In 2018, a group of professors from the faculty of medicine at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) in St. John’s were awarded the Governor General’s Innovation Award for identifying a lethal gene mutation known to have caused sudden cardiac deaths in families in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Together, with collaboration and determination, Dr. Terry Young, Dr. Kathy Hodgkinson, Dr. Sean Connors and Dr. Daryl Pullman tackled the “Newfoundland Curse,” an epidemic that had struck families of Newfoundland for generations. The MUN group discovered that a mutation that causes ARVC, a rare arrhythmia, as the source of the illness. They deduced that 50 percent of young men with ARVC, die by age 40, and 80 percent die by age 50. Once they discovered the mutation, they developed a screening method for the deadly disease to prevent future unexpected deaths.
The team’s success shows that “scientific excellence is not just found in big centres,” Dr. Young, the team leader states, “It can occur wherever there are great scientists in great collaborations.”