Pat McGeer

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Patrick Lucey "Pat" McGeer, OC, OBC, FRSC (born in Vancouver, June 29, 1927), is a Canadian physician, professor and medical researcher. He is regarded as a leading authority on the causes and prevention of Alzheimer's disease and is the principal author of the inflammatory hypothesis of the disease,[1] which holds that Alzheimer's is an inflammation of the cortex. Formerly, he was a Canadian basketball player who competed in the 1948 Summer Olympics, a politician who represented the constituency of Vancouver-Point Grey in the British Columbia legislature from 1962 to 1986, and a member of the British Columbia cabinet from 1976 to 1986.

Education[edit]

Athletics[edit]

McGeer attended Magee Secondary School from 1942 to 1944, playing on basketball teams that were British Columbia provincial champions. Following a year as a player for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, he was immediately invited to join the Vancouver Lauries, who then won the Western Canadian championship before losing in their bid for a national championship. McGeer was the co-winner of the high-scoring trophy at the Pacific Northwest championships in 1945/46, which UBC won. That year's team also beat (42-38) the Harlem Globetrotters on their visit, with McGeer as high scorer. In 1948, McGeer was unanimous allstar choice for the Pacific Northwest Conference and tied for the scoring championship. That year he was winner of the Bobby Gaul memorial trophy, the top award given to the UBC athlete who contributes most to his team. That team went on to win the Canadian University championship. The Canadian Olympic team was a hybrid from the Canadian University championship team and the Canadian national amateur championship team. McGeer was a member of the UBC contingent on the Canadian basketball team, which finished ninth in the Olympic tournament. McGeer then retired from basketball, holding the career scoring record for the Thunderbirds. He was later inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, and the UBC teams he played on were inducted into the British Columbia, UBC, and BC Basketball Sports Halls of Fame.

Academics[edit]

McGeer graduated from University of British Columbia in 1948 with a first class honours in chemistry, then went on to Princeton for his Ph.D (1951). After graduating from Princeton, McGeer went to work as a researcher at DuPont, where he met a fellow researcher, Edith Graef. They married in 1954 and returned to British Columbia, where he earned an M.D. in 1958, while Edith went to work at the Kinsmen Laboratory for Neurological Research in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. In 1959, Pat joined Edith as a professor at the UBC Faculty of Medicine. The two of them rapidly became a formidable research team, building the Kinsmen Lab into a premier neurochemistry facility with a particular focus on the degenerative neurological diseases of aging. Though they have long since officially retired (Edith in 1989 and Pat in 1992), they remain active. Both continue to research and publish in brain-related research, particularly on Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS and Multiple sclerosis, with more than 800 papers and three books.

Marine mammal research[edit]

McGeer was a member of the Vancouver Public Aquarium team led by Dr. Murray Newman that, in 1964, accidentally captured the killer whale Moby Doll. The Aquarium wished to obtain a dead killer whale in order to construct a model for display, and McGeer wished to study the brain of such a whale because of its anticipated size. A misdirected harpoon went through a whale's soft tissue, permitting it to be towed to a North Vancouver dry dock where the harpoon was removed. Prior to this time, the killer whale (Orcinas Orca) had been the most feared of all ocean predators, with many anecdotal reports of attacks on humans. The Aquarium team soon learned that Moby Doll adapted to captivity, was a quick learner and lived on a diet of fish. Unfortunately, the whale died from an infection, but worldwide attitudes to this remarkable mammal were radically changed.

Now killer whales are a protected species in the wild, and are a spectacular attraction at numerous aquaria around the world. The scientific description can be found in Zoologica Vol 51, Issue 2, pp59–69, 1966: Newman, MA and McGeer, PL. "The capture and care of a killer whale Orcinas Orca in British Columbia." McGeer was also a member of Vancouver Public Aquarium expeditions to the Canadian Arctic in 1968 and 1970 to study narwhals. Five were captured and transported to Vancouver but all died of infection. So far, narwhals have not been successfully brought into captivity.

Political career[edit]

In 1962, McGeer won a by-election for a vacant seat in the riding of Vancouver-Point Grey, under the banner of the Liberal Party of British Columbia. McGeer won re-election as a Liberal in the elections of 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1972. McGeer was elected leader of the Liberal Party in 1968, and led the party in the provincial election of 1969. McGeer resigned the leadership in 1972, but continued to defend his seat. After the election of the New Democratic Party to power in the 1972 election, McGeer led the Liberal Party caucus into the rebuilt Social Credit Party of British Columbia for the 1975 election. McGeer won re-election to the legislature as a Social Credit member in the provincial elections of 1975, 1979 and 1983. Following Social Credit's overwhelming victory in 1975, he became a member of the provincial cabinet, serving in various portfolios until 1986. McGeer was primarily known for fiscal reforms to the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and for strengthening the science and engineering programs at British Columbia's universities. McGeer established the Advanced Research Institute of British Columbia to provide university science and engineering funding, so-called Discovery Parks as technology startup incubators on B.C. university campuses, and the Open Learning Institute to provide distance education to British Columbia's far-flung rural population. McGeer was the minister responsible for the British Columbia Pavilion at the 1986 Vancouver World's Fair, Expo 86.

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, McGeer became the first public figure to suggest using methane as a vehicle fuel, collaborating with Princeton engineering professor Enoch Durbin on a monograph: "Methane: Fuel for the Future". McGeer led the effort to develop natural gas outlets in service stations in the Vancouver area, and a number of Vancouver vehicle fleets converted to run on natural gas. McGeer himself drove a natural gas car through the 1980s. He is a very public advocate for the idea of a Strait of Georgia bridge and other projects. Though a neuroscientist by training, his scientific interests are broad and often original, in one case designing a working satellite dish made of two pieces of carefully cut plywood, slots in which used a refraction effect to focus the signal.

Recognition[edit]

McGeer was elected as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1966.

In 1995 McGeer and his wife were honoured for their lifetime contributions to science and technology with a special award from the Science Council of British Columbia. Their research in the study of the function of neurotransmitters in the brain has been pivotal to the pathology of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Their textbook with Nobel Laureate Sir John Eccles, "Molecular Neurobiology of the Mammalian Brain" (ISBN 0-306-42511-4) was a classic in its day.

In 2004 he was the recipient of the Wisniewski Award for extraordinary contributions to Alzheimer's disease research. He and his wife Edith have been lifelong partners in neurological research and Pat considers that she has made the major contribution to most of their scientific publications. In 1995, he and Edith were inducted as Officers of the Order of Canada. In 2002 they were jointly inducted as Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, and in 2005 they were jointly inducted into the Order of British Columbia.

Family[edit]

McGeer is the son of James McGeer, a provincial court judge, and Ada McGeer (née Schwengers), a reporter and columnist for CBC Radio and the Vancouver News Herald. McGeer was a grandson of "Big Jim" McGeer and a nephew of Gerry McGeer, a prominent politician from the British Columbia Liberal Party, who was twice the Mayor of Vancouver, later elected a Member of Parliament and, eventually, appointed Senator.

McGeer has three children. Patrick ("Rick"), born 1957, is a mathematician and computer scientist, currently a researcher with the Communications and Design Group (CDG) of SAP in San Francisco, CA. He is also the Chief Scientist of US Ignite. Brian ("Tad"), born 1958, is a roboticist and aeronautical engineer, who designed the first unmanned aeronautical vehicle to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. He is founder and president of Aerovel, Inc., of Bingen, Washington. Victoria ("Tori"), born 1960, is a professor of philosophy at the Centre for Human Values, Princeton University, and is an expert on autism.

Aurin Biotech[edit]

In August 2012, McGeer and his wife Edith founded Aurin Biotech Inc., following indications that the Aurin tricarboxylic acid (ATA) complex inhibit activation of the Complement system. Since activation of the complement system is implicated in a number of diseases (see Complement system#Role in Disease), these indications suggested that ATA could be an effective treatment for these diseases. Aurin [2] was founded to explore the efficacy of using ATA and related compounds in the treatment of these diseases. The particular focus is on diseases that are caused or exacerbated by aberrant complement activation. Low molecular weight components of the aurintricarboxylic acid complex have been shown to be non-toxic and orally effective.

References[edit]