U of G Tops at ‘Game-Changing’ Research

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Two of Ontario’s top “game changing” discoveries in the past 100 years are from the University of Guelph.

DNA barcoding, a technique for rapid species identification, and the popular Yukon Gold potato were voted among the top five Ontario innovations in a new public survey. It is to be released Friday by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU).

COU selected the top 50 life-changing breakthroughs made by Ontario universities over the past century as part of its Research Matters campaign.

The general public was then asked to vote, both online and in person, for their top choices. More than 4,000 votes were cast; the contest ran June through October.

“It’s immensely gratifying to have our research excellence highlighted in this way,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“Given the history of innovation at U of G, it’s fitting that two of our discoveries, made nearly four decades apart, are among the top ‘game changers’. Innovation has been a foundation of our research program for more than 150 years, and we continue to make discoveries, devise inventions, and provide insights that help improve people’s lives and livelihoods.”

DNA barcoding allows researchers to identify animal and plant species using short, standardized regions of genetic material. The technique was proposed by U of G integrative biology professor Paul Hebert in 2003.

The method has led to the discovery of hundreds of new and overlooked or misidentified species, and been used to trace food contaminants, identify mislabelled food and other products, and to track the spread of disease.

The Yukon Gold potato was created in 1966 by the late Gary Johnston, a plant breeder in the Ontario Agricultural College. Its popularity has made it a household name in Canada and beyond. This enhanced variety is also known for disease resistance and growing performance in North America.

Other innovations to make the Top 5 list are insulin, the first anti-gravity suit used in combat, and a technique used to save premature babies.

“It’s so important to share the stories that shine a light on the kind of ‘game-changing’ university research that transforms how we live, work, and play,” said Bonnie Patterson, COU president and CEO.

“These discoveries show the wide-ranging research strengths of Ontario’s universities and I hope they will encourage our bright young researchers to explore ambitious new ideas that will continue to shape and improve the world around us.”

The other three U of G innovations on the Top 50 list were the Shakespeare identities project headed by English professor Daniel Fischlin; trans fats research by retired emeritus professor Bruce Holub, Human Health and Nutritional Sciences; and shipping fever vaccine developed by Ontario Veterinary College professors Pat Shewen and Bruce Wilkie.