Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation Announces $1.9 Million Investment in Cutting-Edge Research at Trent University


Research of Forensics Professor Dr. Barry Saville on Fungal Threats to Crops also Receives Substantial Support from Federally Funded Government Agencies

Thursday, June 18, 2009, Peterborough

At an important funding announcement held earlier today at Trent University, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI) pledged $1,979,661 to support the innovative research of Trent Forensic Science professor Dr. Barry Saville examining fungal diseases in crops to improve sustainability of agricultural production and ensure a more secure food supply for the people of Ontario.

“This new funding is an important investment in the groundbreaking research taking place at Trent and is another shining example of the strong partnership that exists between the University and the government,” said President Bonnie Patterson. “Combined with the recent provincial and federal infrastructure announcements to support and expand the University’s new DNA and Health Sciences Centre, this funding will ensure a strong future for innovative research at Trent and will further contribute to the economic health and well-being of the entire Peterborough community.”

Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal was on hand at the event to make the official announcement. The funding for Trent and Dr. Saville’s research is part of a $94 million Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence (ORF-RE) program designed to support cutting-edge and internationally-significant research across the province.

 Also on hand at the announcement was Peterborough MP Dean Del Mastro, who confirmed that a number of federal agencies are contributing substantial in-kind support to Dr. Saville’s important research. Already committed to the project are Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Andy Mitchell, president and CEO of the Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster noted that, "This project provides opportunities to attract new commercial investment for research taking place at Trent University.”

Dr. Saville’s research on "Genomics Approaches to Mitigate Fungal Threats to Crops" examines the fungal diseases that are a major contributor to the world’s food crisis and a threat to the limited global forest resources. In Canada the loss to the wheat crop because of leaf rust fungus can be $100 million annually. There is also a new race of wheat stem rust, discovered in Uganda, which threatens wheat production on a global scale. Further, Sudden Oak Death has caused dramatic losses to oak and other trees in parts of the U.S. and Europe. It now poses a major threat to Canadian forest and horticultural resources. The annual value of forestry and logging is $5.28 billion, not considering the impact of trees on tourism and property value.

“Overcoming this crisis will require in depth knowledge of the fungi and fungal diseases.  This knowledge will enable the development of novel ways to combat plant disease,” explains Dr. Saville, who conducts his research in Trent University’s state-of-the-art DNA Building. “My research incorporates new advances in genome analysis and brings together research expertise from across Canada, individuals funded by past and present Federal Governments, to pursue major advances in our knowledge of fungi and fungi-like organisms causing plant disease.  The knowledge gained will direct novel means to fight these diseases and provide the basis to identify emerging disease variants, ultimately leading to improved sustainability of agricultural production and a more secure food supply for the people of Ontario.”

The outcome of Dr. Saville’s scientific research will be new information to fight various plant pathogens, including a multi-species identification platform for detection of pathogens in the environment, novel ways for early screening in plant breeding, and plant varieties with new resistance traits.

The Innovation Cluster, Operitel and Trent University will also contribute monetary and in-kind support to the Dr. Saville's multi-year project.

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For more information, please contact:

Dr. Barry Saville, Forensic Science Program, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x7260

Matt Stoeckle, Office of MPP Jeff Leal, (705) 742-3777

Karen Feeley, Executive Assistant, Office of MP Dean Del Mastro, (705) 745-2108