Centre gets shot in the arm

(Edmonton) Three University of Alberta researchers are part of a five-person team that won the prestigious Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering. David BundleTodd Lowary and John Klassen from the U of A’s Department of Chemistry were honoured along with collaborators Ken Ng and Glen Armstrong from the University of Calgary at a ceremony in Ottawa Feb. 27.

The five senior members of the Alberta Glycomics Centre were recognized by the Natural Science Engineering and Research Council of Canada for their efforts to develop vaccines for infectious diseases such as E. coli, tuberculosis and Clostridium difficile.

“We feel extremely honoured and proud to receive NSERC’s premier award for interdisciplinary research,” said Bundle. “The award validates our performance and the support and investment of the university and province of Alberta in creating the Alberta Glycomics Centre.”

The team’s current work on Clostridium difficile, a major killer in hospitals, includes the cross-disciplinary tasks of bio- analytical mass spectrometry, synthetic chemistry, crystallography and microbiology.

U of A team member Lowary says the Brockhouse prize and grant of up to $250,000 also allows for the acceleration of the team’s work designing novel vaccines for preventing tuberculosis.

“I lead a project related to tuberculosis,” said Lowary. “Our studies are directed at understanding how carbohydrates on the surface of the bacterium, that causes this disease, interact, or communicate, with the human immune system.”

Klassen, whose specialty is mass spectrometry, has helped the team with verification of important binding sites of the E. coli toxin. “The multidisciplinary aspect of our team has given us a real boost for the analytical needs or our research, and the award will help us open new doors in the search for new vaccines,” said Klassen.