Smiles of Dentistry – Marc McKee

June 2018

Dr. McKee with an HPP patient and their family

I have studied biomineralization and osteopontin for almost 30 years now, a protein present in bones and teeth, but also almost everywhere in the body with an important role in our natural tissues and organs

During this time, there was a small startup biotech company in Montreal working on bone disease that was headed by a colleague that I knew quite well and who knew of my work. Next thing I knew, they were developing a new bone- and tooth-targeted enzyme replacement therapy for patients who have hypophosphatasia (a disease that causes teeth to fall out). I ended up working closely with them over many years to test the new drug and it was finally approved for human use in 2015 in many countries including Canada and the USA.

This was a rewarding and powerful experience in my life, which reminded me of the importance of staying true to a goal over the long term.

Hypophosphatasia is most severe in its infantile form, and most of the children used to die within a year of birth. Infants who take the drug are now living healthy active lives, including even playing impact sports! Infants that first received the drug are now adolescents, and I have met many of them! And we smile (showing our retained teeth). And the patients that may not have been with us today (who now walk strongly amongst us), well, they are now planning their own goals in life.

Dr. Marc D. McKee is a full professor at McGill University in Montreal with a joint appointment in the Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine. He received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees from McGill University in cell biology, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard University and The Children’s Hospital in Boston. He then held academic appointments at the Forsyth Institute in Boston (1989), and at the University of Montreal (1990), after which he moved to McGill University in 1998.

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