U of G Gets $12.5 Million for World-Class Research

June 19, 2009 - News Release

The University of Guelph will enhance its reputation as a world leader in DNA barcoding, nuclear physics and human and animal health, thanks to a nearly $12.5-million investment from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced today.

The funding is for three new initiatives in established and innovative research programs at Guelph. “The opportunities that this CFI support will provide are unparalleled,” said Kevin Hall, U of G’s vice-president (research).

“The inquiries and discoveries that will result have the potential to change lives and transform the future, firmly maintaining Guelph’s position as a leading research institution.”

U of G is among 41 Canadian institutions that will share in a more than $665-million CFI investment unveiled this morning in Ottawa.

“The news from CFI is magnificent,” said Guelph integrative biology professor Paul Hebert, who received more than $7.2 million. “I’m grateful to work in a nation that takes science seriously.”

Hebert plans to build a Centre for Biodiversity Genomics within U of G’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO). The new centre will develop and apply DNA-based approaches for biodiversity analysis. It will also support the BIO as the scientific hub for the $180-million International Barcode of Life Project (iBOL), involving researchers from 25 countries.

“Together with colleagues around the world, we are transforming biodiversity science,” Hebert said. “However, we needed a facility to support and co-ordinate this revolution. By enabling the establishment of this new facility, CFI has ensured that Canada will remain the epicentre of this scientific enterprise.”

The 37,500-square-foot building will include a collection facility and special instruments. Some 100 staff will take a lead role in gathering barcode records for a half-million species over the next five years and develop new tools and technologies. Invented by Hebert, DNA barcoding has already led to the discovery of overlooked species of birds, bats, butterflies, fishes and marine algae.

Funding for the project came from CFI’s Leading Edge Fund, which aids successful and productive initiatives already supported by the federal agency.

Physics professor Carl Svensson received more than $4.2 million for the GRIFFIN (Gamma-Ray Infrastructure for Fundamental Investigations of Nuclei) project at the TRIUMF national lab for nuclear and particle physics in British Columbia. Scientists will use this new spectrometer to explore everything from subatomic particles to the origins of the universe.

GRIFFIN will provide detection efficiency that is 17 times higher and 300 times more sensitive than current technology. “Experiments that cannot even be contemplated with our current research infrastructure will become standard,” Svensson said. For example, using GRIFFIN 's advanced technology, scientists will take only a day to perform experiments that currently would require a full year, he said.

Svensson also heads the TIGRESS (TRIUMF-ISAC Gamma-Ray Escape-Suppressed Spectrometer) collaboration of international scientists. This detector is also housed at TRIUMF, which is run by a consortium of universities, including U of G.

The new instrument and existing facilities will make Canada’s research program “unrivalled worldwide,” he said. Funding came from CFI’s New Initiatives Fund, created to enhance capacity in new areas of research and development.

That fund also provided $1 million to Ontario Veterinary College professor Jan Sargeant for equipment and facilities at the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses (CPHAZ). Directed by Sargeant, CPHAZ involves some 40 scientists from U of G and collaborators from governments and industry. Researchers are studying new or re-emerging zoonotic diseases (those that can jump between animals and humans) such as influenza viruses, E. coli 0157:H7 and West Nile virus.

The CFI funds will support renovations for laboratories and other facilities to bring together cross-disciplinary studies in zoonoses.

“There are a lot of people working on public health issues,” Sargeant said. “The CFI funding will enable us to develop unique resources to share between disciplines, allowing us to use complex approaches to solve complex problems.”

For media questions, contact U of G Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, Ext. 53338 lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982 bagunn@uoguelph.ca.

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