Ruth McPherson, MD, PhD, was named the 2018 George Lyman Duff Memorial Lecturer, awarded by the American Heart Association’s Council on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. Dr. McPherson is the first Canadian to receive this long-standing and prestigious award, established in 1956 in honour of Dr. Duff, a distinguished Canadian pathologist and medical educator who carried out seminal research on the origins of atherosclerosis.
Dr. McPherson delivered her George Lyman Duff Memorial Lecture, titled “Harnessing genome-wide association study (GWAS) data to unravel the genetics and genomics of coronary artery disease”, at the AHA Annual Scientific Sessions held in November in Chicago. Dr. McPherson shared with the audience recent advances in how GWAS data have furthered our understanding of the genetic architecture of heart disease. Of note, Nikpay and McPherson and the CARDIoGRAM+4D Consortium et al recently described (in Nature Genetics) a comprehensive analysis of the fine genetic architecture of heart disease, and demonstrated that genetic susceptibility is largely determined by the cumulative effects of numerous small genetic variants rather than variants with large effects on coronary artery disease risk. These advances hold great promise for the new era of precision medicine. Leveraging these genomic data in combination with Mendelian randomization, a method to assess the causality of factors associated with heart disease risk, can guide the development of novel, effective drug therapies to treat individuals at higher risk for coronary artery disease.
Dr. Ruth McPherson is a clinician scientist and Director of the Atherogenomics Laboratory and the Ruddy Canadian Cardiovascular Genetics Centre at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. She is a leader in cardiovascular genetics, having led the discovery of the 9p21 genetic risk factor for heart disease in 2007. Her research program is centred on the discovery and functional analysis of genetic variants linked to cardiovascular disease.
Dr. McPherson’s research is funded by a Foundation Grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. She is a lead investigator with the CARDIoGRAM+C4D Consortium, and has formed extensive global partnerships in her research. She has published over 240 manuscripts in high impact peer-reviewed journals. She has been a keynote speaker at many international conferences, and recognized with numerous prestigious awards. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014.