Frank Plummer

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Francis Allan Plummer OC OM FRSC (2 December 1952 – 4 February 2020) was a Canadian scientist, academic and HIV/AIDS researcher. He was "a recognized specialist in infectious diseases whose work influenced public health policy in Canada and abroad".[1] He was Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Medical Microbiology at the University of Manitoba and Scientific Director General, National Microbiology Laboratory.

Life and career[edit]

Plummer was born in Winnipeg.[2] He studied medicine at the University of Manitoba, where he specialized in infectious diseases.[3]

In 1980, he went to Kenya in response to a request from the University of Nairobi for assistance in managing an outbreak of chancroid.[3] While there, in 1982 he began studying AIDS transmission in 1982, and beginning in 1984 was part of a research collaboration in Nairobi between the University of Manitoba and the University of Nairobi studying sexually transmitted infections.[4] His research described the heterosexual epidemiology of HIV, the increased risk of HIV infection in men associated with previous chancroid infection and of male circumcision in reducing such risk, and identified immunological and genetic features shared by a group of female sex workers who demonstrated immunity to HIV.[3]

On returning to Canada in 1999, he became senior scientific advisor to the Public Health Agency of Canada, director general of the Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control, and scientific director general of the National Microbiology Laboratory,[2][4] where he remained for 13 years, leading the Canadian laboratory response to SARS and the H1N1 pandemic and overseeing the development of the successful VSV EBOV vaccine for Ebola viral hemorrhagic fever.[3][5]

Among his other research, Plummer discovered a human parvovirus that causes a disease resembling erythema infectiosum, which has played an important role in development of adeno-associated virus gene therapy.[3] At the time of his death, he was working to develop an HIV vaccine.[3][5][6]


In 2006, Plummer was made an Officer of the Order of Canada.[1] In 2009, he was made a Member of the Order of Manitoba in recognition for being "an internationally renowned physician-scientist and expert in infectious diseases who has significantly contributed to global health".[7] In 2014, he was awarded the Killam Prize for AIDS research.[8] In 2012, he was awarded the Royal Society of Canada's McLaughlin Medal, awarded "for important research of sustained excellence in medical science".[9] He was the recipient of the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award in 2016.[10] Plummer had honorary degrees from the University of Calgary, McMaster University, and the University of Windsor.

Private life and death[edit]

Plummer was married to Jo Kennelly; he had a stepdaughter and three daughters, and lived in Toronto.[2][11]

In 2012 Plummer developed liver failure due to alcoholism; he underwent a liver transplant and as part of an experimental trial was the first recipient in North America of deep brain stimulation for alcohol-use disorder, in December 2018.[3][5][6][12][13]

He died of a heart attack on 4 February 2020,[11] while visiting Nairobi for the 40th anniversary of the HIV research collaboration.[4][2]


  1. ^ a b "Order of Canada citation".
  2. ^ a b c d Israel, Solomon (4 February 2020). "Plummer mourned as outstanding scientist who helped curb HIV". Winnipeg Free Press.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Venkatesan, Priya (1 April 2020). "Obituary: Francis (Frank) Allan Plummer". The Lancet Infectious Diseases. 20 (4): 421. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30188-2.
  4. ^ a b c "World-renowned HIV researcher Frank Plummer, 67, dies". BBC News. 5 February 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Acclaimed scientist gets brain surgery for alcohol addiction". BBC News. 19 January 2020.
  6. ^ a b Leung, Wency (16 December 2019). "Deep-brain stimulation gave a renowned scientist with alcoholism his life back". Retrieved 23 August 2020.
  7. ^ "Frank Plummer, O.C." Awards: Order of Manitoba. 2014. Archived from the original on 1 January 2015.
  8. ^ Dacey, Elisha (9 April 2014). "Winnipeg scientist Dr. Frank Plummer awarded Killam Prize for AIDS research". Metro News Winnipeg. Archived from the original on 17 July 2014.
  9. ^ "Past award winners: McLaughlin Medal". Royal Society of Canada. 2016. Archived from the original on 14 October 2016.
  10. ^ Owens, Brian (23 March 2016). "NIAID director wins Canada Gairdner Global Health Award". The Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30050-2.
  11. ^ a b Kennelly, Jo (22 February 2020). "Today is day of facts. Frank Plummer died of 'myocardial ischaemia due to severe coronary atherosclerosis'. A heart attack. His death was sudden and unexpected. He died in our arms. The rumours surrounding his death are fake. Frank lived a life of service to science & humanity". Twitter. Retrieved 16 March 2020.
  12. ^ "'I'd be dead': Renowned scientist gets experimental brain surgery to fight alcoholism". CBC News. Retrieved 18 December 2019.
  13. ^ "Canadian scientist undergoes novel brain stimulation treatment for alcoholism". CTV news. 15 December 2019.