B.Sc.(Honours), Chemistry, University of Manitoba, 1972; Ph.D., Chemistry, University of Manitoba, 1977; Postdoctoral Fellowship, Université de Montréal.

Professional Career

After a brief period at the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, working with PCBs and dioxins, Mike accepted a professorship at McMaster University, 1978-1987, where he did some of the first work in Canada on the now-standard linkage of liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LC-MS). In 1987, he joined the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada in Halifax, where he is Principal Research Officer and Group Leader for Biotoxin Metrology. He also has an Adjunct Professorship in Dalhousie University's Chemistry Department.


Caledon Award (1994); Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (FCIC) (1997); NRC Outstanding Achievement Awards (1994 and 2000); Harvey W. Wiley Award (2005): AOAC International's most prestigious scientific award for outstanding contribution to analytical method development on marine biotoxins; Discovery Award for Science and Technology, Nova Scotia (2007); AOAC Reference Materials Award (2011); listed in the Analytical Scientist’s Power List of 100 most influential people in analytical chemistry (2013).

Key HAB contributions

Mike’s initial work at NRC focused on Certified Reference Materials (CRM) for environmental contaminants and a study of aquaculture drugs and their metabolites in salmon. The 1987 Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning incident in Canada catapulted NRC researchers into the field of marine toxins. Round-the-clock work for 4 days by a large team of researchers identified domoic acid as the toxin, and a rapid liquid chromatography method was produced several days later. Mike then concentrated on development of chemical analytical methods for shellfish toxins, which led to many successful international collaborations and successes in toxin detection and identification. Nevertheless, as it became clear that analytical chemists were seriously hampered by the poor availability of pure toxins as calibrants, Mike was instrumental in focusing the NRC CRM program on standards and reference materials marine and freshwater biotoxins. By 1989 his group had developed a calibration solution CRM and a mussel tissue CRM for domoic acid. The group led by Mike has now developed 36 toxin CRMs that are distributed to over 40 countries on a not-for-profit basis.

Mike is internationally recognized for his many contributions to the development of analytical methods for phycotoxins. Over his career, he and his team have developed a high expertise for chemical analytical methods for toxins, in particular advanced LC-MS approaches, which are now used routinely in regulatory laboratories around the world. He has also developed and led or participated in the validation of alternative toxin detection methods, such as HPLC combined with chemical derivatization and immunoassays. A major achievement was the first commercial atmospheric pressure ionization LC-MS system, produced by the Canadian company SCIEX, in which he demonstrated application to the analysis of marine biotoxins. His group has applied these methods to many toxin incidents in Canada and other countries. For example, the NRC group first identified the diversity of spirolides associated with “fast acting toxicity” via structural elucidation supported by tandem mass-spectrometry. His life-time work covers not only amnesic shellfish toxins, but also a wide variety of marine biotoxins, including paralytic shellfish toxins, diarrhetic shellfish toxins, spirolides, azaspiracids, pinnatoxins, pectenotoxins, and cyanobacterial toxins. Mike is an AOAC International member and has served as Associate Referee for domoic acid and as a General Referee for Phycotoxins from 1992 to 2004. He is now a member of the AOAC Presidential Task Force on Marine and Freshwater Toxins.

10 Selected publications

McCarron P, Wright E, Quilliam MA. 2014. Liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry of domoic acid and lipophilic shellfish toxins with selected reaction monitoring and optional confirmation by library searching of product ion spectra. J. AOAC Int. 97:316-324.

McCarron P, Rourke WA, Hardstaff W, Pooley B, Quilliam MA. 2012. Identification of pinnatoxins and discovery of their fatty acid ester metabolites in mussels (Mytilus edulis) from eastern Canada. J. Agric. Food Chem. 60:1437-1446.

Van De Riet J, Gibbs RS, Muggah PM, Rourke WA, MacNeil JD, Quilliam MA. 2011. Liquid chromatography post-column oxidation (PCOX) method for the determination of paralytic shellfish toxins in mussels, clams, oysters, and scallops: Collaborative study. J. AOAC Int. 94:1154-1176.

McCarron P, Giddings SD, Quilliam MA. 2011. A mussel tissue certified reference material for multiple phycotoxins. Part 2: Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, sample extraction and quantitation procedures. Anal. Bioanal. Chem. 400:835-846.

Suzuki T, Walter JA, LeBlanc P, MacKinnon S, Miles CO, Wilkins AL, Munday R, Beuzenberg V, MacKenzie AL, Jensen DJ, Cooney JM, Quilliam MA. 2006. Identification of pectenotoxin-11 as 34S-hydroxypectenotoxin-2, a new pectenotoxin analogue in the toxic dinoflagellate Dinophysis acuta from New Zealand. Chemical Research in Toxicology 19:310-318.

Dell'Aversano C, Hess P, Quilliam MA. 2005. Hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry for the analysis of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxins. J. Chromatography A 1081:190-201.

Quilliam MA. 2003. The role of chromatography in the hunt for red tide toxins. J. Chromatography A 1000:527-548.

Quilliam MA, Xie M, Hardstaff WR. 1995. Rapid extraction and cleanup for liquid chromatographic determination of domoic acid in unsalted seafood. J. AOAC Int.78:543-554.

Quilliam MA, Wright JL. 1989. The amnesic shellfish poisoning mystery. Analytical Chemistry 61:1053A-1106A.

Quilliam MA, Thomson BA, Scott GJ, Siu KW. 1989. Ion-spray mass spectrometry of marine neurotoxins. Rapid Comm. Mass Spec. 3:145-150.