The world of science and academia is in mourning as the news of the passing of Professor Jerry Pelletier, a distinguished figure in the field of Biochemistry, reverberates through McGill University and beyond. This profound loss has left not only his family and friends but also colleagues and the entire student body heartbroken. The announcement of his passing on Monday, the 18th of September 2023, by the McGill Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences has cast a shadow of sadness over the scientific community. At this time, the circumstances surrounding the cause of his death remain undisclosed, leaving many in deep contemplation.
Jerry Pelletier’s career was nothing short of illustrious. He held the esteemed position of Professor within McGill University’s Department of Biochemistry and the Department of Oncology. His pride lay in being a distinguished member of the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Institute, where his contributions to the field of RNA biology were nothing short of groundbreaking. As a co-founder of the prestigious McGill Centre for RNA Sciences, he directed his singular and vital research focus towards unraveling the mysteries of RNA.
His remarkable career is highlighted by an impressive 286 peer-reviewed publications, a testament to his substantial impact on the scientific community. In recognition of his outstanding achievements in basic biomedical cancer research, he was honored with the 2019 Robert Noble Award by the Canadian Cancer Society. His journey into the captivating world of RNA research began during his final year as an undergraduate student in Biochemistry at McGill, demonstrating his lifelong dedication to the field.
Dr. Pelletier’s scholarly journey was marked by a pursuit of knowledge and a relentless dedication to scientific discovery. In 1988, he completed his PhD at McGill University under the mentorship of the renowned Professor Nahum Sonenberg, PhD. Subsequently, he pursued post-doctoral training at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cancer Centre, under the guidance of Professor David Housman, PhD, a distinguished figure in genetics research.
During this period, his research efforts were dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of Wilms’ tumor, a journey that culminated in the characterization of the WT1 tumor suppressor gene. Additionally, Professor Pelletier and his dedicated team conducted groundbreaking investigations into viral behavior, particularly focusing on poliovirus. Their pioneering work uncovered the mechanisms by which these viruses adeptly bypass the regulatory signals used by cellular mRNAs, culminating in the seminal discovery of how poliovirus orchestrates the creation of its own proteins.
As we remember Jerry Pelletier, we reflect on a life dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge, the unraveling of scientific mysteries, and the mentorship of countless students and researchers. His impact on the field of Biochemistry and RNA biology is immeasurable, and his loss leaves a void that will be felt for generations.
In this moment of grief, we find solace in the knowledge that his legacy lives on through the knowledge he imparted and the discoveries he made. Jerry Pelletier’s contributions to science have left an indelible mark, inspiring future generations to continue exploring the fascinating world of RNA and beyond.
The scientific community, colleagues, and students will gather to honor and remember Professor Jerry Pelletier’s life, sharing stories, insights, and memories that highlight his enduring impact. In this time of loss, we hold onto the knowledge that his passion for science and unwavering dedication will continue to inspire and guide us as we journey further into the realm of scientific discovery.