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‘Global hub’

Federal funding to attract top researchers, provide infrastructure


By Jeff Green

Canada’s minister of Science and of Sport and Persons with Disabilities announced the latest results of the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) on April 11.

In total, Kirsty Duncan announced more than $42 million for 37 universities across Canada to support 186 new research infrastructure projects.

A total of $277,353 will go toward the future acquisition of a two-photon microscope – the first of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador. The high-tech machine will be used for research such as the better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Matthew Parsons
Dr. Matthew Parsons
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong/HSIMS

That work is led by Dr. Matthew Parsons, assistant professor of biomedical sciences (neurosciences) in the Faculty of Medicine. The project’s co-principal investigators are Drs. Jacqueline Blundell, Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Sukhinder Cheema, Faculty of Science.

Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and PTSD

Dr. Parsons says technological advances can greatly facilitate scientific discoveries and that it is particularly true when it comes to the technology used to image the brain’s activity.

“The brain is an extremely challenging organ to image,” he said. “All of that fatty tissue that exists in our brains tends to scatter light in all directions when we try to image it, making it difficult to construct high resolution images beyond the very surface of the brain.

“Two-photon microscopes use technology that avoids much of this scattering issue and they have become the gold standard for high resolution imaging deep in the brain,” Dr. Parsons continued. “Two-photon microscopes are accelerating neuroscience research in many leading research institutions around the globe. I’m extremely excited that the CFI is providing us with the opportunity to bring this cutting-edge technology to Memorial.”

The CFI funding is supporting research focused on increasing the understanding of neurodegenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases, as well as PTSD, with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets that can prevent and/or reverse disease symptoms.

Long-term relationship

Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research), says the CFI is one of Memorial’s most valuable federal partners.

“For more than two decades, the Canada Foundation for Innovation has provided critical funding for state-of-the-art infrastructure that’s helped Memorial become a global hub for important research in areas ranging from ocean technology to the health sciences,” he said.

“The CFI also remains a pivotal partner in helping Memorial attract top-notch scientists such as Dr. Parsons, who is undertaking vital research that will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond, in the years to come. I thank the Canada Foundation for Innovation for its ongoing support of Memorial-led research.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Parsons was named 2018’s Terra Nova Young Innovator. That award is supported through $50,000 in funding from Suncor Energy, on behalf of the partners in the Terra Nova oil field.

The CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund is a national competition which provides institutions with critical funding to attract and retain top researchers and providing them with the foundational research infrastructure required to be leaders in their fields.

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