Improved cancer treatments aim of new biology research program


$8.9 million research institute will use advanced computing power to expose the secret life of cells

Cancer research in Alberta, Canada, is taking a major step forward with a new research program being housed at the University of Calgary. The Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics will be led by Dr. Stuart Kauffman, a scientist known around the world for his revolutionary genetic theories, who has relocated to Alberta to work on research that could offer new ways to treat cancer.

"Attracting someone of Dr. Kauffman's calibre to Alberta speaks volumes about the quality and capability of our information and communications technology sector and of the good work being done by iCORE," said Victor Doerksen, Minister of Innovation and Science. "High quality professionals are the backbone of Alberta's innovation agenda and the key to our economic prosperity and improved quality of life."

Originally a medical doctor, Dr. Kauffman's primary work has been as a theoretical biologist studying the origin of life and molecular organization. He has added a new dimension to Darwin's theory of evolution and has founding patents in chemistry for drug discovery. Kauffman is now using powerful computing resources to test some of his theories on the systems that regulate cell growth, division and differentiation. Understanding these systems may lead to the ability to control them, which could mean new cancer treatments using cell-based approaches rather than traditional treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

"We plan to set up a world-class research program that will marry theory and experiment in the exploding area of systems biology," says Dr. Kauffman, the new iCORE Chair in Biocomplexity and Informatics, housed at the University of Calgary. "The opportunity here is unparalleled. We need to think big, and we have found the necessary support here. There is a wonderful collaborative environment, and the potential to mix theory and experiment is very good."

Dr. Kauffman has received an iCORE Chair and Professor Establishment grant of $850,000 per year for five years, plus a $300,000 startup grant, for a total of $4.6 million. The Institute of Biocomplexity and Informatics is being supported by the University of Calgary, in collaboration with the University of Alberta. Additional support is being sought from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the provincial government, industry and philanthropists.

"Stuart Kauffman is a passionate scientist, with broad experience, enormous intellectual capacity, and a commitment to building excellent collaborative interdisciplinary teams. That passion and commitment creates the potential for highly innovative science," says Dr. Randy Goebel, President and CEO of iCORE. "Dr. Kauffman's award is a foundation for expanding a highly interdisciplinary research program that iCORE will be supporting over the coming years bioinformatics."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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