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UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 3 | Mar. 3, 2005

The New UBC Life Sciences Institute Home to Eight Research Groups

By Hilary Thomson

An international hub for interdisciplinary, basic biological research will open next week in one of UBC’s newest -- and largest -- buildings.

The Life Sciences Institute (LSI) will occupy more than 25,000 sq. metres and four floors of the Life Sciences Centre (LSC), a $134-million facility opened in November 2004.

“The institute offers an exceptional interdisciplinary environment to propel biological research at UBC to the forefront of innovative science,” says David Dolphin, UBC acting vice-president, Research.

The LSI will house eight interdisciplinary research groups comprising investigators from faculties that include Medicine, Science, Dentistry, Applied Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Arts.

“The strength and uniqueness of the institute is the integration of disciplines to form research teams,” says Alison Buchan, associate dean, Research, Faculty of Medicine and LSI co-director. “In fact, a condition of LSI membership is collaboration with other departments.”

A major thrust of work at the LSI is rapid translation of new knowledge into improved health care and new economic ventures, adds zoology professor Hugh Brock, LSI co-director.

The eight research groups, include the following (also, see companion article on the Centre for Blood Research):

Bacterial Adaptation and Response Networks

Leader: Prof. Bill Mohn
Microbiology and Immunology

The group will study how bacteria adapt and respond to their environment, looking mainly at how networks of genetic regulation and protein interactions function. Group members will examine microbial diseases such as whooping cough and campylobacter, a type of food poisoning caused by bacteria found in raw poultry, as well as various aspects of antibiotics.


Leader: Assoc. Prof. Ed Moore
Cellular and Physiological Sciences

A key focus of the cardiovascular research group how the heart generates, maintains and regulates electrical activity. Researchers will look at the function of proteins that play a vital role in heart rhythm and protect against potentially lethal uneven heartbeat. Group investigators will develop drugs that target these proteins, in association with Cardiome laboratories.

Cellular Mechanisms of Development and Disease

Leader: Assoc. Prof. Vanessa Auld

The group, the largest in the LSI, brings together more than 37 researchers to study the basic mechanisms of cell development that will improve understanding of human development function and disease. The group will help develop new therapies for illnesses such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the group will focus on new cancer treatment strategies involving cell structure and regulation of cell growth.

Diabetes and Obesity

Leader: Prof. Chris McIntosh
Assistant Head, Cellular and Physiological Sciences

The group will look at both Type I and Type II diabetes and the gut hormones that regulate insulin production and protect insulin-releasing cells from damage. Researchers will also look at directly boosting blood insulin levels by converting gut cells into meal-sensitive insulin “bioreactors”, to eliminate the need for insulin replacement by needle injection. The group will also collaborate with islet transplant expert Dr. Garth Warnock at the Ike Barber Human Islet Transplant Laboratory.

Drug Design and Target Identification

Leader: Professor Emeritus Julian Davies
Microbiology and Immunology

The group studies cancer, microbial infections, antifungal and antibiotic drugs, and drug delivery systems, and are working to discover new proteins that will serve as effective drug targets. Researchers are developing a new cancer drug developed form a marine sponge extract. Scientists in the group have well-established links with researchers in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Genes, Development and Health

Leader: Prof. Carolyn Brown
Medical Genetics

The group -- which includes collaborators from the National Cancer Institute and a Vancouver-based biotechnology company -- will study how genetic defects lead to diseases such as cancer and how cells know what genes to express and what type of cells to become. Researchers will also examine development disorders and mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia and autism.

Immunity, Inflammation and Infection

Leaders: Assoc. Prof. Mike Gold, Prof. Pauline Johnson
Microbiology and Immunology

The group will focus on how the immune system develops and works to protect the body from disease. Working at the cellular level, researchers will examine molecular mechanisms that help combat infection, research that will contribute to development of vaccines for emerging diseases and existing infections such as SARS, West Nile virus, influenza and HIV/AIDS.

For more information on the LSI, visit www.lsi.ubc.ca.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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