Dr. Lorne Tyrrell, 1943-

Fighting a deadly disease

Dr. Lorne Tyrrell

The results of Dr. Tyrrell’s research have saved the lives of thousands of people infected with hepatitis B.

If life is a set of opportunities for which decisions need to be made and goals revised, then one is to recognize an opportunity and the next is to pursue it.



Alberta Order of Excellence video about the work of Dr. Lorne Tyrrell.

Dr. Tyrrell’s road has had many unexpected turns, beginning with learning how to drive a Caterpillar and make a road for his father, which delayed his entry into medicine by one year.

Dr. Tyrrell’s studies began by researching Vitamin K and clotting reversal. From 1969-72, his PhD work was on drug-induced porphyrin biosynthesis at Queens. Back at the U of A (1973-76) he was Teacher of the Year three times before he completed his fellowship in 1975. After postdoctoral work, he returned to the U of A as the Director of Infectious Disease and later Microbiology (1982-94).

While preparing for a hepatitis B lecture, he read about the discovery of the hepatitis B viral replication cycle. The cycle involved priming with RNA. Using duck liver cell cultures, Dr. Tyrrell with help from Dr. Morris Robins, found that nucleosides could inhibit replication and were not toxic to human cells.

The nucleosides reduced circulating hepatitis HBV 10,000 fold. The strongest one was Lamivudine (3 TC), which Dr. Tyrrell obtained from Glaxo. Proven safe in chimpanzee HBV carriers, a five-center trial began in 1993. In 1994, he gave Lamivudine to a hepatitis B patient in a coma, who then underwent a successful transplant. Dr. Tyrrell predicted that mutations would develop. They did in 14% of patients treated in the first year.

In 1989, the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was identified. Dr. Tyrrell genetically engineered a mouse whose liver cells would support HCV replication. Significant grants to test possible anti HCV drugs followed.

In 1994, Dr. Tyrrell became dean of the U of A’s faculty of medicine. A year later he merged the faculty of dentistry with it.

In 2010 Dr. Tyrrell was instrumental in securing a $28M donation from Li Ka Shing to help establish the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the U of A – the largest donation the U of A has ever received.



Canadian Medical Hall of Fame video about the work of Dr. Lorne Tyrrell.

Dr. Tyrrell's awards are many, including:

  • Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1991).
  • U of A University Cup (1991)
  • Gordin Kaplan Award for Excellence in Research (1998).
  • Alberta Order of Excellence (2000)
  • Order of Canada (2002).
  • Fellowship in the Royal Society (2004).
  • Frederic Newton Gisborne Starr Award (2004).
  • Manning Innovation Award (2005).
  • Alberta’s 100 Physicians of the Century (2005).


Get the whole story!

Read the full profile of Dr. Tyrrell in Dr. Robert Lampard's "Alberta's Medical History"
Dr. Tyrrell

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