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State-of-the-art support

More than $830,000 for critical equipment and infrastructure for ‘bold’ research

By Jeff Green

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is providing more than $830,000 for critical infrastructure and equipment for five specialized research projects based at Memorial.

The new funding comes from the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), which provides foundational support to Canadian researchers to think big and innovate.

Those benefitting from the new funding include researchers in the faculties of Science, Medicine and Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the School of Pharmacy.

Discoveries and innovations

“When equipped with the very best tools, technologies and equipment, our teams of multidisciplinary researchers are able to make bold discoveries and spearhead cutting-edge projects that benefit all Canadians,” said Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

“I thank the Canada Foundation for Innovation for its vital and continued support of the exciting and critical research happening here at Memorial. I congratulate each of our recipients and wish them much success with their research projects.”

Funding specifics

Drs. Scott Harding (project leader, biochemistry), Christina Thorpe (psychology) and John Weber (pharmacy) are co-applicants on the project, A Comprehensive Metabolic Monitoring System for Laboratory Animals, which is receiving $132,818.

Drs. Craig Moore (project leader, biomedical sciences) and Rob Brown (biochemistry) are receiving $101,073 for the project, Seahorse XFe24 Analyzer for Real Time Measurement of Metabolism in Live Cells.

Drs. Lisa Rankin (project leader), Catherine Losier and Meghan Burchell – all from archaeology – are receiving $130,224 for the initiative, North Atlantic Archaeology at Risk.

Drs. Rodney Russell (project leader, biomedical sciences), Sherri Christian (biochemistry) and Bruno Stuyvers (biomedical sciences) are receiving $247,728 for their project, Applications of Live-cell and Super Resolution Confocal Microscopy for BioMedical and Biochemistry Studies.

Funding for these projects was announced on Aug. 18.

Dr. Michelle Ploughman (medicine) has received $218,360 for her project, Functional Brain Imaging and Assessment Suite, which is associated with her renewal as Canada Research Chair in Rehabilitation, Neuroplasticity and Brain Recovery earlier this year. Her funding was announced by CFI on Aug. 14.

Global leadership

Dr. Lisa Rankin
Dr. Lisa Rankin
Photo: Submitted

Dr. Rankin says she and her co-investigators are “extremely grateful,” for the new funding, which allows them to use cutting-edge infrastructure to locate, assess, monitor and respond to the various threats to archaeological heritage across the province caused by climate change.

Their project will put Memorial at the forefront of global archaeological climate change research.

“Because both Indigenous and settler sites in the province tend to cluster along the coastline, many sites are eroding into the sea, threatened by rising sea levels brought about by global warming, and surges created by the more intense storms we have been experiencing,” noted Dr. Rankin, Memorial University Research Chair in Northern Indigenous Community Archaeology.

She told the Gazette it’s estimated a minimum of 86 per cent of archaeological sites in the province are currently under threat.

“For archaeologists, this represents an epic loss of data about human history in the province, but archaeological heritage is important to non-academics because it helps people to connect with their cultural history, sense of place or home and identity.”

High-tech approach

Dr. Rankin says CFI’s funding will help the team to “work smarter and faster,” using digital technologies such as drones and ground-penetrating radar to locate sites and learn about them before the “painstaking work of excavation.”

“We need to learn how this heritage is being affected as quickly as possible to mitigate against its loss,” Dr. Rankin said, noting the new funding will also help Memorial attract and train a new generation of archaeology students.

She says this information can then be shared with provincial, Indigenous and local governments to help them plan for the loss and impacts.

“We hope our work will not only help Newfoundland and Labrador, but provide a model for similar work elsewhere – perhaps led by students from our department.”

‘Internationally competitive’

Dr. Craig Moore
Dr. Craig Moore
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

The CFI funding is allowing Dr. Moore and his collaborators to acquire a critical piece of scientific infrastructure – the first of its kind on the St. John’s campus – for biomedical and basic science research.

He says the equipment will allow them to investigate how individual cells switch their metabolic profiles under specific types of environments, such as in the presence of drugs, inflammation or growth-promoting environments.

“Because we know that a cell’s ability to switch between different forms of metabolism can ultimately determine how it functions and/or survives, it is critical that we have access to state-of-the-art instrumentation that allows researchers to ask key questions related to a cell’s overall health and how it may behave under stressful conditions,” noted Dr. Moore, Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience and Brain Repair.

He says having access to such equipment helps researchers make their work internationally competitive.

“As a single organ, it is well established that the brain uses more energy than any other organ.” — Dr. Craig Moore

As part of his individual research program, Dr. Moore and his team want to better understand how microRNAs – small non-protein coding RNA molecules – “can influence the ability of immune and neural cells to tolerate stressful environments and switch their metabolic profiles in a manner that decreases inflammation and promotes repair.”

“As a single organ, it is well established that the brain uses more energy than any other organ. It is critical that we understand how the body uses this energy as efficiently as possible.”

Essential support

Dr. Moore says CFI’s funding enables world-class research to be performed at Memorial.

“Very few granting agencies directly permit the purchase of large pieces of equipment,” he said. “Researchers require access to newer infrastructure in order to publish their work in high-quality journals and provide granting agencies and reviewers with data that supports their proposed research programs.”


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