Profs Use Grants to Engage, Innovate

July 19, 2010 - News Release

Five University of Guelph professors have received grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to help pioneering companies invent technologies and find solutions to issues affecting Canadians.

The NSERC Engage Grants Program was designed to foster collaborations between universities and industry. Qualified professors receive up to $25,000 to cover project cost, then pair with a company they’ve not worked with before to address a specific problem or create a new product or technology.

“The Engage Grants Program meshes perfectly with one of Guelph’s research pillars: innovation and practical application,” said Prof. Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“One of our goals is to move knowledge out of the laboratories and put it to use to benefit the health and lives of Canadians. There is no better way to do this than using academic expertise to help industry develop promising new applications.”

Prof. Julie Horrocks, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, is pairing with Infonaut Inc., which helps government and health-related organizations address infectious disease outbreaks. The goal is to study links between handwashing compliance among doctors, nurses and other hospital personnel and hospital-acquired infections in Ontario. Hospital-acquired infections kill 8,000 to 12,000 people a year in Canada. Horrocks will develop statistical models, quantify regional variations and identify possible external causes.

Her colleague Prof. Paul McNicholas aims to develop novel statistical approaches to improve early detection of animal health problems such as BSE. He’ll work with AQL Management Consulting Inc., a subcontractor for the Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s food safety and animal health division. They plan to create a veterinary surveillance system that will detect disease outbreaks at the outset or even before they start. During the 2003 BSE crisis, the beef industry lost an estimated $11 million a day in exports and an additional $7 million a day due to declining beef prices.

Environmental sciences professor Cynthia Scott-Dupree is helping Vive Nano Inc. improve environmental sustainability. The Toronto-based company has developed technology that encloses the active ingredients of insecticides in polymer nanocapsules. Scott-Dupree will study the bioactivity and bioavailability of those ingredients to test the effect on the targeted pests. She’ll also study whether the amount of active ingredients can be reduced and still be effective in this new delivery format.

Engineering professor Bob Dony has teamed with NIMTech Inc. to test its real-time ultrasound-based measurement system. He will verify performance and suggest improvements to technology for measuring amounts of substances.

Molecular and cellular biology professor David Josephy and Environmental Bio-detection Products Inc. aim to make and improve tools for assessing human health risk from chemicals or drugs. They will look at developing a commercial testing kit using recombinant bacteria to assess risk of cancer or genetic damage from substances in consumer products or released into the environment.

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