George Karpati: "He Was a Giant"

Neurologist and neuroscientist George Karpati, a longtime MDA research grantee at the Montreal Neurological Institute, passed away suddenly on Feb. 6, 2009. He was 74.

Karpati was one of the world's leading authorities on the diagnosis and treatment of muscular dystrophy. He held the I.W. Killam Chair and was a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at McGill University in Montreal (the Montreal Neurological Institute is part of McGill).

Karpati made significant contributions to the field of neuromuscular disorders in general and, since the 1990s, focused specifically on gene therapy and the augmentation of the utrophin protein as potential treatments for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

The author of some 250 original research papers and articles, Karpati edited or co-authored five major books on neuromuscular disease since 2002.

George Karpati
George Karpati

A difficult beginning leads to success

In addition to his substantial research contributions, Karpati was known for his clinical acumen, compassion for patients and families, and big sense of humor.

Born in Hungary, Karpati and his family were imprisoned by the Nazis at a work camp near Vienna during World War II. His father later was removed and killed at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

After the war, Karpati returned to Hungary to finish his education, but fled the country in 1956 after the Communists invaded. He immigrated to Canada in 1957 and spent most of his career at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

"He was a giant," said David Colman, director of the Montreal Neurological Institute, quoted in the Montreal Gazette. "He had a consummate knowledge of his field, and an equally consummate knowledge of art, world history and music, that he shared with the world. He was a very cultured guy."

Karpati’s many honors include Officer of the Order of Canada (2001), the Queen's Jubilee Medal (2002), Chevalier de l'Ordre Nationale du Québec (2005) and the Prix du Quebec Wilder Penfield (2006).

He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Shira Tannor, and their two sons, Adam and Joshua.