CFI awards $500,000 to U of S researchers

Six University of Saskatchewan researchers will share a total of $557,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) for their research projects.

The studies cover a wide range of topics: exploring the potential of a diabetes drug in treating cancer, the use of radio waves in food and bioproducts processing, how people's brains synchronize when creating music, how healthy pregnancies can go awry and how to reclaim land after oilsands mining.

"This investment in much-needed labs and equipment across our campus will advance a wide range of exciting research projects that will benefit our health, our environment and our economy, while training the next generation of Canadian researchers," said Karen Chad, U of S vice-president research.

The successful research projects include two with WCVM connections:

    • Daniel MacPhee, an associate professor in the college's Department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, will receive $230,000 towards a $574,000 live cell imaging microscope. The specialized equipment is for his study of little-understood functions of the human placenta and uterine muscle as they develop during pregnancy. Pre-term birth accounts for 75 per cent of all infant deaths during pregnancy, and can be caused by the uterus and or the placenta failing to develop and function properly.
    • Terra Arnason and Troy Harkness of the U of S College of Medicine will receive $52,000 towards a $129,000 protein and RNA facility to further their work on metformin, a diabetes drug that shows potential in overcoming chemotherapy drug resistance in cancer using dog models. Arnason and Harkness are conducting their research work in collaboration with Drs. Valerie MacDonald and Matthew Gaunt at the WCVM. Knowledge created will help with treatment for both dog and human cancer patients.

Here's a list of the additional U of S initiatives that will receive CFI support:

    • Oon-Doo Baik (Engineering) will receive $61,000 towards a $152,000 pilot-scale radio frequency (RF) system for food and bioprocess research. The equipment will support Baik's work in efficient and versatile target heating using RF waves to develop, for example, processes for food and biofuels manufacturing.
    • Matthew Lindsay (Geological Sciences) will receive $37,000 towards $92,600 in portable gas chromatography equipment for his research into ways to reclaim land after it has been mined for oilsands. His work aims to create knowledge on the long-term evolution of water quality within oilsands fine-tailings deposits.
    • Janeen Loehr (Psychology) will receive $178,000 towards a $444,000 EEG hyperscanning laboratory, the first facility of its kind in Canada and one of only a handful in the world. The equipment will further Loehr's explorations of how one person's brain activity becomes synchronized with another's during social interactions ranging from playing music together to engaging in psychotherapy.  Knowledge gained could inform treatment of such common mental illnesses as anxiety and depression.

CFI provides up to 40 per cent funding for infrastructure such as high-power microscopes, computer software, and specialized lab equipment to help researchers generate breakthroughs, expand Canada's innovation capacity and contribute to the country's economic success.

These U of S projects also receive funding from other sources including Saskatchewan's Innovation and Science Fund, the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation and the U of S.

The U of S projects are among those at 149 facilities at universities across Canada that will benefit from investments from CFI's John R. Evans Leaders Fund, announced on April 14.
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