Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 15, 2001

CFI Awards grants to three U of G projects

The federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has awarded nearly $1 million in research infrastructure grants to three University of Guelph research projects aimed at increasing knowledge about disease processes in domestic animals, gene duplication and transgenic farm animals.

The grants support projects headed by Dorothee Bienzle and Jeff Caswell of the Department of Pathobiology, Barbara Mable of the Department of Botany, and Julang Li of the department of Animal and Poultry Science. Bienzle and Caswell will share equipment, with Bienzle researching two retroviral infections in cats and Caswell studying bacterial pneumonia in cattle and swine. Mable’s research will investigate how changes at the molecular level affect processes at the whole organism level, and Li will develop the knowledge and technology that would be required to routinely generate transgenic pigs.

“Studies of this kind require a lot of equipment,” said Mable, who will study the consequences of gene duplication for the evolution of mating systems. “The funding will make my research infinitely easier than if I had been forced to scavenge for equipment in other laboratories. The quality of research that will now be possible will be much higher.”

Caswell, who along with Bienzle will purchase a laser microdissector, and other laboratory equipment to build a central research facility in the veterinary school with the grant, added: “We are excited about the upcoming availability of these new tools that can be used to advance our understanding of disease processes in domestic animals. It will help us form a basis for novel methods of disease control in animals and understand mechanisms of disease that are common to all species.”

The Guelph projects are part of a $12.1-million investment announced this week for research initiatives at 23 Canadian universities. All of the U of G projects fall under the New Opportunities Fund, which covers 40 per cent of the infrastructure costs of a project. The remaining funds come from the research institutions and private- public- and voluntary-sector partners. The CFI was established in 1997 by the federal government to address the urgent needs of Canada’s research community. It has a capital investment budget of $3.15 billion, and its goal is to strengthen Canada’s university research and training environment through partnerships with the research institutions, the provinces and other levels of government, as well as the private and voluntary sectors.

Details of the projects that received CFI funding are:

  • “Tissue Microdissection and Analysis for Animal Health Research,” Profs. Dorothee Bienzle and Jeff Caswell, Department of Pathobiology, $399,976. Bienzle will focus on how feline immunodeficiency virus interacts with the cells of a cat’s immune system in the early stages of infection, and how feline leukemia virus causes injury to neuronal cells in the brain and spinal cord of cats. She hopes to better understand the disease and provide information that may lead to disease prevention. Knowledge developed may shed light on similar infections in humans, including the closely related human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. Caswell will investigate why the lungs of cattle are innately resistant to infection with bacteria, and how this resistance is impaired in animals at risk of developing pneumonia.

  • “Evolutionary Significance of Polyploidy in Eukaryotes,” Prof. Barbara Mable, Department of Botany, $390,139. Mable will research the significance of polyploidy (duplication of entire sets of chromosomes) in the evolution of the mating system. While its importance in the evolutionary history of plants is unquestionable, polyploidy has often been ignored as a potentially important factor in the evolution of animals, Mable said. She will study the consequences of gene duplication for mate recognition systems, which determine the breeding systems that can lead to genetic diversification within and between species.

  • “System for Targeted Gene Manipulation in Somatic Cells,” Prof. Julang Li, Department of Animal and Poultry Science, $172,998. Li plans to study gene targeting and animal cloning, now focusing on manipulating genes in porcine somatic cells. She said her research should lead to an advanced genetic method for production of transgenic pigs. The transgenic farm animals could lead to improved food production through disease resistance and could benefit human health through xenotransplantation.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 519-824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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