MONTREAL — Dr. George Karpati, a Hungarian-born Holocaust survivor who became a leading expert in muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular disorders, died suddenly of a heart attack on Feb. 6 at age 74.
Karpati, a physician and research scientist, spent his long career at the Montreal Neurological Institute and held the I.W. Killam Chair and was a professor of neurology at McGill University at the time of his death.
He was recognized internationally for his contribution to the understanding of dystrophin, a protein affecting how muscle fibres function, and latterly, he was looking into the potential of gene replacement therapy.
From 2001 to 2006, he directed a large, international consortium studying possible molecular treatment for nervous system diseases.
“George was a giant figure – a master clinician and scientist, and a true champion of the Penfield spirit,” said Dr. David Colman, director of the Neuro, referring to the institution’s founder Dr. Wilder Penfield, a pioneering neurosurgeon.
“He was one of those to whom was entrusted the conscience of the Neuro. But above all, George was a mensch, always there to help and give his blessing. He will be missed.”
Born in 1934 in Debrecen, Hungary, Karpati immigrated to Canada in 1957.
Among his honours were being made an officer of the Order of Canada in 2001 and a chevalier of the Ordre nationale du Québec in 2005. He was the recipient of the Wilder Penfield Prize, one of the Prix du Québec, in 2006.
Karpati was also a member of the Royal Society of Canada and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and he received honorary doctorates from the University of Debrecen and the University of Marseilles.
He is survived by Shira, his wife of 42 years, and sons Adam and Joshua.