University of Saskatchewan

July 27, 2014   

U of S Canada Research Chairs Aim to Improve Vaccines, X-Rays and Fuels

From left: Philip Griebel, Ajay Dalai, and Safa Kasap
September 23, 2009

Today the University of Saskatchewan was awarded $4.76 million over seven years for three Canada Research Chairs (CRC) and associated equipment that will provide new ways of creating and administering vaccines, lay the groundwork for the next generation of X-ray imaging devices, and develop new and environmentally friendly fuel alternatives.

The three Tier 1 chairs—a new appointment, an advancement to Tier 1, and a renewal—each bring $1.4 million to the U of S from the federal CRC program. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is investing a total of $562,522 for research equipment. Additional support comes from the Saskatchewan government and the university.

“This investment in these outstanding researchers will not only help develop solutions for pressing national problems in the health and energy sectors but will increase training opportunities for graduate students and other research personnel, thereby building superb research talent for the future in areas of U of S strength,” said U of S vice-president research Karen Chad.

She noted that with today’s announcement, the U of S now has 26 CRC chairs, representing a total investment of $53.7 million from federal, provincial and CFI sources.

The three CRCs announced today are:

Philip Griebel—new CRC in Neonatal Mucosal Immunology
Few of today’s vaccines are effective in controlling intestinal and respiratory infections during the neonatal period (first month after birth). In some cases, these infections can cause lifelong disease.

Griebel, a scientist at the U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization—International Vaccine Centre and professor in the School of Public Health, aims to identify vaccine strategies that will prevent or clear these viral or bacterial infections. His findings will benefit both animal and human health.

Griebel’s research program will encompass both creation of targeted vaccines and needle-free delivery (e.g. oral vaccines) against pathogens which enter the body through mucosal surfaces such as those found in the respiratory and intestinal tracts. If successful, this novel approach would also be relevant to a wide range of pathogens including emerging diseases such as influenza.

Ajay Dalai—CRC in Bioenergy and Environmentally Friendly Chemical Processing
Canada is highly dependent on non-renewable fossil fuels, consuming 40 billion litres of diesel per year.

Dalai, former Tier 2 CRC and associate dean of research and partnerships in the College of Engineering, aims to develop new fuel alternatives, including environmentally friendly biodiesel fuels made from inedible materials left over from crops such as canola, mustard and soybean oilseeds. If successful, this research will provide additional income to Canadian farmers and reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Dalai is also researching methods of creating a biodegradable and renewal liquid fuel—known as “biosyndiesel” and ‘bioethanol”—from “syngas” derived from municipal solid wastes, agricultural residue such as straw and dry distillers grain, forest wastes such as sawdust and bark, and organic wastes such as meat and bone meals.

He uses the Canadian Light Source to evaluate innovative advanced materials for clean energy and environmental applications.

Safa Kasap—renewed CRC in Electronic and Optoelectronic Materials and Devices
Canada’s hospitals and clinics need to be able to obtain and store X-ray images digitally for quicker access and immediate and accurate analysis, but most X-ray technology still uses a film processing system.

Kasap’s work is helping to change that. The U of S electrical engineering professor is one of the world's leading researchers in photoconductors—materials which change their conductivity when irradiated with light or X-rays. He has contributed to their use in a new type of X-ray image detector—direct conversion, meaning X-rays are converted directly to an electrical signal for digital images—that is poised to revolutionize medical imaging and digital storage, particularly for breast cancer screening.

Improvements in the field of digital X-rays will make diagnoses faster, safer and more accurate.

The three U of S CRCs were among 181 announced today for 45 Canadian universities—a $159.1-million investment. This total includes $7.4 million from the CFI for research infrastructure associated with 46 of the chairholders.

“Canada’s government is investing in science and technology to strengthen the economy, improve Canadians’ quality of life and create the jobs of tomorrow—today,” said Gary Goodyear, federal Minister of State (Science and Technology). “The Canada Research Chairs Program helps attract and retain the best researchers from the country and around the world to Canadian universities, which has direct benefits for our communities.”

Located in the heart of Saskatoon, the U of S is one of Canada’s leading medical-doctoral universities. The university is uniquely positioned in the areas of human, animal and plant studies. The International Vaccine Centre, now under construction, will be Canada’s largest Containment Level III facility for emerging disease vaccine research when the centre opens in 2011. World-class research facilities, renowned faculty and award-winning students make the U of S a leader in post-secondary education.

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For more information, contact:

Kathryn Warden
U of S Research Communications
(306) 966-2506
kathryn.warden@usask.ca

Philip Griebel
U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization--International Vaccine Centre
(306) 966-1542
philip.griebel@usask.ca

Ajay Dalai
U of S College of Engineering
(306) 966-4771
ajay.dalai@usask.ca

Safa Kasap
U of S College of Engineering
(306) 966-5390
safa.kasap@usask.ca



Backgrounder—Sept. 23/2009 Canada Research Chairs Announcement

  • The Canada Research Chairs Program was created to enhance universities as centres of world-class research excellence by attracting and retaining outstanding researchers. For more profiles of U of S CRCs, visit http://www.usask.ca/crc.
  • Chair allotments are based on a three-year rolling average of federal tri-council funding, indicating U of S researchers' success in securing tri-council grants for their work.

U of S School of Public Health

  • The SPH is one of the three interdisciplinary entities at the U of S. Offering innovative opportunities for graduate education, public health research and programming, the school prepares public health leaders for the challenges of tomorrow.
  • Working closely with world-class research centres, such as VIDO, the SPH offers academic and research excellence in: Aboriginal Peoples’ health, agriculture and rural public health, applied public health, environmental health, global health, human-animal link in infectious disease, social and behavioural health, and vaccinology and immuno-therapeutics.

U of S VIDO-InterVac

  • The U of S Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, better known as VIDO, will be home to the International Vaccine Centr in 2011. With 145,000 square feet of space, VIDO-InterVac will be a unique, world-class, state-of-the-art facility, with one of the largest CL3 (containment level 3) vaccine research and development facilities in Canada and one of the largest in North America capable of testing vaccines in all animal species, including large animals.
  • At VIDO-InterVac, vaccines are developed and tested based on quality science. InterVac provides capabilities to study and test emerging and re-emerging CL3 level diseases such as tuberculosis and influenza, zoonotic diseases including E. coli and Johne’s disease, and other diseases such as West Nile Virus, BSE and CWD, HIV/AIDS and food-borne illness.
  • With the $140-million InterVac, Canada’s capacity to develop vaccines and new methods of delivery for both humans and animals is significantly enhanced. The facility will be a key player in Canada’s vaccine preparedness strategy.
  • The unique facilities and expertise of VIDO-InterVac are attracting top quality national and international scientists, and increasing opportunities for collaborative research. To attract high-calibre students, the team focuses on technical training and mentoring.

U of S College of Engineering

  • The U of S College of Engineering is committed to innovation in all aspects of advanced engineering education. Working collaboratively with other educational institutions, renowned research facilities such as the Canadian Light Source and VIDO, and industry partners, researchers pursue fundamental and applied research that contributes to the competitiveness, diversification and growth of our provincial and national economies.
  • The college has a robust and vibrant research program where more resources are being invested to further an engaged and energized culture while creating more collaborative research opportunities for students, faculty and industry partners.
  • Engineering students have a place at the top of Canada’s engineering future. Graduates are well-rounded, community-minded, and primed for leadership in society across all fields of engineering and beyond.

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