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Dr. Roderick R. McInnes

Roderick R. McInnes, OC, MD, PhD, FRSC, FCAHS


Human Genetics, Inherited eye diseases, Photoreceptors, Retinal and eye development, Retinal degeneration
  • Emeritus Investigator, Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research
  • Professor, Departments of Genetics and Biochemistry, McGill University


Roderick R. McInnes, OC, OOnt MD, PhD is Professor of Human Genetics and Biochemistry, and Emeritus Investigator at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research of the Jewish General Hospital, all of McGill University.

Dr Roderick R. McInnes was previously the Head of the Program in Developmental Biology at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, and a University Professor at the University of Toronto, an HHMI International Research Scholar, and the Inaugural Scientific Director of the Institute of Genetics of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

He has made important contributions to understanding the molecular basis of retinal and eye development, the identification of genes and processes associated with retinal degeneration, and knowledge of synaptic proteins that modulate ion channels in the nervous system. He is one of three coauthors of the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th editions of the classic textbook Thompson and Thompson’s Genetics in Medicine, for which the co-authors received the 2015 American Society of Human Genetics Award for Excellence in Human Genetics Education.

In 2010, Dr. McInnes was President of the American Society of Human Genetics. From 2009- 2021 (March) he was the Director of the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and until 2017, Canada Research Chair in Neurogenetics. In 2017-2018 he served as the Acting President of CIHR. He received the Paul Armstrong Lecture Award from the CAHS for leadership in advancing health sciences, and the Research Canada Leadership in Advocacy Award for championing health research at the national level in 2019. Dr. McInnes is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), and was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2008, and made a Member of the Order of Canada in 2009, and an Office of the Order in 2021.

Dr. Roderick R. McInnes is an internationally recognized researcher in the genetics of vision.

His group identified the eye developmental genes CHX10, and VSX1 and Prdm8, as well as the photoreceptor genes CRX, ROM1 and PHR1. Four of these genes have been associated with inherited eye diseases.

His group determined that the kinetics of photoreceptor death in inherited retinal degenerations are exponential, indicating that the cells are at a constant risk of death and do not die of cumulative damage.

With Michael Salter, he identified Neto1 and Neto2 as important accessory proteins for ion channels in neurons. They established that it is possible to correct an inherited learning defect in mice with a drug, a finding with important implications for human learning disability.

Major Research Activities

Historically our laboratory has focused on retinal and brain development, photoreceptor degeneration and accessory proteins of ion channels in the nervous system. In inherited neurodegenerations, we wish to understand what is happening in the mutant neurons, in the years to decades between their birth and their death. After decades of normal function, why do the neurons suddenly die? To address this question, we identified molecular mechanisms that contribute to or protect against the death of mutant photoreceptors (PRs) using mouse models of PR diseases. Understanding of these mechanisms has suggested therapeutic opportunities to slow PR death. Our current major focus is on the molecular, cellular and phenotypic analysis of a largely uncharacterized microtubule-associated protein whose loss of function in mice impairs the growth of the whole animal, and the development of the brain.

Recent Publications and References