Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 05, 2004
Industry minister names new U of G research chairs
The University of Guelph will gain expanded facilities to explore emerging fields in biomedical sciences and biophysics with the appointment today of two additional Canada Research Chairs.
Industry Minister Lucienne Robillard named biomedical sciences professor Allan King and physics professor Vladimir Ladizhansky to the prestigious positions during an event in Calgary. Robillard announced more than $138 million to support 137 new chair holders.
King was appointed a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Animal Reproductive Biotechnology. Tier 1 chairs are acknowledged as international leaders in their fields and are awarded $200,000 a year for seven years. “I am deeply honoured to have been selected,” said King, who thanked his students, department and college. He added the award is important recognition both for his research program and for the field of reproductive biotechnology, which has “the potential to make a significant contribution to agriculture, biomedical research and human and animal health.”
Ladizhansky was named a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Biophysics. Tier 2 chairs are considered emerging leaders and receive $100,000 a year for five years. “There are many excellent young researchers in the field who have the potential to become world-leading scientists,” he said. “I am delighted to have been awarded a CRC title.”
King and Ladizhansky are welcome additions to U of G’s growing cohort of distinguished Canada Research Chairs, said Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research). The university now has 22 chairs and expects to eventually have 36 funded positions. “The work that Allan and Vladimir are doing greatly broadens the range of research being conducted by Guelph’s Canada Research Chairs,” Wildeman said.
An expert in the field of reproductive biotechnology, King will focus his CRC research on understanding the effect of reproductive technology on embryo development and pregnancy outcome in animals, and developing strategies for their efficient use.
The author of more than 140 referred scientific papers, King has trained more than 25 graduate students and has extensive experience with national and international collaborative research projects and scientific exchanges. His research is supported by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Ontario Research and Development Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food. King is also a scientific co-ordinator of the Co-operative Research Program sponsored by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Ladizhansky, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopist, is devoting part of his time as a Canada Research Chair to coming up with sophisticated ways to study biological macromolecules. “There are many important biological systems that cannot be studied by traditional approaches,” he said. Examples include membrane proteins, which constitute about 30 per cent of the human genome and are often drug targets, and self-assembling peptide and protein aggregates, many of which are associated with deadly diseases.
Ladizhansky earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology in Russia and a doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Prior to joining U of G in November 2003, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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Background on Canada Research Chairs/ Research Projects
Prof. Allan King
But current reproductive procedures built around processes such as in vitro fertilization and cloning are inefficient, with research progress dependent on highly-skilled researchers and state-of-the-art equipment, King said.
The need for equipment and lab facilities has recently been addressed through a Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) grant for a reproductive biotechnology complex at OVC that will contain advanced equipment for producing embryos and analyzing minute gene alternations. King plans to use the CRC as a platform to expand the multi-disciplinary group of researchers working in the new facility.
“This laboratory will be the focal point for both fundamental and clinical work in this area,” King said. “It will be a unique environment that will enable research contributing to the safe use of new and emerging reproductive technologies for both agriculture and biotechnology.”
Detailed knowledge of three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules systems is essential for the understanding of their properties and functions, and may lead one day to developing ways to cure and prevent various diseases, Ladizhansky said.
One example of such a disease is multiple sclerosis, which affects 50,000 people across Canada. In collaboration with Professor George Harauz, Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Ladizhansky has started solid state nuclear magnetic resonance studies of myelin basic protein, which is linked to multiple sclerosis.
He will focus on the development of solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance methods for protein structure determination and on applying these methods to understand the structural details at an atomic level. “Very few research groups are currently exploiting this possibility,” he said.