972. In 1975, he returned to Alberta to complete training in internal medicine to qualify as a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and in 1976 became an assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and was promoted to Full Professor in Medicine and Biochemistry in 1982. He would serve as Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases (1982-86), Chairman of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (1986-94), and Dean of the faculty (1994-2004).
Dr Tyrrell sub-specialized in infectious diseases and, in 1976, was awarded the Medical Research Council of Canada Centennial Fellowship, which played a pivotal role in Dr Tyrrell's medical career. The following two years of his post-doctoral training in the field of virology was spent at the Karolinksa Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.
In 1986, while teaching a graduate course, Dr Tyrrell found clues that might lead to the discovery of antiviral drugs to inhibit the hepatitis B virus. Thus began his research on the virus that was the ninth leading cause of death according to the World Health Organization. Dr Tyrrell was joined by his colleague in chemistry, Dr Morris Robins, in studying chronic hepatitis B, which affects approximately 300-350 million people. The major findings that ensued prompted one of the largest research contracts with industry ever known to a Canadian university. Glaxo Canada, now Glaxo Wellcome, supported his ongoing work and established the Glaxo Heritage Research Institute and a research chair in virology at the University of Alberta.
Continuing his research, Dr Tyrrell and his team discovered the world's first oral antiviral therapy for chronic hepatitis B, leading to the licensing of Heptovir (Canada) and Zeffix (worldwide), which is saving many lives daily.
He is the CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of ViRexx, an Edmonton-based biotechnical company that specializes in cancer and viral infections drugs.
Tyrrell was awarded the Rutherford Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1990. He won the Alberta Science and Technology Leadership Award in 1993 and the University's highest research honour, the J. Gordin Kaplan Research Prize, in 1998. In 2000, he received the Alberta Order of Excellence, the province's highest honour, as a tribute to his accomplishments in medical teaching and research.
Said Samuel Lieberman, chair of the Alberta Order of Excellence nomination committee: "Throughout his career, Dr Tyrrell has devoted his life to teaching and research - his work has benefited people not only provincially, but also nationally and, indeed, internationally."
Tyrrell is also the recipient of national and international honours and awards, including the Prix Galien Canada from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers of Canada and the 2000 Gold Medal of the Canadian Liver Foundation. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004.
The Tyrrell Lectureship was established in 2003 by the Immunology Network at the University of Alberta to honour his contributions as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.
Dr Tyrrell's dedication to research is equalled by his gift for teaching and health education. He has been honoured by students of all levels of study, including an Outstanding Resident Award and Teacher of the Year Awards in all three phases of medical school: basic sciences, clinical, and bedside teaching. He also received the U of A Rutherford Undergraduate Teaching Award in 1990, and in 1998, he was named Alumnus of the Year, University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine. He continues to teach University classes and in 1999, he was awarded the University Cup for excellence as an educator and researcher. In 2001, he was a recipient of the University of Alberta Alumni Association's Distinguished Alumni Award.
Dr Tyrrell has trained many research students and post-doctoral fellows; served on more than 200 committees, task forces, and research teams; and is widely published in books and medical and science journals around the world.
While receiving provincial, national, and international accolades for his revolutionary work, Dr Tyrrell's close ties with his native province remain strong. A firm conviction to developing quality medical health care in Alberta and Canada has kept Dr Tyrrell at home. Some of his numerous commitments include past-president of the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges and past chair of the Provincial Advisory Committee on Health Research.