Gerry Wright awarded Killam Prize in Health Sciences

Gerry Wright wearing a white lab coat and standing inside a labratory

McMaster researcher Gerry Wright has been awarded the 2024 Killam Prize in Health Sciences for his internationally-renowned research in antimicrobial resistance.

Gerry Wright, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University, has been awarded the 2024 Killam Prize in Health Sciences for his internationally-renowned research in antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The award was announced March 19. 

The Killam Prizes are awarded to active Canadian scholars who have distinguished themselves through sustained research excellence, making a significant impact in their respective fields in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, health sciences and engineering.  

Wright’s research on antibiotics, their function, resistance, and biosynthesis has produced numerous landmark studies which have shaped the direction of thought and activity in his field and are helping to save lives from the grave public health threat posed by AMR. He was the first to articulate the concept of a pan-bacterial ‘resistome’ encompassing the totality of antibiotic resistance elements in microbial communities, not just human pathogens. The Wright lab has explored the resistome in terms of the origins and evolution of resistance  demonstrating that resistance is ancient and common in all bacteria. This information is now informing new approaches, many from Wright’s team, to block resistance and identify new antibiotics. 

“I feel honoured and grateful to be awarded the 2024 Killam Prize in Health Sciences,” said Wright, who is the founder, former director, and an active member of the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research (IIDR). The IIDR supports interdisciplinary biomedical and clinical research and offers a unique training environment for over 200 graduate students, fellows, and technical staff.  

“This award is a testament to the colleagues, trainees and mentors I have worked with throughout my career, and who I continue to collaborate with on important infectious disease research.” 

Wright has published more than 300 research manuscripts and book chapters and is an advisor for many research institutes, companies and government bodies. He has trained over 95 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and dozens of undergraduates.  

Wright holds the Michael G. DeGroote Chair in Infection and Anti-Infective Research and was the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Antibiotic Biochemistry (2001-2022). He has received many prestigious awards, including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Scientist award (2000-2005), Medical Research Council of Canada Scholar award (1995-2000), Killam Research Fellowship (2011- 1012), Premier’s Research Excellence award (1999), and Polanyi Prize (1993). He received the R.G.E Murray Award for Career Achievement from the Canadian Society of Microbiologists in 2013 and the NRC Research Press Senior Investigator Award from the Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences in 2016. In 2017, he was conferred the title of Distinguished University Professor, McMaster’s highest honour. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012 and to the American Academy of Microbiology in 2013. 

“Dr. Wright is one of the most productive, impactful and accomplished AMR researchers, not just in Canada, but the world. Through more than 30 years of groundbreaking research, he has developed a body of work that has unequivocally informed the global response to drug-resistant infections, which will save countless lives in the years to come. Given all of this, Dr. Wright is an eminently worthy candidate for the Killam Prize,” said Paul O’Byrne, dean and vice-president of the Faculty of Health Sciences.  

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