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U of C gets grant for microbiome research centre

By Fabian Mayer, August 6 2015 — 


The University of Calgary has been given a $9.9-million grant to establish a microbiome research centre within the Cumming School of Medicine. The facility is slated to open in 2017 and will be the second of its kind in Canada.

Minister of state for western economic diversification Michelle Rempel made the announcement last week.

Professor Paul Kubes leads the university’s research on infection, inflammation and chronic diseases. Kubes said researchers have yet to extensively study the organisms that make up the microbiome.

“There’s about 300 trillion bacteria in your gut and there’s probably only 30 trillion cells in the whole body and we’ve sort of been ignoring it,” Kubes said. “Trying to understand some of these interactions with bacteria is very important.”

Kubes said the new facilities will include a germ-free lab, allowing researchers to focus on fighting chronic diseases.

“You are almost certainly going to die of chronic disease,” Kubes said. “If we have our way, we’re going to try and reduce the chances of you dying from one of these diseases.”

The centre will also have applications beyond the human body. Researchers will study agriculture, food security and energy innovation.

According to Kubes, the oil sands house the largest microbiome in the world. Some of these bacteria may have medical applications.

“What we’d love to do is harvest these and see if any of them might function as potent antibiotics,” Kubes said. “This is an opportunity for us to have an impact using something that’s really Albertan exclusive.”

There are only a handful of similar research centres around the world. The only facility currently operating in Canada is at McMaster University in Ontario.

“This is an opportunity to really build something special in Canada,” Kubes said.

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