Dr. Ronald Worton, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was educated at the University of Manitoba, receiving his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in 1964 and 1965, both in physics. In 1965 he moved to the University of Toronto where he obtained his PhD in Biophysics in 1969. He then moved to Yale University for a two-year period of postdoctoral study where he developed his interest in genetics under the mentorship of Frank Ruddle, one of the leaders at that time in Somatic Cell Genetics. In 1971, Ronald Worton returned to Toronto to take up a position at the Hospital for Sick Children as Director of the diagnostic cytogenetics laboratory. During the next 25 years at the Hospital for Sick Children from 1971 -1996 he established the first molecular diagnostic laboratory in Ontario, as well as developing and expanding his own research program in basic and clinical research on the muscular dystrophies. In 1985, Ronald Worton was appointed Geneticist in Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children and Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of Toronto. In 1996, he moved to the Ottawa General Hospital where he currently holds the position of Director of Research and Chief Executive Officer of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.
Early work in Ronald Worton's laboratory identified mechanisms for the expression of recessive genes in somatic cells. Ronald Worton is however best known for his work and that of his colleagues in the identification and cloning of the gene linked to the human X-chromosome, that causes Duchenne and Becker Muscular Dystrophies. These conditions, originally thought to be separate diseases, are caused by different mutations in the same gene. Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a relatively common and invariably fatal genetic disease manifesting in affected boys and is the commonest of the many forms of muscular dystrophy. Identification and cloning of this gene by Worton and his colleagues led to the identification of the gene product, the muscle protein Dystrophin, which is absent from the muscle in the more serious Duchenne, and altered in the less serious Becker Muscular Dystrophy. Since this discovery, Ronald Worton's laboratory has continued to work on the regulation of the gene and has pioneered several approaches to the delivery of intact genes to muscle as potential means for gene therapy for these diseases. Other work in his laboratory included the identification of the gene responsible for malignant hypothermia and the mapping of genes responsible for inherited blindness.
As Geneticist in Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children, Ronald Worton led a department that received international acclaim for the discovery and cloning of several human genes including the genes responsible for Cystic Fibrosis, Fanconi Anaemia, Wilm's Tumour and Wilson's Disease.
Ronald Worton is currently President of the American Society of Human Genetics, the premier human genetics society in the world, and is an Associate Director of the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network, a national centre of excellence for research on human genetic disease. His work has been recognized by numerous national and international awards including the Award of Distinction from the Muscular Dystrophy association of Canada, the Centenary Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the E. Mead Johnson Award for research in Paediatrics, the Jonas Salk award, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1990. In 1991, he received the Doctor Honoris Causa, from the Université Catholique de Louvain. In 1994 he became an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Ronald Worton isa distinguished alumnus of this University, who continues to make contributions to the study of genetic medicine and research excellence in Canada and internationally. He was a founding member of HUGO, the Human Genome Organization and continues to serve on numerous boards and committees. As a teacher and mentor he has trained numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.