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$2M supports research projects at Memorial University


St John’s, NL – Newfoundland’s provincial Research & Development Corporation has announced a $2 million funding for research projects at Memorial University through its Industrial Research and Innovation Fund (IRIF).

The IRIF funding enables researchers to leverage an additional $4.2 million from other funding sources, including the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canada Research Chairs Program, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes for Health Research-Regional Partnership Program (CIHR-RPP) and others.

“The Industrial Research and Innovation Fund is an important funding resource for research and development in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr Ray Gosine, vice-president (research) pro tempore at Memorial University. “The ability to leverage additional investment allows a researcher to increase the scale of their project and improve the quality of their research through collaboration with key figures at the local, national and international levels.”

One of those researchers is Dr Daniel MacPhee, associate professor of reproductive and developmental biology in the Division of BioMedical Sciences in Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine. Dr MacPhee is receiving $158,814 for research that will aid in identifying the origin, in whole or in part, of some diseases during human pregnancy, such as preeclampsia.

“In order for such diseases to be resolved in the clinic or perhaps even be prevented, a better understanding of how the human placenta develops in the first place is required. This is our goal,” said Dr MacPhee. “We will study a signaling molecule and several of its partner proteins that we believe are critical for development of the placenta. These molecules may then be potential future targets for drug development or useful as ‘markers’ for screening pregnant women who could be susceptible to such diseases of pregnancy.”

Dr MacPhee’s IRIF funding is matched by $158,814 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The funding is being allocated under three programs: Leverage R&D, an MOU with the Canadian Institute for Health Research-Regional Partnership Program, and IgniteR&D. More information on each program and a description of the successful scientific projects follows:

Leverage R&D: This program element leverages incremental R&D investments from regional, national and international sources by providing investments toward eligible costs of a specific project proposal. Following are the scientific projects being funded under this program:

Canada Research Chair in Ocean Technology: Dr Ralf Bachmayer, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University. The RDC is providing $447,255 towards Dr Bachmayer’s research on the autonomous operations of underwater vehicles in extreme environments such as the Canadian Arctic. This Canada Research Chair focuses on two research areas: under-ice operations and advanced autonomous underwater sampling techniques. Dr Bachmayer was awarded $500,000 from the Canada Research Chairs program and $192,944 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Atlantic Cod Genomics and Broodstock Development: Drs Matthew Rise and Kurt Gamperl, Ocean Sciences Centre, Memorial University. Drs Rise and Gamperl are receiving $183,050 from IRIF to support the $938,744 funding awarded from Genome Canada. Their research involves the discovery of several thousand Atlantic cod genes, the identification of sequence differences in these genes between individual fish, and the use of functional genomic experiments (e.g., using DNA microarrays) to identify the genes involved in the production of relevant traits such as resistance to pathogens and environmental stress.

300 MHZ NMR Spectrometer for Multinuclear Experiments: Dr Christopher Kozak, Department of Chemistry, Memorial University. Dr Kozak is receiving $124,125 towards the purchase of an NMR spectrometer that will be used for conducting experiments with a wide range of nuclei. This instrument will become a part of the Centre for Chemical Analysis, Research and Training (C-CART) which is a satellite of Memorial University’s campus-wide Core Research Equipment and Instrument Training Network (CREAIT). This leverages a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) award of $150,000.

Fish Ecology Research Laboratory: Dr Craig Purchase, Department of Biology, Memorial University. The RDC has supported Dr Purchase’s research with an IRIF award of $90,716 to establish a new fish ecology research laboratory in the Biology Department at Memorial University. This leverages $81,456 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

Viruses and Movement of Genes Between Bacteria: Dr Andrew Lang, Department of Biology, Memorial University. Dr Lang’s project, in collaboration with the Broad Institute and the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, is generating genomic and metagenomic resources to further advance the study of marine ecosystems and evolutionary processes. The IRIF award of $9,225 is being used to leverage the $9,225 committed by the Broad Institute and the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation to this project.

The following scientific research projects were approved under the memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Institute for Health Research-Regional Partnership Program. Under this MOU, RDC co-funds 50/50 on projects approved within CIHR-RPP.

The Origin of Creatine in Milk and the Regulation of its Synthesis During Lactation: Dr Simon Lamarre, Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University. Dr Lamarre is receiving $22,500 to conduct research to determine the origin of creatine in milk and understand the regulation of its synthesis in lactating females, as creatine plays a crucial role in the brain development of newborns. This IRIF funding is matched by $22,500 from CIHR-RPP.

The Influence of Neonatal Diet on the Epigenetic Status of the Pig Genome: Dr Mark T. Collins, Department of Biochemistry, Memorial University. Dr Collins has been awarded $11,000 to continue his research on the effect of periods of poor nutrition during fetal development and the long-term health consequences for adults. This IRIF funding is matched by $11,000 from CIHR-RPP.

The Role of Integrin-Linked Kinase in Human Trophoblast Cell Differentiation and Function: Dr Daniel MacPhee, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. Dr MacPhee is receiving $158,814 for research that will aid in identifying the origin, in whole or in part, of some pregnancy-associated diseases thought to result from abnormal trophoblast development and could lead to the development of a specific blood test that could identify patients at risk of such diseases. This IRIF funding is matched by $158,814 from CIHR-RPP.

A Beta-Adrenoceptor Mediated Memory Circuitry in Rats: Dr Qi Yuan, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. Dr Yuan has been awarded $119,073 to conduct research that involves a deeper understanding of the memory mechanism in animal models. This research has implications for the treatment of memory dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related disorders, which significantly affect quality of life of millions of people. This IRIF funding is matched by $119,073 from CIHR-RPP.

Investigation of the HLA Class II Antigen Presentation Pathway in Estrogen Receptor Negative and Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Carcinoma: Dr Ahmed Mostafa, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University. Dr Mostafa is receiving $22,500 to conduct a study that will improve our understanding of how a tumor cell can be altered to stimulate an effective immune response and consequently, aid in developing new approaches to breast cancer treatment. This IRIF funding is matched by $22,500 from CIHR-RPP.

IgniteR&D: This program element is intended to establish new R&D capacity in support of research and development, innovation and commercialization in areas relevant to both industry and the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador:

Autonomous Oceans Syste
ms – Research in Design, Navigation and Control: Dr Ralf Bachmayer, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University. Dr Bachmayer has been awarded $93,500 to research and develop novel autonomous platforms and solutions for existing platforms to explore, monitor and exploit the ocean and ocean floor in areas that are currently hard or impossible to access year-around, such as the Labrador Shelf or the Canadian Arctic.

Computational Climatology Laboratory: Dr Joel Finnis, Department of Geography, Memorial University. Dr Finnis has been awarded $50,000 to establish and operate a computational laboratory dedicated to the collection, synthesis, and interpretation of a wide range of climate and weather data, with an emphasis on understanding climate processes affecting Newfoundland and Labrador.