Celebrating Alberta’s Life Sciences Excellence

TMIC Celebrates Life Sciences Week

Life Sciences Week is Alberta’s premier platform for celebrating and showcasing the remarkable strides made in the burgeoning life sciences sector. It is a testament to Alberta’s profound impact on the global stage in the realm of life sciences, highlighting groundbreaking discoveries and innovations that span diverse sectors. This week-long event serves to underscore the undeniable significance of life sciences to Alberta’s economic future, emphasizing its pivotal role in economic diversification and resilience. The life sciences sector, already one of Alberta’s leading industries, contributes knowledge and tools with far-reaching implications for agriculture, resource management, health and wellness, technology, business, and more. It is a vital force in shaping a brighter, more sustainable future for Alberta and beyond, a fact that Life Sciences Week proudly celebrates, supported by Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API), a driving force in training the next generation of life science leaders and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration among academic and industry experts.

TMIC is proud to be an integral part of Life Sciences Week and maintains a strong and collaborative relationship with API in advancing the frontiers of life sciences research and innovation. This collaboration is in perfect alignment with TMIC’s vision to enhance life through the transformative potential of metabolomics, contributing to the shared goal of driving innovation, sustainability, and improved well-being for Alberta and beyond.

In recognition of Life Sciences Week, TMIC is celebrating its history as well as future potential for life-changing discoveries and research.

A Testament to TMIC’s Mark in Life Sciences

TMIC was founded in 2011 at the University of Alberta by Dr. David Wishart, Dr. Liang Li, and Dr. Christoph Borchers with the vision to enhance life through the transformative potential of metabolomics, the study of all of the small-molecule chemistry that drives the metabolism of an organism. This incredibly fine-detailed look at the chemical machinery of the body has only been made possible in the last 10-15 years due to rapid advances in analytical technology to capture this data in the lab, and corresponding advances in bioinformatics and data science to help scientists interpret this mountain of new data.

Through the work of its world-renowned scientific experts, TMIC has played a large role in developing the data infrastructure that has led to the exponential growth of this new field. TMIC’s databases are cited by more than half of all international publications in metabolomics, and its innovations in the laboratory have led to Alberta and Canada being international powerhouses in the field. In recognition of the importance of metabolomics to Canada’s national science strategy, TMIC has been continuously supported by Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund.

TMIC 2.0 was launched in April this year with the support of CFI’s Major Science Initiatives program and Genome Canada funding. The new TMIC features nine research and service nodes across Canada, and welcomes three new Node Leaders, Dajana Vuckovic (Concordia), Tao Huan (UBC), and Jeff Xia (McGill) to its network of the country’s top metabolomics experts. The Centre is expanding its technology portfolio, including the development of ISO-compliant assays for human and animal health, techniques to measure metabolites in low cell-count or single-cell settings, and new assays to assess exposure to mycotoxins. These new analytical techniques will be supported by TMIC’s world-leading expertise in bioinformatics and database development. TMIC is excited to continue its mission of advancing metabolomics research in Canada and contributing to the health sector.

Wishart Node on Cancer Biomarkers Research

Dr. Wishart has long been dedicated to advancing research in cancer biomarkers, tirelessly working towards both prevention and the discovery of treatments for this debilitating disease. According to their research discoveries, inherited cancers appear to comprise a relatively small portion, specifically five to ten percent, of all cancer cases. The remaining majority, comprising 90 to 95 percent, is instigated by elements within the exposome. The exposome encompasses all environmental factors and exposures that an individual encounters throughout their lifetime, including lifestyle, diet, pollutants, and stressors. These exposome factors can, over time, lead to genetic mutations that contribute to the development of cancer.

Achieving the ISO 15189:2012 accreditation in Medical Laboratories this year is a momentous achievement for TMIC Wishart Node, signifying a remarkable level of technical competence in the realm of clinical analysis. With this recognition, TMIC is poised to embark on an exciting journey into the realm of medical sciences, forging connections with metabolomics and life sciences. 

Li Node on Neurodegenerative Diseases

Earlier this year, Dr. Li received funding from Brain Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This funding marks vital support for Dr. Li’s research project, conducted at the University of Alberta, looking into metabolomic and lipidomic levels as a big step forward in studying Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It has been demonstrated that high-fat nutritional supplementation considerably increases the life rate of many ALS patients.

These projects were selected for funding as part of the 2022 European Union Joint Programme on Neurodegenerative Disease Research (JPND), with the primary aim of these initiatives is to expedite the discovery of causes, the development of cures, and the identification of improved care approaches for individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s.

Harynuk Node on Air Quality, Tobacco, and Cannabis Projects

Dr. Harynuk’s initiation of numerous significant health-focused research projects is yielding positive results within the province. One project monitors the air quality of households in Edmonton to detect and reduce indoor pollutants (aka the volatile organic compounds or VOCs) to a minimum to detect and reduce their effect on our health. Another study investigates the chemicals in tobacco and cannabis smoke to better understand their potential dangers, including lesser-known substances. Additionally, there’s a research effort examining how using cannabis during pregnancy may affect mothers and babies.

Thanks to a successful CFI-IF grant, the Harynuk’s group just added two new instruments to their laboratory including a GC×GC-BT and a GC×GC-HRT+. This will greatly expand their capacity to support research studies and add the capacity for high-resolution accurate-mass spectrometric detection.

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