Lab Canada

Blood, obesity research part of new life sciences institute

Vancouver, BC – Life sciences research ranging from drug design to obesity will be accelerated with the opening of a new 25,000-sq-m interdisciplinary research facility at the University of British Columbia.

The Life Sciences Institute (LSI) will house eight basic biological research groups comprising more than 90 investigators from faculties that include medicine, science, dentistry, applied science, pharmaceutical sciences and arts.

"The institute allows researchers to look at health problems in a comprehensive way that will speed up the translation of new knowledge into improved health care and new economic ventures," says David Dolphin, UBC acting vice-president, research.

The LSI is co-directed by Alison Buchan, associate dean, research in the Faculty of Medicine, and zoology professor Hugh Brock. A key LSI group is the Centre for Blood Research (CBR), a facility the university says is unique in the world because of the range of disciplines represented.

"No other research centre brings together life scientists with social scientists, dentists and engineers," says Ross MacGillivray, a biochemist and CBR director. "The range of expertise allows us to look at everything from molecular science to social factors that influence blood donation."

The centre, valued at $15 million, will occupy 3,000 sq m of research space in the new institute. Its long-term goal is to create new knowledge that will help make Canada a blood donor-free society by 2025 by creating alternatives to donated blood products.

Canadian Blood Services (CBS) estimates that only 3.5% of eligible Canadians donate blood. With an aging boomer population and increasing numbers of cancer, transplantation and hip replacement surgeries, the need for donated or artificial blood and blood products is becoming critical.

Funding support for the CBR comes from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the BC Knowledge Development Fund, CBS, Bayer HealthCare, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, and UBC.