October 29, 2004
(Innovation, Trade and Rural Development)


Industrial Research and Innovation Fund projects announced

Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, in conjunction with Dr. Axel Meisen, President and Vice-Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland, announced funding for 20 projects under the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund this morning at a news conference at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. The goal of the fund is to enhance research and industrial innovation within higher education and public research institutions in the province.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has allocated over $3 million from the Industrial Research and Innovation Fund to the 20 projects. The total value of the projects is approximately $15 million.

"We want to leverage additional research and development investments from federal granting agencies," said Minister Dunderdale. "We need to build our research and development capacity as a means to increase innovation and commercialization of technologies. This strategy will help transform our economy through the adoption and use of innovation."

The Industrial Research and Innovation Fund supports research and development investments in targeted, high-growth clusters offering significant long-term economic development potential in such areas as advanced manufacturing, marine technology, biotechnology, pharmaceutical research, value-added natural resources, and the oil and gas industry.

"The creation of this fund signals the increasing importance that the provincial government places on supporting research and development," said Dr. Meisen. "Memorial is committed to growing its research activity and ensuring that research results are introduced into practice and commercialized. This will be vital to the success of the province’s emerging innovation strategy."

Memorial University of Newfoundland and the College of the North Atlantic, and their institutes and incorporated entities, are eligible for support under the fund.

Media contact:

Lynn Evans, Innovation, Trade and Rural Development, (709)729-4570

Deborah Inkpen, Memorial University of Newfoundland, (709) 737-4073


Industrial Research and Innovation Fund (IRIF)

The Industrial Research and Innovation Fund (IRIF) is an important step by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to enable its provincial institutions of higher learning and research to remain competitive with other Canadian institutions. IRIF is a support mechanism for all successfully awarded projects through institutional funding programs such as the Canada Research Chairs Program and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Total IRIF contributions to Memorial University research projects listed below total $ 3,020,000. This amount represents 34 per cent of the total project costs equaling $14,771,931. The overall IRIF ratio is 4.89:1.

Memorial University of Newfoundland projects awarded funding under IRIF:

  • Capillary Electrotrophoresis system for the Analysis and Identification of Environmental Pollutants - $39,785.00 was awarded to Dr Christina Bottaro, Faculty of Science for a Capillary Electrophoresis (CE) system which is capable of producing quantitative results with high sensitivity, linearity and reproducibility. The ability of CE to handle a wide range of compounds very effectively, with minimal sample handling and in small quantities makes it particularly useful for the analysis and characterization of persistent organic pollutants, which is the main theme of Dr. Bottaro’s research. The significant capabilities of the CE technology combined with the excellent research and expertise represented by faculty at Memorial University will enhance Memorial’s reputation as a leader in research in the area of marine studies, analytical chemistry, and environmental chemistry.

  • Canada Research Chair in Offshore and Underwater vehicles design - Dr. Neil Bose, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was awarded $187,500 for an offshore and underwater vehicles design laboratory. This lab will provide a home for physical models, including the underwater vehicles themselves, as well as a laboratory for design, manufacture, maintenance and fitting out of the hardware. The laboratory is necessary in order to form a strong base for the chair’s research and, in particular, to facilitate an extremely strong design component associated with this research. The laboratory will consolidate the work of the chair and provide for a state-of-the-art fluid velocity measurement system.

  • Canada Research Chair in Stroke and Neuroplasticity - Dr. Dale Corbett, Faculty of Medicine was awarded $187,500 for a state-of-the-art stroke research laboratory will be established in the Faculty of Medicine. This laboratory will have the capability to perform small animal surgery at multiple stations, a Ul range of histological procedures using either frozen or fresh brain tissue sections and, most importantly, a sophisticated three-dimensional image analysis system equipped for both standard light and fluorescence microscopy. Brain temperature, an important physiological variable, will also be able to be monitored and regulated using an on-line computer system during and after stroke. Modem microscopy and computer software have evolved so that highly detailed examination and quantification of neuronal structure/features are possible. The 3-D microscopy system, research microscope and associated software, for example, will allow Dr. Corbett to trace and analyze fine structural details of neurons such as dendritic trees and spines that have been modified by post-stroke treatments. Being able to identify such changes in neuronal structure will provide important new insights into the mechanisms contributing to the recovery of function after stroke. Other experiments require precise information about the numbers of neurons that survive after stroke, especially in situations where a neuroprotective drug has been administered. New, unbiased stereological counting procedures have recently been developed and they will be employed in this laboratory.

  • Canada Research Chair in Scientific Modelling and Simulation - Dr Paul Mezey, Faculty of Science was awarded $266,212 for infrastructure for the Scientific and Modelling and Simulation Laboratory (SMSL) which consists of two newly renovated rooms adjacent to the Computing and Visualization Centre (CVC) of Memorial University. A major part of the new infrastructure is a substantial upgrade of the central processing unit of the CVC in which 20 of the 28 MIPS processors will be replaced by three SGI Altix machines equipped with 36 new and far more powerful Itanium 2 processors, resulting in a very substantial overall increase in computing power. This upgrade, more than tripling the performance of the CVC, will not adversely affect the high-end visualization capabilities of the centre. Integrating these resources into the CVC leverages earlier investments by Memorial University, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and others, and will provide researchers at Memorial and throughout the province with improved access to this resource. The second component of the new infrastructure is a group of 10 state-of-the-art dedicated PCs located in the two new rooms of the SMSL, and two laptops, providing additional, dedicated modeling and simulation capabilities to researchers, graduate students and visitors participating in the research work of the SMSL.

  • Canada Research Chair in Asset Integrity Management - Dr. Rangawamy Seshadri, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was awarded $151,842 for the research program of the Canada Research Chair in Asset Integrity Management, focusing on the development of a comprehensive set of mechanical and structural integrity assessment methodologies suitable for new as well as in-service oil and gas industrial facilities that is unique in Canada. These assessment methods are particularly suitable for an aging facility that is subjected to process-induced and material degradation, in that, while based on scientific and analytical rigour, the methods are simplified and robust. The research program will develop methods that are novel, innovative and suitable for use in a design office and an operational oil and gas facility, both offshore and on-land. This research will support Memorial University's goal to become a regionally, nationally and internationally recognized Centre of Excellence in Asset Integrity Management.

  • Infrastructure for research on the endocrine regulation of feeding in fish - Dr. Helene Volkoff, Faculty of Medicine, was awarded $44,942 for the development of modern facilities for the study of fish feeding physiology in the Department of Biology at Memorial In her research, Dr. Volkoff uses a multidisciplinary and integrative approach to examine these physiological mechanisms at the molecular, cellular, organ, and whole animal levels, thus combining traditional physiology techniques with the latest molecular biology tools. This equipment will provide Dr. Volkoff with the necessary infrastructure to efficiently carry on a research program that will build on Memorial University's leadership position in fish physiology research. This research has potential impacts on the aquaculture industry.

  • Canada Research Chair in Boreal and Cold Ocean Systems - Dr. Paul Snelgrove, Ocean Science Centre, was awarded $145,874 for the creation a regional facility for cold ocean biological sampling and experimentation. It is the combination of field and laboratory approaches that will allow the most significant advances in our understanding of the North Atlantic environment. The major lab elements include a flume and associated equipment for quantifying flow within the flume; flumes are structures that mimic natural bottom flow in order to understand larval settlement of organisms that live on the seafloor. The flume will be built at the Ocean Sciences Centre, which has world-class aquaculture facilities that will make it feasible to rear larval stages of cold water species to a degree not possible anywhere else in the world. It is these early life stages that are thought to influence year-to-year variation in recruitment success, and the flume facility will allow studies on the behaviour of Newfoundland marine organisms in a way that is not currently possible at a superb aquaculture facility.

  • Laboratory Facility for Process Safety and Risk Management - Dr. Faisal Khan, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was awarded $151,906 in IRIF funding. This project will develop an infrastructure facility for investigating chemicals and process behavior in different operating conditions, including process upset leading to accidents, and setting up safety measure design parameters. The facility will investigate pressure hazards, thermal hazards, and reactive hazards present in processing operations. The facility will be located in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University, and will be used for research related to process safety, loss prevention, and risk management. The proposed facility will provide a strong base for the creation and enhancement of institutional, national and international research collaborations.

  • Analytical X-ray Facility for Materials Science and Engineering - Dr John Shirokoff, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was awarded $146,618. The research infrastructure is aimed at developing innovative, cross-linking research programs which will benefit research at Memorial University. Research collaborations will involve regional, national, international and/or industrial researchers. Within the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science research will focus on the residual stress in metals and alloys, metal failure analysis, and asset integrity management of materials provided to the process (forestry, chemical, hydrometallurgy, electrochemistry, etc.), mining, and oil and gas industries. The infrastructure will provide the necessary data to assess materials performance for industrial service and after service repair markets.

  • Chemical Dynamics Laboratory for Fast Kinetics Research - Dr. David Thompson, Faculty of Science, was awarded $200,768. The Laser Laboratory will allow Memorial University access to research funding that will increase the level of innovation and research excellence relative to other high profile research-active universities in Canada and the United States. The research involves multifaceted, multidisciplinary investigations in the areas of nanotechnology; fundamental investigations into photo-induced electron and energy transfer processes; the design of photoactive catalysts for chiral epoxidation of selected substrates, and; C-H and C-C bond activation. For the research being conducted in the area of nanotechnology, the Chemical Dynamics Laboratory is an essential tool. It is expected that the results of this research will be of importance to both advanced manufacturing and pharmaceutical research.

  • Laboratory for Physico-chemical Imaging and Analysis of Biomaterials and Soft Nano-structured Interfaces - Dr Kaushik Nag, Faculty of Science, was awarded $255,978. The atomic force microscope (AFM) and a Raman Micro-Spectroscope (RMS are the first of their kind at Memorial University and in this province. These instruments will not only enhance the capability for Dr. Nag’s research in biotechnology, but will also be an added advantage to other researches. Researchers in physics, medicine and marine biology, for example, have projects which are directed towards the development of advanced materials, photonics, pharmaceuticals, and the oil and gas industries. These researchers, using this infrastructure, will enable the formation of a core group of expertise developed within this province. The ongoing training of personnel and students will allow for the development of highly skilled workers, as these techniques are cutting edge and regularly used in the R&D of biotechnology, electronics, as well as in the nano-scale device manufacturing industry.

  • Development of Intelligent Systems Lab (ISLAB) for Research in Coordinated Robotics - Dr. George Mann, Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, was awarded $110,457. Some of main wealth creating sectors in Canada belong to the resource group of industries, such as metal mining, pulp and paper, and oil and gas. The automation and telerobotic applications are vital for these sectors to be competitive in the global market. Most of the industries are already predicting they will have telerobotic systems in their production systems within the next 10 years as an immediate solution to being competitive in the market. This research project is of significance to Newfoundland and Labrador as a major portion of our provincial economy is based on these resource industries. Research at the ISLAB will have a direct influence in bringing short-term economical advantages to these industries. For example, collaboration between Memorial University and Inco Ltd. on various research projects has enabled Inco to implement cost-saving solutions to their immediate operational issues.

  • Cellular Signaling Mechanisms in Growth, Development and Disease - Dr Robert Gendon et al, Faculty of Medicine, were awarded $362,375 to support molecular biological and proteomics-based research studies of health and disease. This infrastructure is critical in order to undertake their research projects ranging from novel proteins in blindness and cancer to molecular biological studies of cell adhesion in pre-term labour and growth factor signaling in cellular differentiation. As an important part of the research focuses on understanding interactions between proteins to determine their function within cells, emphasis will be put on the development of a proteomic core infrastructure and a cell biology core infrastructure. Other infrastructure needed to successfully achieve the goals include a molecular biology core infrastructure, and improvement of the general research infrastructure and the animal core facility.

  • The Role of Integrin-Linked Kinase in Human Trophoblast Differentiation - Dr. Daniel MacPhee, Faculty of Medicine, was awarded $73,324. The placenta represents a critically important fetal:maternal interaction that is absolutely necessary for the maintenance of pregnancy. In the development of the fetal placenta, numerous finger-like projections of cells termed "trophoblasts" invade the uterus of the mother. The invasion of the placenta into the uterine wall is a precisely controlled process since aberrations in the invasive process can lead to decreased or over-invasiveness of trophoblast cells. Dr. MacPhee hypothesizes that an enzyme named "Integrin-Linked Kinase" (ILK) may be a key protein involved in the regulation of the development of invasive trophoblast cells. Through his research, Dr. MacPhee will characterize the expression pattern of ILK at the messenger RNA level and the protein level in human placental tissue during pregnancy. Dr. MacPhee will also specifically decrease the amount of ILK protein produced in human placental explants in tissue culture and observe how a lack of ILK protein affects the development of the trophoblast cells. Lastly, Dr. MacPhee will determine whether ILK is a player in the development of the disease called preeclampsia. This disease is a leading cause of maternal death in the industrialized world and is marked, pathologically, by shallow trophoblast invasion of the uterus. The levels of ILK messenger RNA and protein will be measured in placental tissue from preeclamptic pregnancies and compared to levels in normal placental tissue. Based on these results, Dr. MacPhee will attempt to restore the invasive capacity of trophoblast cells in vitro from preeclamptic pregnancies and ultimately aid in the development of a therapeutic strategy to prevent the disease.

  • Canada Research Chair in Traditional Music/Ethnomusicology - Dr. Beverley Diamond, School of Music, was awarded $37,363. This project includes the funding of basic fieldwork equipment, an archival digitization and restoration facility, Memorial University Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA) community access stations, a multimedia production centre, and the refitting of space for small conferences or working group meetings. This constitutes the major components of a unique Centre for Music, Media and Place (MMAP). Research on the science of audio technology is well developed at several Canadian institutions, and the broad social implications of music media are studied in a number of Canadian universities. The MMAP Centre will provide a much needed facility that will work in between these two types of research, in a space where specific media and technological decisions are explored in detail from the perspective of participants and listeners, in a space that is cognizant of social determinants but is also ready to recognize individual agency. The MMAP Centre will offer a significant national capability not duplicated elsewhere and will become a player in various related international projects.

  • Regulation of Striated Muscle Myosin - Dr. David Heeley, Faculty of Science, was awarded $130,097. The ultimate aim of Dr. Heeley's research is to understand how the protein molecules in muscle, such as a biceps, a fish tail, or a heart, actually produce movement. The proteins (i.e., myosin, actin, tropomyosin, and troponin), which are the mobile parts of a muscle, are purified here at Memorial University and added back together to create the skeleton of a working muscle in a test tube. By then supplying fuel (adenosine triphosphate or ATP), the protein machinery can be analysed in different stages of its cycle.

  • Proteinase - Activated Receptor 2 (PAR2) and Cardiovascular Diseases - Dr. John McGuire, Faculty of Medicine, was awarded $166,416. High blood pressure is the greatest risk factor in the development of stroke, a devastating disease that urgently needs prevention as there are currently no fixes for the brain damage that results. Lowering blood pressure by introducing lifestyle changes and treating it with existing drugs may reduce the risks of stroke and kidney failure, but this has failed to provide remedies for some patients who still require management of their blood pressure. High blood pressure is also a component of cardiovascular disease, which is currently the leading cause of death in Canadians. Dr. McGuire’s research is to find new drugs to prevent and treat cardiovascular diseases.

  • Sulfur Amino Acid Metabolism and Compensatory Growth - Dr. Robert Bertolo, Faculty of Science, was awarded $74,519. Sometimes fetuses do not get the nutrition they need, and as a result, these infants are born small for their age. However, once born, these infants grow faster than their normal sized counterparts in an attempt to "catch up" in size. Often this catch up growth is inadequate and these infants remain small into adulthood. It has recently been shown that infants who are born small and then catch up actually have a higher risk of developing chronic diseases in adulthood, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and osteoporosis. When infants are deprived of nutrition in the womb, their metabolism is altered to compensate for this poor environment. Once borne, their metabolism cannot cope with the surplus of nutrients during catch up growth. Some nutrients such as the amino acid methionine, have dual roles during growth. Methionine is incorporated into protein and is also responsible for methylation reactions, which are critical during growth. However, too much methionine may lead to homocysteine accumulation, which has been associated with the development of the above mentioned chronic diseases. How the body decides how much methionine is delivered to each process is the subject of this research. In particular, Dr. Bertolo will investigate how this partitioning is regulated during poor and rapid growth both before and after birth. Because methionine metabolism can lead to high homocysteine levels, the control of this partitioning is critical in the understanding and treatment of the growing epidemic of the chronic diseases of adulthood.

  • Enhancing Small Intestinal Function Following Injury in the Newborn - Dr. Janet Brunton, Faculty of Science, was awarded $78,586. The small intestine in the newborn infant is in a rapid stage of growth, particularly in an infant born prematurely. Unfortunately, premature and newborn infants often require intravenous feeding due to intestinal infections or medical problems that preclude normal feeding. Intravenous feeding interrupts normal intestinal development and impairs the ability of the gut to absorb the nutrients required to maintain growth. If the intestine can be stimulated to grow during or after intravenous feeding, such that absorption of nutrients is enhanced, then the transition from intravenous to enteral nutrition may be accelerated. The objective of this research is to identify nutrients or other therapies that might stimulate intestinal growth and function. There is some evidence that the amino acid arginine (i.e., a component of all proteins) acts in this manner. Dr. Brunton proposes to investigate the effects of arginine on the structure and function of the intestine in newborn piglets which have been intravenously fed. Like the human, the newborn piglet is in a rapid stage of growth. Information provided by the piglet model may quickly result in therapies that will enhance small intestinal function in infants with gastrointestinal problems. Improvements in the intestinal structure and function will help avoid the high morbidity and long term complications associated with parenteral feeding and/or the development of devastating GI infections. Ultimately, this will lead to improved growth and shortened hospital stays for newborn premature infants, which will enhance the quality of life for infants and families, as well as reducing the burden on health care resources.

  • Interaction of interferon-induced antiviral responses and Ras siginalling pathways - Dr. Kensuke Hirasawa, Faculty of Medicine, was awarded $107,938. Virus infection still remains as one of the major health and economic problems in Canada. For example, the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Canada in 2003 resulted in 44 deaths and a significant economic loss (approximately $ 1.5 billion). Moreover, the renewed threat of the West Nile virus comes every spring in Canada and in 2002, there were 325 confirmed infections, with 18 deaths. Virus infection is also considered a major risk for economic loss in domestic animals, including avian influenza virus and foot-and-mouth disease virus. Although the development of highly effective vaccines has successfully eradicated important viral pathogens, such as polio virus and small pox virus, some other viruses remain impervious to the vaccine approach. The need for antiviral drugs is growing as new viral diseases emerge. Over 30 antiviral drugs have been developed recently, but their therapeutic use is focused on a small number of viruses which require the rapid identification of the specific virus causing the infection for effective use of these agents. New strategies for development of antiviral drugs targeting common properties of viruses still need to be explored. The interferon (IFN) system is the first line of defense against viral infection. IFN is released by infected cells in response to viral infection, as it causes the activation of antiviral status in the neighboring cells. However, this first defense can be broken when viruses take advantage of cellular machinery regulating IFN-induced antiviral responses. Through this research, Dr. Hirasawa will identify and characterize cellular status maximizing IFN's ability to fight against virus infection. The findings from this research will lead researchers to develop novel antiviral drugs that target a wide spectrum of viruses.

2004 10 29                            10:35 a.m.

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