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Funding from province boosts DNA technology project

Nearly $525,000 was awarded to SFU “to support early disease detection and action”

An SFU project recently got some new funding from the provincial government.

The Ministry of Technology, Innovation, and Citizens’ Services announced on September 9 that SFU has received nearly $525,000 from the BC Government through the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF). The funding is meant to help the iReceptor Data Integration System “support early disease detection and action.”

The initiative is led by SFU biology professor Dr. Felix Breden and health sciences professor Dr. Jamie Scott. It allows researchers at different institutions to share “massive sequence databases describing the immune response” and information gained through “fast-paced DNA sequencing technology,” according to the press release.

“[With] this investment in iReceptor, we are enabling significant breakthroughs in precision medicine”

This ability to share data with institutions worldwide will aid researchers in designing vaccines against diseases such as HIV/AIDS. There will also be capabilities to develop new therapies and drugs for diseases like Type 1 Diabetes, and therapies against certain cancers.

With this new funding, the project is expected to be operational within a year.

VP research Dr. Joy Johnson said that receiving this funding will help expand “opportunities for research at SFU.

“[With] this investment in iReceptor, we are enabling significant breakthroughs in precision medicine,” she added in the BC Government’s press release. “This initiative builds on SFU’s big data expertise and computing power to network and collaborate with partner institutions across Canada in ways that haven’t been possible before.”

Minister of Technology, Innovation, and Citizens’ Services Amrik Virk was quoted in the press release emphasizing how this research “clearly positions SFU and BC as national leaders in the life sciences technology sector” through the “talent of highly skilled and creative British Columbians.”

Currently, the BCKDF has granted SFU several million dollars towards SFU-led projects. Earlier this year, the university was granted more than $13.9 million for five projects, including $11.85 million towards the Cyberinfrastructure: Compute Canada initiative according to SFU News.

Among all post-secondary institutions in the province, $55 million has been invested into more than 70 research projects since April 2015 as part of the #BCTECH Strategy.

According to the press release, the strategy “includes a $100 million BC Tech Fund and initiatives to [. . .] drive innovation and productivity throughout the province.”

With this money going towards different SFU-led initiatives in the field of health science and technology, there are many possibilities for national benefits to come out of some SFU-led research initiatives.