We are very sad to report that Dr. Ernest McCulloch, one of our most respected scientists, died January 20, 2011.


*See more videos about Drs. Till and McCulloch on the UHN YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/UHNToronto

McCulloch imageFor those who knew Dr. McCulloch, or 'Bun' to his close friends and colleagues, you will recognize that this is the passing of a man whose presence has cast a long shadow over research and care, here and around the world. We are enormously grateful that he chose OCI and the UofT as his scientific home and his relationship and work with his lifelong academic partner, Dr. James Till, is a shining example of collaboration. They have brought honours and recognition to the Ontario Cancer Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital, the University of Toronto and University Health Network. It is a sad day for all of us as we know we stand on their shoulders.

Dr. Ernest McCulloch
Senior Scientist, Ontario Cancer Institute, Princess Margaret Hospital
University Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto

E. A. McCulloch was born in Toronto in 1926. He was educated at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto. He received his MD degree in 1948; he then spent a year at the Lister Institute in London, England, where he began his education in research. After completing clinical training at the Toronto General Hospital and Sunnybrook Hospital, he spent a further period as a research fellow under the direction of Professor K. J. R. Wightman. He then was appointed to the scientific staff of the newly formed Ontario Cancer Institute. There he began his research with contributions to the viral etiology of cancer.

However, his major work has been concentrated on normal and malignant blood formation. With his colleague Dr. James Till, he devised the first functional assay (the spleen colony assay) for primitive blood cell precursors (pluripotent stem cells of CFU-S). Dr. Till and Dr. McCulloch exploited their assay to characterize murine hemopoietic stem cells, using physical, radiological, physiological, and genetic parameters. The discovery of the spleen colony assay for stem cells and its exploitation were major stimuli for the development of the field of experimental haematology. Since 1970, he has concentrated on the malignant cells characteristic of acute leukemia in humans. He has developed assays for their growth properties and determined many of the factors regulating their behaviour, including their responses to chemotherapeutic drugs.

In collaboration with clinical colleagues, he has emphasized associations between laboratory and clinical parameters of disease. He has stressed the training of medical scientists; many graduates of his laboratory now hold important positions in universities and research institutes in Canada and around the world. Often in collaboration with his colleagues and students, Dr. McCulloch has reported his findings in over 275 published papers. He has been an invited speaker throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

In parallel with this research program, Dr. McCulloch has held a number of senior posts. He was Director of the Institute of Medical Science in the School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto for four years. He then served as Assistant Dean of the School for three years. In this capacity, Dr. McCulloch was responsible for the research centres and institutes affiliated with the School of Graduate Studies. From 1982-1989, he was Head of the Division of Biological research of the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital. He was then Head of the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biology until his 65th birthday. After that time, he continued his research in leukemia as a Senior Scientist Emeritus. 

From 1991-1993, Dr. McCulloch was a Visiting Professor of Laboratory Medicine and pathology at the University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center; after his return to Toronto, he retained his affiliation with UTMDACC as a Consultant and Professor.

Dr. McCulloch has served on a number of provincial, national, and international medical and scientific bodies. He was President of the Academy of Science in the Royal Society of Canada and Vice-President of the Society from 1987-1990. For over 20 years, he was an Editor of the Journal of Cellular Physiology and served on many other editorial boards or advisory committees.

Dr. McCulloch's work has been recognized by a number of awards, including the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1969, the Thomas W. Eadie Medal in 1991 (both shared with Dr. James Till), and the Stratton Lectureship of the American Society of Hematology. The University of Toronto recognized Dr. McCulloch's achievements by making him a University Professor in 1982 and awarding him an honorary doctor of science degree in 2004.

In 1988, Dr. McCulloch was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada; in 1999, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2004, Dr. McCulloch and Dr. Till were inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and in 2005, they received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research – considered the most prestigious medical science award in the United States. In 2007, Dr. McCulloch and Dr. Till also received the National Cancer Institute of Canada Diamond Jubilee Award.

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