April 2, 1942

(Winnipeg, Manitoba)


PhD, University of Toronto (1969)

Awards & Honours:

2012: Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

2012: Officer of the Order of Canada

See All Awards
Picture of Ronald Worton

Discovered the gene for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Ronald Worton

A trailblazer in genetic research

Described as a “role model of one who has achieved success without either aggression or self-promotion” and “who brings to every interaction kindness, selflessness, consideration and empathy,” Dr. Worton stands out as both a scholar and a gentleman. Through a novel and ground breaking approach at a time when disease-gene discovery was in its infancy, Dr. Worton and his team identified the dystrophin gene which is mutated in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. This was the first gene to be identified by “positional cloning” without prior knowledge of the altered protein and provided proof-of-principle for the human genome project.

Key Facts

Enabled definitive diagnosis and prognosis for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

Led the development of diagnostic tools that are now used around the world

Served as Associate Director of the Canadian Genetic Disease Network, the Head of the Canadian Genome Analysis and Technology Program and as the Founding Director of Canada’s Stem Cell Network

Professional timeline

Impact on lives today

When Dr. Worton began his research in genetics, little was known about the nature of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Today, thanks to the work of Dr. Worton, scientists can now identify the gene responsible and have a clear path to potential therapy and prevention. Beyond his basic science research, the legacy of Dr. Worton lays in his building of research programs and networks that facilitate knowledge production and exchange for the benefit of human health.

Picture of Ronald Worton


  • Ronald Worton Induction

    Ronald Worton inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

    Kingston, Ontario

  • International Leadership

    Dr. Worton was elected President of the American Society for Human Genetics.

  • Dr. Worton became the first CEO and Scientific Director of the new Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, and VP Research of the Ottawa Hospital

    During his tenure, the Institute grew to become one of Canada’s premiere health research institutes with a total staff of over 1200 researchers.

  • New Directions

    Dr. Worton moved to Ottawa to become the Scientific Director of the new Research Institute at the former Ottawa General Hospital.

  • Along with Dr. Michael R. Hayden, Dr. Worton developed the concept of the Canadian Genetic Disease Network (CGDN)

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    The network played a key role in fostering a culture of cooperation among genetic researchers. As of 2014, the CGDN has worked with over 60 scientists and 8 industrial partners.

  • In 1985, Dr. Worton began a ten-year term as Geneticist-in-Chief at the Hospital for Sick Children

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    During this time, his genetics department led the world with the discovery of genes responsible for muscular dystrophy (Worton and Ray), cystic fibrosis (Tsui), Wilson’s disease (Cox), Tray-Sachs disease (Gravel) and Fanconi anemia (Buchwald).

  • Dr. Worton returned to Canada and joined the Department of Genetics at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto as Director of the Cytogenetics Laboratory

    Cells, Genetics & Genomics

    It was in this laboratory that Dr. Worton isolated the gene for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

  • Early Genetic Research

    After completing his PhD in medical biophysics under the supervision of Drs. James Till and Ernest McCulloch, Dr. Worton moved to Yale for postdoctoral study with Dr. Frank Ruddle, a leader in somatic cell genetics.

  • Before pursing studies in human genetics, Dr. Worton earned his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in physics from the University of Manitoba


He is a trailblazer in disease gene discovery.

Additional Resources: