Warren Finlay wins major award

GLOBAL LEADER: When world-wide researchers and companies develop respiratory drug delivery devices, they rely on Finlay's research.

(EDMONTON) Mechanical engineering professor Warren Finlay has been awarded the University of Alberta’s Distinguished University Professor. The award celebrates the careers of exceptional faculty members who are globally recognized leaders and whose exemplary teaching, research and citizenship have made them international leaders in their disciplines.

Finlay is the fifth professor from the Faculty of Engineering to have received the award.

Finlay has a deep connection to the university. He spent his undergraduate years here and has taught here for 30 years. “When I pass through the bookshelves of Cameron Library, or other old haunts, it awakens fond memories,” he says. “So I am deeply touched to be honoured by the university in this way.”  

Finlay works in the field of medical aerosol science—the science of delivering medicines to the respiratory system via inhalers and pumps. Finlay’s research successes have improved the lives of millions of people around the world.

Respiratory disease is a major public health issue, with chronic respiratory diseases being the third-highest underlying cause of death in Canada. Respiratory disease is also a major source of illness, with more than three million Canadians suffering from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, tuberculosis, or cystic fibrosis.  

Finlay and his lab have developed standard mouth-throat and nasal shapes for testing and development of inhalers for adults and children. These are manufactured and sold worldwide to pharmaceutical companies by the Copley, the world’s leading supplier of inhaler testing equipment. Pharmaceutical companies rely on these models during product research and development.

Finlay’s lab has also developed equations that take into account altitude and ambient temperature to optimize drug inhaler performance. He has developed a patented method of producing powders using spray freeze-drying, and the first rigorous development of aerosolized formulations of bacteriophages for resistant bacterial lung infections.

When global researchers and companies develop respiratory drug delivery devices, they rely on an online tool called a deposition calculator that his lab published. He has a strong record as an editor, reviewer, conference organizer, educator, and committee member as well as being a scientific advisor to numerous major international pharmaceutical companies. Finlay’s monograph, called “The Mechanics of Inhaled Pharmaceutical Aerosols: An Introduction” (Elsevier, 2001), is one of the most influential and frequently cited works in his field.

He has supervised many graduate students, creating a generation of new experts.