The global spotlight shone on Dr. Pieter R. Cullis for his revolutionary work that made the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines possible. This triple alum is an international leader in developing and applying lipid nanoparticle (LNP) drug delivery systems to treat numerous diseases, including breast cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia, fungal infections, rare genetic diseases and infectious disease.
Dr. Cullis is also the cofounder and former chairman of Acuitas Therapeutics, the company that supplied the LNP system incorporated in the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. He has cofounded more than 10 successful biotechnology companies that now employ more than 400 people in the Vancouver area. In addition, he has cofounded and led two National Centres of Excellence (NCEs), namely the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD; now AdMare) and the NanoMedicines Innovation Network (NMIN). AdMare is Canada’s lead organization for catalyzing the translation of academic discoveries in the life sciences into commercially successful drugs and devices whereas NMIN leads Canadian academic efforts to develop the nanomedicines (including the gene therapies) of the future.
He has published over 350 scientific articles, is an inventor on more than 100 patents, and his work has led to five products being approved by U.S. and European regulatory agencies for the treatment of cancer and its complications, a rare genetic disease, as well as the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. These advances stemmed from work in his UBC laboratory that has led to fundamental advances in the generation, loading, and targeting of lipid-based delivery systems for intravenous delivery of conventional and genetic drugs.
Dr. Cullis has received more than 20 local, national and international awards. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2004 and won the UBC Alumni Award for Research in Science and Medicine in 2005 and the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Bill and Marilyn Webber Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011. As a result of the increasing recognition of his role in enabling the COVID-19 vaccines he was appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada in 2021, and was awarded the Prince Mahdol Award (Thailand), the VinFuture Prize (Vietnam), the Gairdner International Award (Canada), the Camurus Award (Sweden) and the Tang Award (Taiwan) in 2022.