This fall will mark the opening of the new Integrative Biology Core Facility (IBCF) at BU, a federally funded initiative that will facilitate research on health, disease, and biodiversity in Manitoba. BU’s own scientists will lead the initiative; Dr. Bryan Cassone from the Biology Department, who specializes in the vector biology of organisms that transmit disease-causing pathogens; Dr. Christophe LeMoine, also from the Biology Department, studying animal physiological response to environmental changes; and Dr. Michael Charette of the Chemistry Department, focusing on molecular biology and biochemistry.
IBCF will receive $297,569 in funding through the Canada Foundation of Innovation, John R. Evans Leaders Fund (CFIJELF) for the installation and upkeep of the infrastructure and equipment. The facility will occupy renovated space in the John R. Brodie Science Centre, and will be available for use by BU, as well as local and regional research communities. The Canadian Foundation for Innovation seeks to support projects that will enhance research capacities and partnerships, and generate social, environmental, and economic benefits for all Canadians.
The initiative will provide resources and expertise to Manitoba’s up and coming biotechnology sector, Dr. Cassone says, “This infrastructure will play key roles in multifaceted social, economic, health and environmental outcomes that are of the greatest importance to Manitobans”. The research will tackle large-scale local issues at multiple levels of biological organization, as Dr. LeMoine puts it “from the tiny cellular and molecular level all the way to the larger scale of whole animals and populations”. This includes looking at; the alleviation of diseases caused by infectious pathogens, including West Nile virus and Lyme disease, the molecular causes of genetic diseases such as Bowen-Conradi syndrome, a condition that affects many of Manitoba’s Hutterite communities, as well as studying how different species respond to environmental challenges in order to preserve Manitoba’s biodiversity.
Dr. LeMoine points out that the strength of this initiative is in the “convergence of our three complementary areas of expertise to investigate very diverse and broad questions pertaining to local health and environmental issues”. Previously separate disciplines merging for an interdisciplinary approach to technological innovation is termed the “molecular revolution”; BU’s Associate Vice-President (Research), Dr. Heather Duncan, says that this approach is driven by the university’s size, encouraging collaboration across disciplines. Further, “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”.
Charette says the IBCF will put BU at the forefront of technology and research in western Manitoba with state-of-the-art equipment, and the ability to train highly qualified personnel; Charette says the IBCF will “[help] our graduates gain the skills and hands-on experience to find the jobs of tomorrow without having to leave Manitoba”. BU’s Acting Dean of Science, Dr. Austin Gulliver expects the work to “build [on the researcher’s] 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”.