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UBC Reports | Vol. 47 | No. 08 | April 19, 2001

Genome research garners $35 million

Studies supported range from worms to poplar trees

Genomics researchers in B.C. will benefit from $35 million granted to the province's genome scientists as part of a 22-project national investment of $136 million, according to a recent announcement by federal funding agency Genome Canada.

"Congratulations to Genome B.C. and all the scientists who will be involved in this critically important research," says UBC President Martha Piper. "We are especially gratified that UBC researchers and our teaching hospital associates have been recognized so prominently."

Genome B.C. -- a regional partner of the federal agency -- will administer five large-scale projects in the areas of health, forestry, fisheries and the environment.

The value of these projects and associated infrastructure totals $67.8 million and represents one of B.C.'s largest and most diverse public biological research initiatives.

"In B.C., we're targeting genomic research that will be important to the economic and social fabric of our province," says Genome BC President Roger Foxall. "We see not just the potential for major economic activity in B.C. but also the scope for significant advancements against disease, especially cancer."

Victor Ling, UBC assistant dean, Research, and vice-president, Research, at B.C. Cancer Agency (BCCA) will track how normal cells change into malignancies in the early stages of cancer. Researchers will conduct genomic analyses on cells to identify the mutated genes that distinguish early stage cancers from normal tissues.

Marco Marra, director of the Genome Sequence Centre at BCCA, heads up the expansion of the centre's technological infrastructure for genomic processes such as sequencing and mapping to accommodate large-scale projects.

The centre is a component of the Centre for Integrated Genomics, a joint venture of UBC and BCCA.

Microbiology and Immunology Prof. Emeritus Julian Davies will lead a project called microbial envirogenics that aims to improve researchers' understanding about the diversity of micro-organisms and the way they interact with their environment. The team will study a bacterium that is central to the carbon cycle.

A transparent worm called a C. elegans nematode and its relationship to humans is the focus of research for Zoology Assoc. Prof. Don Moerman.

Nematodes and humans have 7,000 common genes so they can be used as a source to create and better understand genetic mutations. This information can then be applied to human health issues.

Trees have built-in defense mechanisms against pests and environmental stress.

Joerg Bohlmann, an assistant professor of Biotechnology; Carl Douglas, head of the Botany Dept.; Agricultural Sciences Prof. Brian Ellis and Forest Sciences Prof. Kermit Ritland will study the genes of wood tissues, particularly the poplar tree, to better understand these mechanisms and will identify genetic markers in a variety of trees to inform tree breeding programs.

Researchers at SFU and the University of Victoria will use genomic research on Atlantic salmon to learn more about the structure and function of the salmon immune system. The research will further understanding of fish growth and reproduction.

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to developing and implementing a national strategy in genomics research with Genome Centres across the country.

Genome B.C., established in July 2000, co-ordinates genomics research in B.C. And brings together universities, research hospitals, other research centres and industry as well as government and private agencies.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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