UAlberta opens new lab to support the inventive, collaborative research program of new CAIP Chair

New collaborative space opened by research chair to foster collaborative research.

Amy Hewko - 18 February 2016

The Department of Biochemistry in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is celebrating the opening of DiscoveryLAB, a newly renovated research space that will serve as the hub for a number of intra and inter-institutional collaborative projects. The lab is headed by Michael Overduin, the Campus Alberta Innovates Program (CAIP) Chair of Protein Mis-folding Diseases.

"The funding from the Campus Alberta Innovation Program has allowed me to launch DiscoveryLAB to support the collaborative research focused on emerging targets for cancer, infection, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease," says Overduin. "The government is supporting our efforts to develop mechanism-based therapies to address unmet medical needs and reduce drug discovery costs through new technology."

The CAIP Chair Program was established in 2011 by the Government of Alberta to recruit world-class researchers to Alberta as part of the Campus Alberta initiative. Overduin is one of 16 chairs initially chosen to represent four strategically chosen fields of study-energy and the environment, food and nutrition, neuroscience and water.

Overduin, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry, was recruited to the University of Alberta and named CAIP Chair in September 2015. Over his career, he built an impressive research portfolio on exploring how proteins are linked to various human disorders like cancer, infection, neurodegeneration and cardiovascular disease-DiscoveryLAB's primary research focal points. "Alberta's open door approach is attractive, not just to me but also the companies, both small and large, that depend on access to new ideas and skills," he says of his recruitment.

The DiscoveryLAB is housed in the Medical Sciences Building and is supported by the National High Field Magnetic Resonance Centre (NANUC), where Overduin also serves as the executive director. Establishing the space and upgrading NANUC to meet the needs of DiscoveryLAB and its collaborators are only two of the items that he hopes to address during his seven-year term as CAIP Chair. He also hopes to develop other sustainable and internationally competitive facilities where high-impact research can be socialized with industry and business to move toward commercialization.

"We are building consortia to tackle kinases, phosphatases, proteases and membrane-bound proteins that hold tremendous promise as they drive disease progression," Overduin says.

"Spaces like DiscoveryLAB and NANUC allow the University of Alberta's world class researchers to take the discoveries from their labs and bring them to the patients that need them most," says Richard Fedorak, interim dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. "It's clear to see that DiscoveryLAB will foster the growth of innovation necessary to improve the neurological health of Albertans."