UBC to host new national research networks valued at $42 M

New media issues and opportunities and a better understanding of brain development in children are the subjects of two new Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) valued at more than $42 million over five years and to be hosted by the University of British Columbia.

GRAND and NeuroDevNet are among three new networks funded with a total of $125 million, according to a federal government announcement made today.

The GRAND (Graphics, Animation and New meDia) network is funded with $23.2 million over five years. It will be headquartered at the Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus (GNWC), a joint academic collaboration between UBC, Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology.

NeuroDevNet received $19.5 million over five years. It will be led from the Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT) at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI).

“This federal support will help some of UBC’s most outstanding researchers collaborate with colleagues across Canada – an opportunity that will accelerate advances in these important areas of research,” says John Hepburn, UBC Vice-President Research and International.

Investigators in the GRAND network aim to further develop Canada’s position as a global leader in new media, animation and games.

Co-located at the Centre for Digital Media, the facility that houses GNWC’s Masters of Digital Media Program, GRAND will offer student learning and research opportunities and will comprise 30 projects clustered around five themes: New Media Challenges and Opportunities; Games and Interactive Simulation; Animation, Graphics and Imaging; and cross-cutting themes of Social, Legal, Economic and Cultural Perspectives and Enabling Technologies and Methodologies. The network will involve 50 investigators along with collaborating researchers and industry partners.

GRAND investigations will explore areas such as social networking, performance augmented by digital technologies, personal identity and data security, virtual museums and galleries, e-learning and e-health services.

“The proliferation of social networks and new media represents one of the most significant popular adaptations of computer technology,” says Kellogg Booth, GRAND’s scientific director and a professor in UBC’s Dept. of Computer Science.  “This new network will enable research collaborators to address issues and explore opportunities in this fast-growing sector.”

Outcomes will include new knowledge and technologies, trained personnel, and economic benefits from commercializing the potential of new media, animation and games.

UBC’s Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC) will serve as the UBC node in the network.

NeuroDevNet is the first trans-Canada initiative dedicated to studying children’s brain development from both basic research and clinical perspectives. The vision of network researchers – whose expertise ranges from child development to brain imaging, genetics and developmental biology – is to accelerate the pace of understanding neurological deficits.

“NeuroDevNet brings together researchers who share a passion in understanding brain development,” says network scientific director Dan Goldowitz, Senior Scientist at CMMT and CFRI, and also a professor in UBC’s Dept. of Medical Genetics and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Neurogenetics. “The group has unparalleled expertise in brain imaging, the interaction of genetics and environment, and modeling neurodevelopmental disorders, skills that will help create preventative and therapeutic measures for Canadian children.”

The five-year plan of research will focus initially on autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy. Researchers will explore how the brain develops, how to detect abnormalities, and how to repair the damaged brain.

Network investigators aim to identify new genes involved in brain dysfunction and develop new diagnostic tools and interventions. The network will also train the next generation of researchers and raise public awareness of childhood neurological disorders. New knowledge will be transferred to health-care providers to benefit children with developmental brain disorders and their families and to reduce long-term cost to the health-care system through earlier diagnosis and treatment.

UBC is host and co-host to six additional NCEs. For further information visit www.nce.gc.ca. For information on the new networks visit www.grand-nce.ca and www.neurodevnet.ca.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) is one of Canada’s largest public research and teaching institutions and ranks solidly among the top 35 universities in the world. It offers a range of innovative undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in the arts, sciences, medicine, law, commerce and other faculties. UBC ranks in the top 10 universities in North America and number one in Canada for commercializing research, and for its patent activity in the life sciences. For more information visit: www.ubc.ca.

Great Northern Way Campus (GNWC) is a collaborative campus environment combining the strengths of four leading academic institutions: the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, Emily Carr University of Art + Design and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. The Masters of Digital Media Program, offered at GNWC, is an innovative, full-time professional Master’s degree that bears the seals of all four academic partners.

The Child and Family Research Institute (CFRI) conducts discovery research, clinical investigation, and applied health research to benefit the health of children and families. It is the largest research institute of its kind in Western Canada.

CFRI works in close partnership with BC Children’s Hospital and Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, and BC Women’s Hospital and Health Centre, agencies of the Provincial Health Services Authority; BC Children’s Hospital Foundation; UBC and Simon Fraser University. For more information visit www.cfri.ca.

The Centre for Molecular Medicine and Therapeutics (CMMT) is a synergistic group of scientists and researchers who share a strong sense of commitment to solve the many genetic questions surrounding human illness and well being. Affiliated with UBC and CFRI, CMMT conducts discovery research and translates that research into effective clinical and therapeutic strategies to promote health. For more information visit www.cmmt.ubc.ca.


Hilary Thomson
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2644
Cell: 604.209.3048
E-mail: Hilary.Thomson@ubc.ca