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Trent University Receives $283,477 in CFI Funding to Support Two New Researchers

June 29, 2004, Peterborough

Today, Dr. Chris Metcalfe, Dean of Research and Graduate Studies at Trent University welcomed the Canada Foundation for Innovation's (CFI) total investment of $283,477 supporting two newly-recruited faculty members.

Dr. Craig Brunetti of the Department of Biology will receive $155,540 from the CFI's New Opportunities Fund for the establishment of a confocal microscopy facility for studying poxvirus replication, while Dr. Anne Keenleyside of the Department of Anthropology will receive $127,937 for the establishment of a bioarchaeology laboratory.

"The 'New Opportunities' program of the Canada Foundation for Innovation has provided a much-needed boost to the research programs of two of Trent's new faculty," said Prof. Metcalfe.

Carmen Charette, Interim President and CEO of the CFI stated, "These CFI investments will provide world-class facilities and cutting edge tools for Canadian researchers examining complex issues that are of critical importance to the province of Ontario and the rest of Canada. It will also enable outstanding researchers to provide the training and mentoring required by the next generation."

Prof. Brunetti joined the Department of Biology at Trent as an assistant professor in 2003, investigating the molecular biology of viruses that infect humans - in particular members of the poxvirus and herpesvirus family. He specifically studies a group of poxviruses that include Yaba-like disease virus and Yaba monkey tumor virus that naturally infect primates. Over the last 50 years, these viruses have caused several human outbreaks and are considered a potential emerging disease. Prof. Brunetti is working to understand how these viruses cause disease by elucidating the function of viral genes.

"The acquisition of a confocal microscopy facility will allow researchers at Trent to produce images of unrivaled structural detail in three dimensions - this level of detail is not available using conventional microscopy," says Prof. Brunetti.

He explains that light collection in a conventional microscope can result in a blurry image. In a confocal microscope, light emitted from structures outside of the focal plane, and therefore structures out of focus, are suppressed by the unique detection system ensuring that every confocal image is in focus. Therefore, each confocal image is a two-dimensional optical section through the specimen. By acquiring multiple two-dimensional optical sections at different focal planes, a three-dimensional reconstruction of a specimen can be produced.

"This technique will be applied to poxvirus-infected cells in an effort to determine what cellular compartments a viral protein is targeted to, which is the first step in gaining an understanding of viral protein function," says Prof. Brunetti. "Understanding the function of viral proteins will not only provide insight into the basic biology of poxviruses, but will also suggest potential anti-viral targets to be used in viral therapy."

The confocal microscope will also be used to support research taking place as part of the DNA and Forensic Science Research Centre.

Prof. Keenleyside is a physical anthropologist who joined the department in 2002. Her research focuses on bioarchaeology - the study of human skeletal remains in an archaeological context. She has conducted fieldwork in the Canadian Arctic, Siberia and Romania, and is currently investigating the health and diet of a Greek colonial population (5th to 3rd centuries BC) on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, and a Roman population (2nd to 4th centuries AD) on the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia.

Prof. Keenleyside's CFI grant will support the construction of a bioarchaeology lab that will be used to implement a variety of innovative approaches to the study of health and diet in past populations. This facility, which will be located in the new DNA Partnership Building on the East Bank of the Symons Campus, will include a palaeo-DNA lab for the extraction and analysis of ancient DNA from skeletal remains and other biological tissues. In March, 2004 Trent researchers and colleagues from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) were approved for a CFI contribution of $3,620,809 toward the creation of a DNA and Forensic Science Research Centre.

"This is an exciting new area of research," says Prof. Keenleyside. "The study of DNA in human remains will provide the opportunity to identify specific diseases that afflicted past populations, provide insight into the origin and evolution of certain diseases, and investigate biological relationships within cemetery samples. In addition, the extraction and analysis of DNA from human remains in a forensic context will offer the potential to make a positive identification of an individual."

The facility will also contain thin sectioning, microscopic, and radiographic equipment to investigate disease processes in human bone and aid in the identification and diagnosis of disease, as well as equipment for the preparation of bone and tooth samples for chemical analyses that will be used to reconstruct the diet of past populations. Research and training in these various techniques will provide students and researchers with skills that can be applied to a variety of careers in the biological sciences as well as other fields. Potential links also exist with Trent's new Bachelor of Science Degree Program in Forensic Science.

Bonnie Patterson, President and Vice Chancellor, expressed appreciation for the federal CFI contribution to the University and highlighted her concern about delays in receiving matching provincial funds. "While Trent University is very grateful for the federal government's CFI funding, we remain very concerned that to date no commitment has been made by the provincial government that matching funds from its Ontario Innovation Trust program will be provided for these new grants," said President Patterson.

She stressed, "Without the traditional matching funds provided by the province in previous years to support new professors, it will be extremely difficult for promising researchers such as professors Keenleyside and Brunetti to realize the full benefits of the federal government's New Opportunities Fund and achieve their important research goals." The president added that recent verbal comments from staff in the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade indicated that no Ontario matching funds would be available for successful CFI applicants after March, 2004. "This would place Ontario researchers behind every province in the country – a position that must be avoided."

Total investments, approved by the CFI Board of Directors on June 15, 2004, to support 124 projects involving 140 researchers at 40 research institutions have been awarded through two funds: $18.3 million under the New Opportunities Fund (NOF); and $5.5 million under the Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF).

A complete list of New Opportunities Fund projects, by university, can be found at:

The CFI's New Opportunities Fund (NOF) enables eligible universities to provide research infrastructure for newly-recruited faculty members, in their first full-time academic appointment in Canadian degree-granting institutions, so that these researchers can undertake leading-edge research. The fund also enables institutions to recruit new faculty members in the areas of research identified as priorities in their strategic research plans. The CFI's Infrastructure Operating Fund (IOF) helps with operating and maintenance costs associated with new infrastructure projects.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is an independent corporation created in 1997 by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI's mandate is to strengthen the ability of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other non-profit institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that will benefit Canadians.

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For more information:

Valérie Poulin
Don Cumming
Coordinator, Media Relations
Senior Director, Public Affairs
Canada Foundation for Innovation
Trent University
(613) 996-3160
(705) 748-1011, ext. 1224
Cell: (613) 447-1723



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Last Updated June 29, 2004