New federal funding for the U of L will support development of RNA Bioengineering and Innovation Network

By Aaron Mahoney (@Mahones93 on Twitter)
July 17, 2018 - 2:53pm

LETHBRIDGE - The University of Lethbridge, in partnership with the Université de Sherbrooke, has been awarded $1.65 million from the federal government over the span of six years to develop the Ribonucleic acid Bioengineering and Innovation Network Collaborative Research and Training Experience.

Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Kirsty Duncan, announced a total of $29.7 million in CREATE grants on Monday, July 16, to 18 different Canadian research teams across the country that are working to further discovery and innovation in areas such as environmental protection, green energy and advanced manufacturing.

The teams include a wide range of collaborators from several countries, including Germany, France, Australia, the United States, Switzerland and Brazil.

Duncan says when young Canadians choose science, programs like CREATE empower them to pursue their ambitions and gain the hands-on experiences they need to launch their careers.

“Thanks to the worldwide interdisciplinary connections they will build through this program, these talented young researchers will further Canada’s reputation as a leader in research and innovation,” Duncan said.

The CREATE Program improves the mentoring of, and training environment for, the researchers of tomorrow in Canada by improving areas such as communication, collaboration and professional skills, and providing experience relevant to both academic and non-academic research environments.

The U of L’s principal investigator on the project is Dr. Hans-Joachim Wieden, an Alberta Innovates Strategic Chair in RNA Bioengineering, a Tier I Board of Governors Research Chair in Biomolecular Design and Function and the founding director of the Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI).

Wieden maintains, due to the fundamental role that RNA-mediated processes play for all living systems, that the next revolution in biotechnology will be the age of rationally designed Ribonucleic acid (RNA)-based systems, molecular machines and devices.

He points to the emergence of commercially-successful RNA-based therapeutics and pesticides as examples.

“As manufacturing and production floors become higher tech through advances in biology, materials science and computer applications, it is critical that trainees receive the most advanced and broad education possible in order to be leaders in their careers,” Wieden continued. “Compounded by the labour shortage projected by the Government of Canada in this key economic sector, we propose to establish an industry-driven Bioengineering and Innovation Training Network with emphasis on innovative RNA-based technologies.”

The University of Lethbridge and the Université de Sherbrooke are recognized as the country’s leading RNA-research institutions and through this grant will look to jointly train job-ready leaders and innovators in the emerging biotechnology field.

In a release, its stated the institutions propose to establish entrepreneurial research and development challenges, coupled with an extensive internship program that strongly integrates private sector participation.

Wieden says the focus here will be on knowledge transfer and migrating students/trainees into the workforce who are job ready.

“This is a critical aspect for accessing the many applications of RNA-based technologies that are developed in our research institutions.”

From the University’s perspective, the timing for the grant support is ideal. That’s because the completion of the new Science and Academic Building is on the horizon, so the new RNA Bioengineering and Innovation Network CREATE will greatly benefit the new facility.

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