Clay Armstrong MD, PhD

Recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award, 2001
"For the elucidation of the mechanism of action and molecular structure of cation channels."

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Much of our present knowledge concerning ion channel structure and function can be traced to Dr. Clay Armstrong. He provided the first general description of the K+ channel pore, including the fundamental ideas of a selectivity filter, a wider inner vestibule and a gate on the inside. A consistent feature of Armstrong's contributions is the absolutely quantitative nature of the work and the resulting fidelity of his clear and concise descriptions. His work has been so profound that it has had enormous influence on the work of others, leading to our present understanding of channel structure and function. Armstrong's seminal work is of enormous value to human disease, the relief of human suffering and the broader aspects of medicine because of subsequent development of drug therapies that work through channels.

Clay Armstrong received his BA degree from Rice University in 1956 and his MD degree from Washington University, St. Louis in 1960. He was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. K.S. Cole at the NIH from 1961-1964 and with Dr. A.F. Huxley, University College, London from 1964-1966. He has held professorial appointments at Duke University, the University of Rochester and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he has been Professor of Physiology since 1976. Among his many honours are election to the National Academy of Sciences, 1987; Columbia University Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize for Biology or Biochemistry (shared with Bertil Hille) 1996; The Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (shared with Bertil Hille and Rod MacKinnon) 1999.