New institute will boost molecular biology research at BU

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A new facility at Brandon University (BU) will make use of innovative techniques to conduct research on health, disease and biodiversity in Manitoba.

The Integrative Biology Core Facility (IBCF) will receive $297,569 in federal funding through the Canada Foundation of Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFI JELF). The funding will contribute to the total project value of nearly $773,805, with the remainder coming from matching grants and in-kind contributions from suppliers. The facility is expected to open this fall.

Bryan Cassone

The IBCF is led by three BU scientists, Drs. Bryan Cassone and Christophe LeMoine of the Department of Biology, and Dr. Michael Charette of the Department of Chemistry. Cassone specializes in vector biology, looking at organisms that transmit disease-causing pathogens; LeMoine studies environmental animal physiology; and Charette is an expert in molecular biology and biochemistry.

“Manitoba’s biotechnology sector is quickly emerging to the forefront nationally, and through the IBCF we will be able to provide key resources and expertise in western Manitoba,” Cassone says. “This infrastructure will play key roles in multifaceted social, economic, health and environmental outcomes that are of the greatest importance to Manitobans.”

Christophe LeMoine

Through their work the researchers will contribute to the alleviation of diseases caused by infectious pathogens, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease as well as in agricultural applications. They will also determine the molecular causes for genetic diseases, including Bowen-Conradi syndrome, which afflicts Manitoba’s Hutterite communities, and will help to preserve biodiversity in Manitoba by studying how species respond to environmental challenges.

“The strength of this facility resides in the convergence of our three complementary areas of expertise to investigate very diverse and broad questions pertaining to local health and environmental issues,” says LeMoine. “In particular, the unique combination of leading edge equipment of the IBCF will allow our research groups to address questions at multiple levels of biological organization, from the tiny cellular and molecular level all the way to the larger scale of whole animals and populations.”

The IBCF will use an interdisciplinary approach that has sprouted from the “molecular revolution,” a stream of technological innovations that has transformed research in recent decades by merging previously separate disciplines.

Michael Charette

“One of the strengths of Brandon University is that our size encourages and facilitates collaboration among faculty members across different disciplines,” says Dr. Heather Duncan, BU’s Associate Vice-President (Research). “The Integrative Biology Core Facility is an excellent example of how our researchers are working together to build knowledge that can be used to make a positive difference in our communities and our province.”

The funding will be used for installation and upkeep of infrastructure and equipment for the facility, which will occupy renovated space in the John R. Brodie Science Centre. The state-of-the-art equipment will also be available to the BU, local and regional research communities.

“This funding will be a catalyst for BU, giving us access to state-of-the-art equipment that was previously unavailable in western Manitoba,” says Charette. “It will help to keep us at the leading edge of research, with a facility that will be recognized across Canada. The IBCF will also be instrumental in training highly qualified personnel, helping our graduates gain the skills and hands-on experience to find the jobs of tomorrow without having to leave Manitoba.”

The John R. Evans Leaders Fund is administered through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Its objectives include supporting projects that will lead to world-class research activities, enhance research capacities and partnerships, and generating social, health environmental and economic benefits for Canadians.

“Drs. Charette, LeMoine and Cassone have each established themselves as outstanding researchers, scientists and educators,” says Dr. Austin Gulliver, BU’s Acting Dean of Science. “Their work together will build on their individual accomplishments to produce outcomes that will be of great value nationally and to the Province of Manitoba, while also creating tremendous opportunities for our undergraduate and graduate students.”


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