2024 INDUCTEE Pieter R. Cullis, PhD Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity


May 12, 1946

(Barnard Castle, UK)


PhD, The University of British Columbia (1972)
Post Doc, University of Oxford (1976)
Post Doc, University of Utrecht (1977)

Awards & Honours:

2023: Sultan Karim Medal of Excellence in Clinical Pharmacology

2022: Camurus Lipid Award, Sweden

See All Awards

Developed groundbreaking drug delivery systems to fight illness

Pieter Cullis Sketch

A leader in creating drug delivery systems to treat disease

As the world continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 32 million Canadians have been protected by at least one dose of an approved vaccine—thanks in part to Pieter R. Cullis, PhD. Over a 40-year career in physics, biochemistry and molecular biology, Dr. Cullis has taken lipid nanoparticle (LNP) drug delivery systems from a compelling concept to cutting-edge medicines that are impacting billions of lives. Today, LNPs form a key part in the 95% effective BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. Discoveries by Dr. Cullis and his teams have led to five approved LNP nanomedicines in total, opening the door for new anticancer medicines and gene therapies as well as vaccines. In this way, Dr. Cullis’ success stems not just from his ground-breaking research, but also from his passion for transforming that research into practical uses. In addition to helping develop two Canadian national centre of excellence networks, he co-founded 12 biotech companies and two not-for-profit enterprises, including adMare BioInnovations, to translate academic discoveries into new treatments. As a researcher, company founder, author and mentor, Dr. Cullis continues to shape the next generation of disease-fighting therapeutics.

Key Facts

Recognized as a leader in the development and application of lipid nanoparticle (LNP) drug delivery systems to treat human disease

Translated academic findings into new diagnostic and treatment measures with the creation of more than 12 biotechnology companies and two not-for-profit enterprises, and creating more than 500 jobs in BC's biotechnology sector

Work in his UBC laboratory and companies he co-founded led to Comirnaty, the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine administered to more than 3B people and a major contributor in containing the Covid-19 pandemic

Holds over 60 patents and has published more than 350 highly cited papers

His research collaborations resulted in three approved nanomedicine drugs to treat cancer and its complications: Abelcet for fungal infections the immunocompromised (1995), Myocet to treat metastatic breast cancer (2000) and Marqibo to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (2012)

Cofounded (2019) and was CEO and Scientific Director (2019-2021) of the NanoMedicines Innovation Network (NMIN), a National Centre of Excellence devoted to expanding Canada’s academic capabilities to develop new therapeutics relying on drug delivery technology.

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

Dr. Cullis’ breakthrough understanding of how transfection reagents help deliver DNA- and RNA-based macromolecules laid the foundation for technologies to combat cancer, enable gene therapies and develop life-saving vaccines. In particular, his pioneering contributions to drug delivery include innovations that made the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines possible, which have been credited with saving millions of lives. The potential applications to treat everything from cancer to heart disease leveraging this technology are amazing. Dr. Cullis also has one of the strongest records of commercializing research discoveries of any researcher in North America. His interest in bridging the gap between academia and practice has helped to create hundreds of jobs and advance human health.

pieter cullis lab


  • Inducted photo

    Pieter R. Cullis inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Vancouver, British Columbia

  • mRNA COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use

    Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity

    Based on an LNP delivery system developed by Acuitas, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine BNT162b2 was approved by the US FDA in December and subsequently in many other countries worldwide. These approvals were based on the vaccine’s 95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19, together with its excellent safety profile. More than 5 billion doses were administered globally in 2021–2022.

  • Nanomedicine-based drug Onpattro approved by the FDA

    Understanding the body and disease process, Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    This gene therapy was approved to treat hereditary amyloid transthyretin (hATTR) amyloidosis. Employing an LNP delivery system developed from Dr. Cullis’ research, Onpattro is able not only to stop further progression of this previously untreatable disease, but also to reverse associated neuropathies and cardiovascular issues.

  • cullis book

    Dr. Pieter Cullis co-founded the not-for-profit Personalized Medicine Initiative (PMI)

    Building our health organizations and systems, Leadership in Organizational Development

    The PMI, a UBC-based organization aimed at introducing personalized medicine to the front lines of health care in Canada, also spurred the formation of several personalized medicine companies and coincided with Dr. Cullis writing a book on the subject, The Personalized Medicine Revolution.

  • Aquitas logo cullis

    Dr. Culllis co-founded Acuitas Therapeutics with Tom Madden and Mick Hope

    Leadership in Organizational Development, Infectious Disease, Allergy & Immunity

    This began a cascade of discovery from developing LNP formulations of messenger RNA (mRNA) to express proteins in the liver following an i.v. administration, to a collaboration with Drew Weissman (U Penn) to develop LNP formulations of mRNA as vaccines and eventually a collaboration with BioNTech (Germany) leading to the LNP system that enables the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine called Comirnaty.

  • Dr. Cullis and collaborators in 2006

    Onpattro developed to treat transthyretin induced amyloidosis (hATTR), a previously fatal hereditary condition that affects some 50,000 people worldwid

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    A collaboration between Inex (later Acuitas), Dr. Cullis' UBC lab and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (Boston) to develop (LNP) formulations of small interfering RNA (siRNA) to inhibit production of (silence) pathological proteins in the liver was the precursor.

  • admare logo cullis

    Dr. Cullis to co-found the not-for-profit Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD, now adMare BioInnovations)

    Leadership in Organizational Development

    The often frustrating process of developing potential therapeutics to reach the commercial world led Dr. Cullis to co-found the not-for-profit Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD, now adMare BioInnovations) to help attract the necessary funding for moving preclinical drug candidates into the clinic.

  • Cullis w 4 lab mates 1992

    Co-founded Inex Pharmaceuticals with four members of his UBC laboratory


    Inex went on the develop Marqibo that was approved by the FDA to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia

  • cullis 1986

    Established a collaboration with The Liposome Company (Princeton, NJ) to develop nanomedicines to treat cancer

    Leadership in Organizational Development, Cancer

    This resulted in two drugs that received regulatory approval (Abelcet and Myocet)

  • cullis ubc biochem

    Joined UBC’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology as an Assistant Professor

    Purchased an NMR machine to study lipids in membranes with a grant from the Canadian Medical Research Council (MRC)

  • cullis 1975

    Completed postdoctoral work in biochemistry at the University of Oxford through an MRC fellowship

    The photo features Pieter in front of an NMR machine he helped build (1975)

  • Graduated from UBC with a PhD in Solid State Physics


Over his 40-year career, Dr. Cullis has taken LNP systems from an academic concept to medicines that are having a tremendous impact on human health around the world.