Researchers will pay tribute to Jacques Genest

Photo: private Collection
Dr. Jacques Genest, a pioneer of clinical research in Quebec, died on January 5 last at the age of 98 years.

Dr. Jacques Genest, a pioneer of clinical research in Quebec, died on January 5 last at the age of 98 years.


Founder of the clinical research Institute of Montreal (IRCM), Mr. Genest has also created the first center of bioethics in Canada while making major scientific discoveries which have enabled the treatment of hypertension.


Born in Montreal on may 29, 1919, Dr. Genest obtained his doctorate in medicine at the University of Montreal. After training in internal medicine at the Hôtel-Dieu, he left to specialize in endocrinology and nephrology and conduct research at the Johns Hopkins hospital of Baltimore, Harvard Medical School, and finally to Institute Rockefeller of New York.


He returned to Montreal in 1952 and created a department of clinical research at Hotel-Dieu.


“He was the first doctor to be employed and to dedicate themselves to the research. This unique status at the time is not welcomed by the medical profession, which interprets it as the input of the medicine socialist, between the sacred walls of the Hotel-Dieu, ” says Dr. Michel Chrétien, 81 years old, who carried out his first research internship with Dr. Genest in 1960.


“Dr. Genest was a pioneer of clinical research at the international level in Quebec, he was a pillar ! “


Missing space at the Hotel-Dieu, Dr. Genest is seeking in 1963, using the government to establish an institute in front of the hospital.


“Do not think that to him, but to all his confreres in Quebec, he has been involved in the creation of the medical research Council of Quebec, today became the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, which was the first granting agency Canadian provincial “, said Dr. Christian.


Inspired by the model of the Institute Rockefeller, he founded in 1967, the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), which is independent of the University of Montreal and the CHUM, all the while being affiliated.


“He wanted to bring under one roof the two solitudes of the medical class, of the fundamentalists who were at the university at the top of the coast and of the doctors, clinicians and down the coast, and this, in order to foster a better collaboration between them and thus increasing discoveries “, he says.


He then invites researchers, including Dr. Christian, Jean Davignon, and André Barbeau and that he had supervised a few years earlier, to integrate the IRCM, where they can conduct their research ” in freedom “.


“I was among the lucky ones !” said Dr. Christian, who considers Dr. Genest as his “first mentor” and that he qualifies as ” a visionary with a great force of conviction, as well as a determination out of the ordinary “.


“Dad was inspired and shaped by the scientific approach and objective of accuracy based on innovation and the peer review of the major u.s. centres, more than by the dogmatic approach that had prevailed in Europe, where the authority of the teacher could not be disputed,” said for his part Dr. Jacques Genest son, a researcher at the McGill university health Centre.


Great discoveries


Dr. Genest is focusing its research efforts on high blood pressure ” at a time when people were dying for lack of medicine. The knowledge gained by his research enabled pharmaceutical companies to design drugs that are now so efficient that we no longer dying of hypertension, ” says Dr. Christian.


His discoveries have also been made to understand the role of the kidneys and the salt in hypertension. “One of his discoveries, which was entirely coincidental, is that of a small protein, atrial natriuretic factor, which allows the kidney to excrete sodium and thus lower blood pressure,” says Dr. Jacques Genest, son, before adding that another one of his greatest contributions was the creation, in 1976, within the IRCM, the first center of bioethics in Canada.


“My father was a great scientist, but at the same time deeply religious. He had realized that the research in molecular genetics had a huge potential for discoveries, but also of abuse, in particular through the technologies of in vitro fertilization. “


Eric Racine, current director of the neuroethics research Unit of the IRCM, is ” in awe in front of this man of medicine and science that has been visionary and avant-garde by inserting a new field that was in its infancy in its institute dedicated to the research “.


Even if it has ceded the leadership of the IRCM to Dr. Christian at the age of 65 years, Dr. Genest has continued to come every day until the age of 92.