1980s and earlier
- McGill chemist Bernard Belleau discovers the new compound 3TC, which Mark Wainberg, now the Director of the McGill AIDS Centre, tests and identifies as an effective antiretroviral drug in the battle against AIDS.
- Shortly after researchers in France and the United States identify the virus that causes AIDS, McGill researchers become the first in Canada to culture HIV.
- Neuroscientist Albert Aguayo of the Montreal General Hospital presents the first evidence that damaged nerve cells in animals can regenerate and form new connections.
- McGill researchers Sam Freedman and Phil Gold discover carcino-embryonic antigen (CEA), a type of protein often found in the blood of people who have certain kinds of cancers. Today CEA is the most frequently used antigen in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients.
- Determined to push the frontiers of science, undergraduate Thomas Chang, now the Director of McGill's Artificial Cells and Organs Research Centre, builds a makeshift lab inside his McGill dormitory room and invents the world's first artificial cell.
- In a landmark event in neuroscience, the Montreal Neurological Institute's K.A.C. Elliot leads a team of researchers to the discovery of the first inhibitory neurotransmitter, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
- Neuropsychologist Brenda Milner of the Montreal Neurological Institute discovers that the hippocampus is largely responsible for how brains memorize facts and transform short-term memories for long-term retention.
- Researcher Heinz Lehmann, working at the Douglas Hospital, begins his pioneering work on chlorpromazine, a drug for schizophrenia. Through extensive clinical trials, the drug is proven to effectively alleviate symptoms, helping many patients return to a normal life.
- Researcher Frank Clarke Fraser establishes the first medical genetics clinic in a Canadian hospital at the Montreal Children's Hospital almost immediately after graduation from medical school.