Campus News

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

News Release

January 19, 2005

Ontario government invests in U of G research

The University of Guelph has received nearly $12 million from the provincial government as the final financial commitments for three groundbreaking research initiatives. Two of the projects – a facility for cell membranes and surfaces research and an applied evolution centre – are central components of the University’s new science complex. The third is a first-ever database of the 1891 Canadian census.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation provided nearly $12 million in initial support for the three initiatives last spring. They involve dozens of faculty and researchers from a variety of disciplines, as well as collaborators at universities across Canada and abroad.

“We are extremely pleased that the Ontario government has provided equivalent funding that will allow us to advance these important projects,” said Alan Wildeman, vice-president (research). “The work being done will enhance Ontario’s and Canada’s capacity in biological, physical and social sciences.”

Some $8 million of the funding came from the Ontario Innovation Trust, and more than $3.6 million will be provided through the new Ontario Research Fund through the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. “The McGuinty government understands that research is crucial to Ontario's future prosperty and position as a leading innovation economy,” said Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph-Wellington. “These grants recognize the role of the University of Guelph as an important research institution.”

More than $7 million of the provincial funding will support a facility for research on the surfaces and membranes of living cells. Headed by Prof. Chris Whitfield, who holds a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Molecular Microbiology, the facility will involve more than 20 researchers from five U of G departments and will be housed in the science complex’s Advanced Analysis Centre.

Some of the planned research includes new approaches to understanding how molecules are transported into, or out of, living cells. This is critically important in understanding processes involved in human diseases and developing effective new strategies for therapeutic intervention. Other projects deal with the interactions of bacterial cell surfaces with metals, which has major impact in the global cycling of minerals in the environment and could offer possible bioremediation approaches to deal with contaminated soils. Several technology development ventures are also planned with private-sector partners.

Botany professor Brian Husband, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Plant Population and Evolutionary Biology, received more than $4 million to lead an applied evolution centre. Applied evolution is an emerging field in biology and biotechnology that explores ways to predict and manage the genetic impacts of humans on other organisms and to modify and better harness the evolutionary process for practical purposes.

Also housed in the science complex, the centre will contain controlled-environment facilities and a genomics lab. The controlled-environment facilities will include a greenhouse for large-scale research, a header house and several growth rooms and cabinets for smaller-scale experiments that require precise environments. The genomics lab will include facilities that will handle much of the campus needs for gene sequencing and gene expression work.

Economics professor Kris Inwood and his collaborators, history professors Kevin James and Douglas McCalla, received more than $300,000 to complete a first-of-its-kind database of the 1891 Canadian census. The census is one of the highest-quality Canadian enumerations ever taken, containing distinct features that make it an especially valuable research resource.

The three professors, along with other researchers from the College of Arts and College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, will finish creating an Ontario database of the 1891 census and merge it with information from three Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Western Canada to create a national source that adds to a growing international collection of databases on household information.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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