Jerry Pelletier, Giant cancer researcher at McGill University, passes away: Obituary

The scientific community mourns the loss of a luminary, Professor Jerry Pelletier, a distinguished figure in the realm of RNA biology. On September 18, 2023, the news of his passing left family, friends, colleagues, and students heartbroken. Professor Pelletier, hailing from Montreal, Canada, was an iconic figure at McGill University’s Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Oncology.

McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences shared Jerry Pelletier’s death news,

“We are saddened to share the news that iconic McGill professor Jerry Pelletier has passed away. Our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. Learn about his life and work in his profile from last year.”

Throughout his illustrious career, Professor Pelletier made groundbreaking contributions to the field of RNA biology, earning him global recognition. He co-founded the prestigious McGill Centre for RNA Sciences, a testament to his dedication and focus in RNA research. Professor Pelletier’s impact extended to a staggering 286 peer-reviewed publications, illustrating his profound influence on the scientific community.

In 1988, he completed his PhD at McGill University, where he developed a keen interest in RNA research during his undergraduate studies in Biochemistry. Under the mentorship of the renowned Professor Nahum Sonenberg, PhD, he delved into understanding the intricacies of mRNA molecules and their role in dictating protein output.

Professor Pelletier’s research made significant strides, uncovering regulatory signals flanking mRNA molecules, a critical factor in controlling protein output. This groundbreaking discovery holds particular relevance today, notably in the development of mRNA-based vaccines during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout his journey, he explored diverse aspects of RNA research, including the internal recruitment of protein synthesis machinery by viral mRNA, shedding light on fundamental mechanisms crucial in RNA therapeutics and vaccine development.

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In his pursuit of advancing RNA research, Professor Pelletier and his team identified natural products acting as molecular glue or staples to inhibit protein synthesis by blocking mRNA expression effectively. This pioneering approach offers a promising avenue for the development of drugs targeting RNA.

In recognition of his extraordinary contributions, Professor Pelletier received the 2019 Robert Noble Award from the Canadian Cancer Society, further highlighting his excellence in basic biomedical cancer research.

Professor Jerry Pelletier’s vision and dedication to RNA research have left an indelible mark, providing a solid foundation for future advancements in the domain. His pioneering discoveries and unwavering commitment will continue to inspire generations of researchers, shaping the landscape of RNA biology and therapeutics.

Rest in peace, Professor Jerry Pelletier. Your legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of those you inspired and the discoveries that bear your imprint.

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