“Recognized nationally and internationally as one of Canada's foremost biomedical scientists.”
Dr. MacLennan obtained a BSA from the University of Manitoba in 1959, followed by MSc and PhD degrees in Biological Sciences from Purdue University. He was a postdoctoral fellow and then Assistant Professor in the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin before returning to Canada in 1969 to become an Associate Professor in the Banting and Best Department of Medical Research at the University of Toronto. Subsequently, he was appointed as a University Professor, the University’s highest academic rank, and was Chair of his Department for 12 years.
As a newly independent investigator in 1969, Dr MacLennan embarked on the isolation and characterization of a Ca2+ ATPase from a then obscure membrane system, the sarcoplasmic reticulum. His first paper describing this work in the Journal of Biological Chemistry was named a “classic JBC paper” on the 100th anniversary of that journal. In more than 300 subsequent papers, he described the mechanism of action of the Ca2+ pump, the structure and function of many other muscle proteins involved in Ca2+ signalling in muscle, the genes encoding these proteins, and the genetic basis for muscle diseases caused by mutations in these genes.
Dr. MacLennan’s studies of the genes encoding the Ca2+ release channels of both skeletal and cardiac muscle made it possible to identify patients who are susceptible to malignant hyperthermia (MH) or to exercise-induced sudden cardiac death. MH Patients are at risk of fatal reactions to anaesthetics – if identified, they can be treated with safe anaesthetics. With millions of anaesthetics given each year, MH reactions are a worldwide health concern. An MH mutation in swine also caused stress-induced death and lowered meat quality. By identifying the causal mutation and developing a diagnostic test for this disorder, Dr. MacLennan made it possible to eradicate the disease from herds, with substantial economic benefit to the swine industry.
Dr. MacLennan’s research has been supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network of Centers of Excellence, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Canada and the USA and the US National Institutes of Health. He is also recognized as an outstanding educator, overseeing the advanced research training of over 70 postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and visiting professors.
For his tireless efforts and dedication, Dr. MacLennan has received prestigious awards and honours such as the Gairdner Foundation International Award and election or appointment as a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society of London UK, a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences USA, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a Member of the Order of Ontario.