Build it and they will come

(Edmonton) University of Alberta researchers are the big winners in a $47.7-million federal government investment into cutting-edge research equipment, labs and tools to help Canadian post-secondary institutions attract talented researchers and build a more innovative Canadian economy.

Through its Leaders Opportunity Fund, the Canada Foundation for Innovation awarded $5.7 million to 27 U of A projects that reach across a host of faculties to support research in the areas of health, agriculture and education.

Comparatively, the University of British Columbia received $3.2 million for 23 projects, Toronto $2.5 million for 12 projects, and Calgary $1.9 million for eight projects. McGill University landed $1.5 million for 15 projects.

Ava Chow, along with her School of Dentistry colleagues Patrick Flood and Maria Febbraio, received $200,000 to build infrastructure for investigating the link between chronic oral inflammation and systemic health. This includes equipment for cell culture facilities, imaging equipment and inflammatory mediator analysis infrastructure.

“This equipment is essential for our investigations into how inflammation in the oral cavity can affect the entire body,” said Chow. She explains the equipment will be used to examine how oral inflammation affects everything from the nervous system as it pertains to afflictions such as Parkinson's disease, to the vascular system and metabolism, to, in her case, the heart. “Essentially we are trying to determine the mechanism by which a localized inflammatory response can have wide-reaching effects throughout the body.”

Chow says the CFI grants are crucial for her team’s work because, although the majority of grants provide operational funds, many do not allow for the purchase of equipment.

“The CFI is providing a solid base on which I can establish my lab and research as a junior investigator,” she said. “For Drs. Flood and Febbraio, who are established investigators but new to the U of A, the CFI provided a very attractive incentive in the recruitment of these highly sought-after investigators.”

Chow says the School of Dentistry in particular is an incredibly supportive environment.  

“There is great value placed on research, and superb administrative and technical support to ensure that 'new kids' like me have the best opportunity for success,” she said. “The friendly, collaborative nature of the investigators at the U of A has also been essential in helping me navigate through the world of research and academia.”

View the list of UAlberta’s CFI-funded projects (PDF)