University of Saskatchewan

September 22, 2014   

Synchrotron Awarded $1 M. Annual Operating Grant from MRC

February 04, 1999 For Immediate Release
January 27, 1999

Synchrotron Awarded $1 M. Annual Operating Grant from MRC

Saskatoon, SK. The proposed Canadian Light Source synchrotron project at the University of Saskatchewan will get $1 million a year for five years in operating funds from the Medical Research Council (MRC) of Canada.

The MRC has announced it has given approval in principle to the CLS operating money as part of $108 million in grants awarded in the agency's bi-annual health research competition.

"This is most welcome news that brings this nationally important research facility project another step closer to becoming a reality," said U of S president Dr. George Ivany.

"The MRC contribution to the operation of this facility will help ensure that we don't lose some of our best and brightest young Canadian scientists."

MRC president Dr. Henry Friesen stressed the high-tech facility's potential as a critical tool for research and development.

"Access to this technology in Canada would allow our health researchers the ability to sharpen our capacity to provide world-class, cutting-edge research, especially in areas such as biotechnology and pharmaceuticals," said MRC president Dr. Henry Friesen.

The project's estimated operating budget is $13.8 million (in 1998 dollars). With the MRC contribution, the project now has funding commitments of $8.6 million per year to operate the core facility. This includes $4.6 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), $2 million from the National Research Council (NRC), and $1 million from the U of S.

The remainder of the operating funding would be for beamline operations and would be obtained through user fees from industry, federal and provincial agencies, and others.

The proposed $173.6-million synchrotron, which has been endorsed by 16 other universities, would be the biggest scientific project ever built in Canada.

Synchrotron light, millions of times more intense than medical X-rays, would be used by both university and industry researchers to probe the structure of matter, develop new drugs, design new microchips for more powerful computers, manufacture tiny biomedical implants and create new materials. Other medical applications include medical imaging and new techniques for medical diagnosis such as non-invasive angiography (X-ray study of the heart and blood vessels).

The CLS facility, which would be funded from public and private sources, could be under construction on the U of S campus as early as April. A key funding component is $56.4 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), an autonomous, federally funded granting body. A decision on that funding is expected by the end of March.

Ensuring Canadian researchers access to a synchrotron facility is the primary reason for building the CLS. At present, Canada is the only G7 country without a synchrotron facility. Canadian academic researchers now spend more than $1 million a year using synchrotron facilities in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. for their experiments.

Canadian access is less assured as demand for time on these state-of-the-art facilities becomes increasingly competitive. Canadian researchers find their wait for access can stretch from a few months to more than a year. This could lead to a "brain drain" of talented young scientists since researchers are drawn to the tools they need to practice their trade.

However, if the proposed synchrotron goes ahead, new research training opportunities will emerge. For example, it's expected pharmaceutical companies will set up protein crystallography laboratories in Canada to study the three-dimensional structure of proteins, research that could lead to new and better drugs. Approximately 100 graduate protein crystallographers would be trained in Canada.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. George Ivany
President, University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-6612

Kathryn Warden
Research Communications Officer
Office of the Vice-President Research
University of Saskatchewan
(306) 966-2506

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