Guelph Scientists Part of $26-Million National Research Centre

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Key Canadian researchers – including six from the University of Guelph – will work together on solutions to important health issues under a new $26.3-million national research effort.

The Canadian Glycomics Network (GlycoNet) will involve Guelph Molecular and Cellular Biology professors Chris Whitfield, Joe Lam, Matt Kimber and Anthony Clarke, along with Chemistry professors France-Isabelle Auzanneau and Mario Monteiro.

The new Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) was announced today by Ed Holder, federal minister of state for industry.

Based at the University of Alberta, GlycoNet involves a total of 64 researchers from 22 academic institutions nationwide.

“The fact that so many Guelph professors are involved in this NCE speaks to our reputation as leaders in this rapidly evolving field,” said John Livernois, interim vice-president (research).

“Already, Guelph researchers have made important breakthroughs such as carbohydrate-based vaccines. Through this new research network, they will continue to play a critical role in helping improve the lives of Canadians.”

Glycomics researchers — including chemists and biochemists, biologists and immunologists — study the structure and function of complex carbohydrates, which are central players in everything from genetic disorders to bacterial and viral infections.

Their research is leading to the development of new drugs and vaccines for diseases such as influenza, genetic disorders and diabetes. Monteiro, for example, has worked on carbohydrate-based vaccines for treating Clostridium difficile and Clostridium bolteae, a gut bug common in autistic children.

GlycoNet aims to boost Canada’s international leadership in glycomics even further by promoting research and training, and by generating new research and commercial products.

“Many of the network researchers have worked together at one point or another,” said Whitfield, who holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Molecular Microbiology at U of G and will serve on GlycoNet’s Research Management Committee and Research and Training Advisory Committee.

“The network now brings these individuals together in a comprehensive integrated way to address problems at the forefront of biomedical sciences. It will offer truly exciting opportunities to move in new directions working with the best researchers, and can have a massive impact for new researchers. Equally importantly, it will provide outstanding training opportunities for the next generation of researchers in glycomics. In this context, it is rewarding that three participating researchers from other institutions received their graduate degrees from Guelph ”

Alberta chemistry professor Todd Lowary, who is the director of the Alberta Glycomics Centre and will serve as GlycoNet’s scientific director. The network will receive funding from the three federal granting agencies – the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — as well as from Industry Canada.

“On behalf of the federal research funding agencies, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research is delighted to support this promising collaboration between researchers from different disciplines and partners from different sectors,” said CIHR president Alain Beaudet. “GlycoNet will join the impressive lineup of NCEs that are already helping drive innovation and increase impact in Canada.”