Biomedical Innovator Spotlight: Dr. Pieter Cullis

May 16, 2022

UBC Medicine professor Dr. Pieter Cullis helped pave the way for mRNA vaccines and other life-saving treatments thanks to his work on lipid nanoparticles.

His foundational work has led to many clinical applications of lipid nanoparticles, such as delivering anticancer drugs to cancer tissues while limiting toxicity in normal tissues. In the case of mRNA, the lipid nanoparticles are designed to form a protective bubble around the mRNA and enable delivery to the interior of target cells. This technology is critical to the potency of mRNA vaccines.

Acuitas Therapeutics, a UBC spin-off company founded by Dr. Cullis, is providing critical technologies for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine — helping save millions of lives across Canada and around the globe. 

Dr. Cullis’ discoveries have positioned B.C. as a leader in next-generation vaccines and therapeutics. His work is being applied beyond COVID-19 to address other health challenges like the flu, HIV, cancer and future pandemics. 

Learn more about Dr. Cullis’ internationally recognized accomplishments.  

Recent Awards

  • Governor General’s Innovation Award (2022)
  • Gairdner International Award (2022)
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (2022)
  • VinFuture Foundation’s Sci-Tech Award (2022)
  • Prince Mahidol Award (2022)
  • Controlled Release Society Founders Award (2021)     
  • Fellow National Academy of Inventors (2018)
  • Journal of Drug Targeting Lifetime Achievement Award (2016)
  • Life Science BC Milton Wong Leadership Award (2015)
  • Prix Galien Canada Research Award (2011)

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