Chris Orvig

Prospective Graduate Students / Postdocs

This faculty member is currently not actively recruiting graduate students or Postdoctoral Fellows, but might consider co-supervision together with another faculty member.


Research Classification

Research Interests

Chemical Synthesis and Catalysis
Inorganic and Organometallic Compounds
Nuclear medicine
Chemical Processes
bioinorganic chemistry
coordination chemistry
ligand design and synthesis
medicinal inorganic chemistry
radiopharmaceutical chemistry

Relevant Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters



Chris Orvig was born in Montréal in 1954 and educated in that city, following his father to McGill University to obtain his First Class Honors BSc in Chemistry in 1976. He then studied with Professor Alan Davison, FRS at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada Postgraduate Scholar (PGS), obtaining his PhD in 1981. After two years at the University of California, Berkeley as an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow (PDF) with Prof. K. N. Raymond, and an additional year at McMaster University with Prof. C. J. L. Lock, he joined the Chemistry Department at UBC in 1984 as an NSERC University Research Fellow. At UBC, he was appointed Assistant Professor in 1988, Associate Professor in 1990, Associate Member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1991, Director of the Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry Group in 1994 and Professor of Chemistry in 1995. He was acting Head of Chemistry in 2000-2001 and Associate Head of Chemistry in 2010-11.
Orvig is one of the world’s foremost experts in medicinal inorganic chemistry. His earliest independent work showed that low-molecular-weight aluminum compounds of neutral charge and considerable aqueous solubility over a wide pH range could be prepared; this has led to the wide and on-going use of this compound to study aluminum toxicity and pharmacology. His radiopharmaceutical research projects have discovered agents to investigate the imaging of heart, kidney, brain, and certain tumours; he has also been working recently on a versatile modular chelating system for both therapeutic and diagnostic applications of radiometal ions. In the 1990s, he published an extensive and comprehensive series of papers on the discrimination of multidentate ligands for different metal ions of biological importance and he has pursued trifunctional agents for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. His research in collaboration with Professor John McNeill, FRSC (formerly UBC Dean of Pharmaceutical Sciences) elucidated vanadium compounds as non-toxic, orally active analogues of insulin in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The impact of Orvig's vanadium drugs for diabetes treatment is indicated by the completion of phase 2 clinical trials in type 2 diabetics in May 2008.
At the invitation of the American Chemical Society, he edited the September 1999 Chemical Reviews special issue on Medicinal Inorganic Chemistry, the first comprehensive treatise in this field, and he was invited by Science to review the field in 2003. He serves on many editorial and institutional boards (chairing that for Dalton Transactions 2008-2011), and was the inorganic chemistry editor of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry for ten years. Orvig has been an invited/plenary speaker hundreds of times at national and international meetings; his research expertise is regularly sought by companies as a consultant. In the early 1990s, he acted as a crucial expert witness in a seminal lawsuit in the USA that won compensation for neurological damage in aluminum smelter workers.
Orvig chaired the 31st International Conference on Coordination Chemistry (ICCC) at UBC in 1996, the 2004 Metals in Medicine Gordon Research Conference, and the 15th International Conference on Biological Inorganic Chemistry (ICBIC) at UBC in 2011. He is now the Executive Secretary for the ICCC.
Orvig’s research has been recognized by receipt of an Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize (Germany), a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Invitation Fellowship, and UBC Killam Awards for research and teaching. In 2009, he received both the Rio Tinto Alcan Award, for inorganic or electrochemistry, from the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and the Bioinorganic Chemistry Award from the Royal Society of Chemistry. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2010, and served as Davison Lecturer at MIT in 2011 and G. Ronald Brown Lecturer at McGill in 2014. He won a Canada Council for the Arts Killam Research Fellowship for 2011-2013, and UBC’s highest research honour, the Jacob Biely Research Prize, in 2013. Recently, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation named him Humboldt Ambassador Scientist for 2015-2021.



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