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Office of the Vice President Research

A Journal of Research and Discovery > Issue 03 > November 2007

Fighting crime with forensics

CancelLing Cancer

Research that goes from the lab to the living

From innovation to enterprise

Bridging BC’s commercialization gap

How safe is Canada’s water?

What every Canadian should know


CANADIANS USE 343 LITRES OF WATER PER PERSON, PER DAY. The Innovation Issue | November 2007

12 Sweet Justice

CSI at UBC: How David Sweet is using dental forensics to pit modern science against criminals 03 Down the Drain

Is our water as safe and as abundant as it appears to be? Karen Bakker aims to uncover the truth behind water governance in Canada

06 Target: The Big C

Martin Gleave and the Prostate Centre are focusing on translating prostate cancer research from the lab to directly affect the living

10 What lies Beneath

What lurks preserved beneath lake bottoms is giving Ian R. Walker clues on how climate may change in the future

16 Pop Art by the Pen

Frenzied facts and fictions collide as Maureen Medved takes her unconventional approach to writing from book to big screen

18 Evolution Revolution

His world is full of organisms with no names. Brian Leander is working to discover and characterize the diversity of life on Earth

20 Bridging the Commercialization Gap

Biotechnology in BC is getting a boost through the Centre for Drug Research and Development, a non-profit organization aimed at driving drug development

For those familiar with frontier, the University of British Columbia’s journal of research and discovery, you will know it showcases the many UBC researchers who impact our world and this issue is no exception. But as “The Innovation Issue” implies, we are showcasing the work of researchers who are doing things differently. Innovation can mean many things. In a traditional sense, it suggests the introduction of new ideas or methods much like the works of Brian Leander, who is actively engaged in the characterization of organisms never before seen by human eyes and Maureen Medved, whose unconventional approach to writing is pushing the boundaries of language. In a translational sense, it means the transfer of research at the university level to the public at large. Ranked number one in Canada for technology transfer according to the Milken Institute, UBC has many such examples including David Sweet’s forensic dentistry techniques, which are employed by forensic experts worldwide to prosecute criminals and Martin Gleave’s work with the Prostate Centre, where research discoveries in the lab are leading to therapeutics that improve outcomes for cancer patients. In whatever form it manifests, one thing is for sure: UBC is leading the way in innovation. Read through this issue and I am sure you will agree.

Down the Drain It’s the land of majestic mountains, lavish terrain and plentiful waters. For Canadians today, their perception of the natural bounty that surrounds them knows no bounds. But in light of recent water contamination tragedies such as Walkerton and North Battleford, Canada’s most vital resource is proving that it is not as bountiful – or safe – as it seems. Dr. Karen Bakker, Director of UBC Vancouver’s Program on Water Governance, is setting her sights on debunking the myths surrounding the abundance of Canada’s water and hoping to incite the need for change in Canadian water governance on both the provincial and federal level.

A Message From Dr. John Hepburn, Vice President Research

November 2007




CANADIANS USE 343 LITRES OF WATER PER PERSON, PER DAY. The Innovation Issue | November 2007

12 Sweet Justice

CSI at UBC: How David Sweet is using dental forensics to pit modern science against criminals 03 Down the Drain

Is our water as safe and as abundant as it appears to be? Karen Bakker aims to uncover the truth behind water governance in Canada

06 Target: The Big C

Martin Gleave and the Prostate Centre are focusing on translating prostate cancer research from the lab to directly affect the living

10 What lies Beneath

What lurks preserved beneath lake bottoms is giving Ian R. Walker clues on how climate may change in the future

16 Pop Art by the Pen

Frenzied facts and fictions collide as Maureen Medved takes her unconventional approach to writing from book to big screen

18 Evolution Revolution

His world is full of organisms with no names. Brian Leander is working to discover and characterize the diversity of life on Earth

20 Bridging the Commercialization Gap

Biotechnology in BC is getting a boost through the Centre for Drug Research and Development, a non-profit organization aimed at driving drug development

For those familiar with frontier, the University of British Columbia’s journal of research and discovery, you will know it showcases the many UBC researchers who impact our world and this issue is no exception. But as “The Innovation Issue” implies, we are showcasing the work of researchers who are doing things differently. Innovation can mean many things. In a traditional sense, it suggests the introduction of new ideas or methods much like the works of Brian Leander, who is actively engaged in the characterization of organisms never before seen by human eyes and Maureen Medved, whose unconventional approach to writing is pushing the boundaries of language. In a translational sense, it means the transfer of research at the university level to the public at large. Ranked number one in Canada for technology transfer according to the Milken Institute, UBC has many such examples including David Sweet’s forensic dentistry techniques, which are employed by forensic experts worldwide to prosecute criminals and Martin Gleave’s work with the Prostate Centre, where research discoveries in the lab are leading to therapeutics that improve outcomes for cancer patients. In whatever form it manifests, one thing is for sure: UBC is leading the way in innovation. Read through this issue and I am sure you will agree.

Down the Drain It’s the land of majestic mountains, lavish terrain and plentiful waters. For Canadians today, their perception of the natural bounty that surrounds them knows no bounds. But in light of recent water contamination tragedies such as Walkerton and North Battleford, Canada’s most vital resource is proving that it is not as bountiful – or safe – as it seems. Dr. Karen Bakker, Director of UBC Vancouver’s Program on Water Governance, is setting her sights on debunking the myths surrounding the abundance of Canada’s water and hoping to incite the need for change in Canadian water governance on both the provincial and federal level.

A Message From Dr. John Hepburn, Vice President Research

November 2007




“We tend to think Canada has 20 or 30 per cent of the world’s annual renewable fresh water supply, in fact, we have only 6.7 per cent.”

Photos> CP Images/Kevin Frayer

frontier: Why did you establish the Program on Water Governance at UBC? Karen Bakker: I set up the Program on Water Governance at UBC to bridge the gap between academia, policy-makers and practitioners. That means we focus not only on basic academic research but also on translating what is most innovative about that research beyond the university – to industry, government and civil society. It is the only water-related program I know of in Canada which links people doing basic research to people dedicated to translating that research to applied innovation that can be taken up beyond the university – policy makers, water managers, government officials. I don’t think our model is innovative for the university sector as a whole but it is unique to the water management community. A lot of the water research that has gone on in Canada has been fragmented and has not been directed on governance issues. f: Why is water research in Canada so fragmented? KB: Water by its nature is something that affects a variety of different users and communities. For example in Canada, 19 federal departments have some responsibility for water issues. That kind of fragmentation is mimicked in universities – where water research is often carried out in up to a dozen different departments. One of the first things we did in the Program on Water Governance was to create a directory of people who are working on water issues at UBC. Because water has so many facets and so many different uses from the microbiological to the macro issues, you go from biomedicine to civil engineering to history, politics and geography. When the research is done, we tend to transmit the results but there is barely any communication with end users that might enable them



November 2007

to make the links (which are critical to safe water) between different types of research results. So our program tries to play an integrating role. f: You recently published the book Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water. What has been the feedback? KB: Canadians tend to assume that we’re gentle, kind and good stewards of the environment. We assume that our water is abundant and not threatened. The arguments from this book lay out some pretty strong evidence to contradict those myths. Water is much more scarce than Canadians believe it to be, its quality is much more threatened than we understand it to be and we’ve done a poor job of managing our water resources. The response to that message has been one of concern but also support for the final message of the book. We’ve received feedback and messages of support from federal and provincial politicians, senior water managers and many water managers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). f: What is Canada’s policy on water governance? KB: There is no policy on water governance per se. The federal government has water legislation, the Canada Water Act of 1970, and has a water policy which was last updated in the 1980s. This lack of attention is a huge problem because many new issues have come to the forefront since the 1980s. Because there is very little information sharing across the provinces, we have one of the weakest, most fragmented approaches to water quality governance of all developed countries with predictable outcomes: a very high number of water boil advisories in BC every year and incidences like Walkerton and North Battleford. This lack of a coherent approach to water governance in Canada is at the root of the problem.

f: What is one thing people should know about water governance in Canada? KB: Water in Canada is not abundant. We tend to think Canada has 20 or 30 per cent of the world’s annual renewable fresh water supply when in fact; we have only 6.7 per cent, most of which is in northern Canada and far away from centres of population. Much of the southern parts of Canada, where most Canadians live, are significantly drier than the continental US. The US has the same amount of annual renewable fresh water as we do. f: Is there a global water crisis? KB: You often hear statistics that one billion people do not have access to sufficient amounts of safe water in the world. This is true. But the causes can usually be found in the water management framework that has been adopted. It is not a scarcity problem; it is a problem of competent management and appropriate governance. Most of these problems are of our own making and entirely within our control. There is no global water crisis but there are localized water crises and some of them are here in Canada but the solutions aren’t as far off as the term global water crisis might make you think. f: Why should the public care about water governance issues? KB: Healthy water is at the heart of healthy communities. If you don’t have healthy water, you don’t have healthy people and you don’t have healthy environments in which people live, work and gain both economic and spiritual benefits. Because water seems to be so abundant in Canada, we tend not to worry about it and assume it’s there for us. But it is already negatively affecting our health in some communities, and this is likely to worsen given increasing demand and also threats to supply, such as climate change.

f: What can we do collectively or as individuals to help conserve water? KB: Personal action on water stewardship doesn’t only mean

turning off the tap when you brush your teeth. It also means thinking very carefully about the ways you use water and how you dispose of things into the aquatic environment. Think of yourself as a source for pollutants that go into the environment and try to limit those pollutants, in addition to conserving water. Collectively, pressure on federal and provincial governments – directly or via NGO campaigns such as those being led by the Council of Canadians and Sierra Club – is a really important means of attempting to get water back on the political agenda. Provincial governments are doing what they can in their areas of responsibility but without some kind of broader coordination and federal action, those efforts are limited. f: What interests you about your research? KB: The endless variety and diversity of approaches to water management in the world. I do a lot of work in developing countries and the often ingenious ways people have come up with dealing with water management issues always remains a source of fascination. Dr. Karen Bakker is an Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Geography and Director of UBC’s Program on Water Governance where she regularly acts as a consultant to governments, NGOs and international development organizations. She has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Water Network, the UBC Hampton Fund, Infrastructure Canada, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, the British Academy and the European Union for her research.

November 2007




“We tend to think Canada has 20 or 30 per cent of the world’s annual renewable fresh water supply, in fact, we have only 6.7 per cent.”

Photos> CP Images/Kevin Frayer

frontier: Why did you establish the Program on Water Governance at UBC? Karen Bakker: I set up the Program on Water Governance at UBC to bridge the gap between academia, policy-makers and practitioners. That means we focus not only on basic academic research but also on translating what is most innovative about that research beyond the university – to industry, government and civil society. It is the only water-related program I know of in Canada which links people doing basic research to people dedicated to translating that research to applied innovation that can be taken up beyond the university – policy makers, water managers, government officials. I don’t think our model is innovative for the university sector as a whole but it is unique to the water management community. A lot of the water research that has gone on in Canada has been fragmented and has not been directed on governance issues. f: Why is water research in Canada so fragmented? KB: Water by its nature is something that affects a variety of different users and communities. For example in Canada, 19 federal departments have some responsibility for water issues. That kind of fragmentation is mimicked in universities – where water research is often carried out in up to a dozen different departments. One of the first things we did in the Program on Water Governance was to create a directory of people who are working on water issues at UBC. Because water has so many facets and so many different uses from the microbiological to the macro issues, you go from biomedicine to civil engineering to history, politics and geography. When the research is done, we tend to transmit the results but there is barely any communication with end users that might enable them



November 2007

to make the links (which are critical to safe water) between different types of research results. So our program tries to play an integrating role. f: You recently published the book Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water. What has been the feedback? KB: Canadians tend to assume that we’re gentle, kind and good stewards of the environment. We assume that our water is abundant and not threatened. The arguments from this book lay out some pretty strong evidence to contradict those myths. Water is much more scarce than Canadians believe it to be, its quality is much more threatened than we understand it to be and we’ve done a poor job of managing our water resources. The response to that message has been one of concern but also support for the final message of the book. We’ve received feedback and messages of support from federal and provincial politicians, senior water managers and many water managers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). f: What is Canada’s policy on water governance? KB: There is no policy on water governance per se. The federal government has water legislation, the Canada Water Act of 1970, and has a water policy which was last updated in the 1980s. This lack of attention is a huge problem because many new issues have come to the forefront since the 1980s. Because there is very little information sharing across the provinces, we have one of the weakest, most fragmented approaches to water quality governance of all developed countries with predictable outcomes: a very high number of water boil advisories in BC every year and incidences like Walkerton and North Battleford. This lack of a coherent approach to water governance in Canada is at the root of the problem.

f: What is one thing people should know about water governance in Canada? KB: Water in Canada is not abundant. We tend to think Canada has 20 or 30 per cent of the world’s annual renewable fresh water supply when in fact; we have only 6.7 per cent, most of which is in northern Canada and far away from centres of population. Much of the southern parts of Canada, where most Canadians live, are significantly drier than the continental US. The US has the same amount of annual renewable fresh water as we do. f: Is there a global water crisis? KB: You often hear statistics that one billion people do not have access to sufficient amounts of safe water in the world. This is true. But the causes can usually be found in the water management framework that has been adopted. It is not a scarcity problem; it is a problem of competent management and appropriate governance. Most of these problems are of our own making and entirely within our control. There is no global water crisis but there are localized water crises and some of them are here in Canada but the solutions aren’t as far off as the term global water crisis might make you think. f: Why should the public care about water governance issues? KB: Healthy water is at the heart of healthy communities. If you don’t have healthy water, you don’t have healthy people and you don’t have healthy environments in which people live, work and gain both economic and spiritual benefits. Because water seems to be so abundant in Canada, we tend not to worry about it and assume it’s there for us. But it is already negatively affecting our health in some communities, and this is likely to worsen given increasing demand and also threats to supply, such as climate change.

f: What can we do collectively or as individuals to help conserve water? KB: Personal action on water stewardship doesn’t only mean

turning off the tap when you brush your teeth. It also means thinking very carefully about the ways you use water and how you dispose of things into the aquatic environment. Think of yourself as a source for pollutants that go into the environment and try to limit those pollutants, in addition to conserving water. Collectively, pressure on federal and provincial governments – directly or via NGO campaigns such as those being led by the Council of Canadians and Sierra Club – is a really important means of attempting to get water back on the political agenda. Provincial governments are doing what they can in their areas of responsibility but without some kind of broader coordination and federal action, those efforts are limited. f: What interests you about your research? KB: The endless variety and diversity of approaches to water management in the world. I do a lot of work in developing countries and the often ingenious ways people have come up with dealing with water management issues always remains a source of fascination. Dr. Karen Bakker is an Associate Professor in UBC’s Department of Geography and Director of UBC’s Program on Water Governance where she regularly acts as a consultant to governments, NGOs and international development organizations. She has received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Canadian Water Network, the UBC Hampton Fund, Infrastructure Canada, the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, the British Academy and the European Union for her research.

November 2007




At the forefront of translational research, Martin Gleave and the Prostate Centre are accelerating discovery in cancer research while bringing therapeutics to patients more quickly and efficiently

Target: The Big C The year was 1966 and scientific discoveries in the lab were reaching an unprecedented height – from the first synthesis of insulin in China to the deciphering of the DNA code by an MIT biochemist to the approval of the human use of “the Pill” by the Food and Drug Administration. It was also the year that Canadian-born urologist Dr. Charles Huggins was recognized for his discovery that some cancer cells, like normal body cells, are dependent on hormonal signals to survive and grow and that by depriving cancer cells of the correct signals, the growth of the tumours could be slowed down, at least temporarily. This seminal find won Huggins the 1966 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and revolutionized modern oncology by proving that some cancers could be controlled by purely chemical means. It also left a lasting legacy in Canadian prostate cancer research that prompted many Canadian urologists to further push research to new heights of discovery – without leaving the country. Dr. Martin Gleave, UBC Vancouver Professor of Urologic Sciences and Director of the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), counts himself as one of those urologists.

“In Canada, we have a great network of uro-oncologists that really allows us to function as a team in various clinical trial networks,” says Gleave. “It also allows Canada to hit above its weight globally in prostate cancer research.” Through the Prostate Centre at VGH, Gleave, co-Directors Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Dr. Paul Rennie and their team have helped position Vancouver (and UBC) as a major hub for prostate cancer research not only in Canada but also all over the world. Now in its seventh year of operation, the centre is internationally recognized as one of the leading facilities in the research and treatment of prostate cancer. The centre’s primary focus is to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer progression and the development of treatment resistance. In order to discover new ways to inhibit the spread of the disease, Gleave and his research team investigate how cancer cells change when stressed with treatment and then study the gene that produces that particular change to determine whether cancer cells need it for growth or survival. “When we try to go in and kill cancer cells, like any living

November 2007




At the forefront of translational research, Martin Gleave and the Prostate Centre are accelerating discovery in cancer research while bringing therapeutics to patients more quickly and efficiently

Target: The Big C The year was 1966 and scientific discoveries in the lab were reaching an unprecedented height – from the first synthesis of insulin in China to the deciphering of the DNA code by an MIT biochemist to the approval of the human use of “the Pill” by the Food and Drug Administration. It was also the year that Canadian-born urologist Dr. Charles Huggins was recognized for his discovery that some cancer cells, like normal body cells, are dependent on hormonal signals to survive and grow and that by depriving cancer cells of the correct signals, the growth of the tumours could be slowed down, at least temporarily. This seminal find won Huggins the 1966 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine and revolutionized modern oncology by proving that some cancers could be controlled by purely chemical means. It also left a lasting legacy in Canadian prostate cancer research that prompted many Canadian urologists to further push research to new heights of discovery – without leaving the country. Dr. Martin Gleave, UBC Vancouver Professor of Urologic Sciences and Director of the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), counts himself as one of those urologists.

“In Canada, we have a great network of uro-oncologists that really allows us to function as a team in various clinical trial networks,” says Gleave. “It also allows Canada to hit above its weight globally in prostate cancer research.” Through the Prostate Centre at VGH, Gleave, co-Directors Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Dr. Paul Rennie and their team have helped position Vancouver (and UBC) as a major hub for prostate cancer research not only in Canada but also all over the world. Now in its seventh year of operation, the centre is internationally recognized as one of the leading facilities in the research and treatment of prostate cancer. The centre’s primary focus is to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie cancer progression and the development of treatment resistance. In order to discover new ways to inhibit the spread of the disease, Gleave and his research team investigate how cancer cells change when stressed with treatment and then study the gene that produces that particular change to determine whether cancer cells need it for growth or survival. “When we try to go in and kill cancer cells, like any living

November 2007




“When you’re dealing with advanced or recurrent cancer, we have to come up with multiple different target therapies to turn the cancer into a chronic disease that people die with rather than of.” Photo> Brian Hawkes

organism, they respond by wanting to survive. So cancer cells turn on genes that help them survive our systemic anti-cancer therapies,” says Gleave. “Through this, we’re interested in understanding what genes these cancer cells are turning on for survival and then developing inhibitors to block those survival pathways.” The research has resulted in the successful characterization of the role of several cancer survival genes such as bci-2, clusterin, HSP 27 and IGF binding proteins. Although the centre does not patent these genes, it patents the use of these genes through therapeutic inhibitors. One such inhibitor, OGX-011, is now the leading drug candidate for OncoGenex, the Vancouver-based biotech firm that Gleave founded in 2000 to patent intellectual property developed at the centre. OGX-011, which targets and inhibits the survival gene clusterin to enhance cancer cell death after chemotherapy, is currently in Phase Two clinical trials across North America and is poised to move onto registration Phase Three trials beginning in 2008. A second drug, OGX-427, which targets the survival gene HSP 27, has recently moved into its first in-man trials. In addition to his role as Director of the Prostate Centre, Gleave is Chief Scientific Officer of OncoGenex, which now has five patented products that have been out-licensed, three of which are currently moving through clinical development. The infrastructure at the Prostate Centre has helped to accelerate discovery and bring new therapeutics to patients more quickly and efficiently. It is this translational approach to research – where



November 2007

discoveries in the lab are directly translated to therapeutic developments – that has distinguished the centre from other cancer research institutes at other universities. Gleave also points to the multifaceted collaborations across disciplines and the involvement of research hospitals, academic institutions and industry, like local biotechs, Angiotech, QLT, Kinexus and major pharmaceutical companies like Aventis, Eli Lily and AstraZeneca in addition to IBM, that have helped shape the centre’s noteworthy achievements. “Part of our success is that we function as a translational cancer research program where we are intent on doing highquality discovery research but that research is a means to an end,” says Gleave. “We want to use the research to develop products to improve the outcome of patients with prostate cancer and in doing so function as a hybrid, between an academic centre and an industry, to commercialize products and enhance Canada’s economic competitiveness in the emerging biotech centres around the world.” Not only has the centre attracted national and international dollars into the province and provided a framework to discover, develop and out-license products to biotech firms like OncoGenex but it has also attracted key personnel with expertise in the industry. This level of expertise has helped BC grow the critical infrastructure necessary to be competitive in technology transfer at the academic level. The results speak for themselves: UBC is now ranked number eight in the world and number one in Canada in technology

transfer due in large part to successes like the Prostate Centre and OncoGenex. For patients currently suffering from cancer, the advantage of having this type of centre locally is more direct. By having the capacity to attract the best and brightest clinicians and researchers, patients benefit from gaining access to novel treatments that normally would have only been available at clinics elsewhere in the world. For Gleave, it is this improvement in patient treatment that ultimately drives him and his colleagues towards further discovery: “One of my dreams would be to take a discovery like we have with clusterin and HSP 27 and design and develop an inhibitor that then goes all the way to market and becomes something that prolongs life. That’s the holy grail of translational research,” he says. “When you’re dealing with advanced or recurrent cancer, people can no longer be helped by surgery and it’s too complicated to believe there is only one magic bullet. So we have to come up with multiple different target therapies to control the disease and delay progression, turn the cancer into a chronic disease that people die with rather than of.” Dr. Martin Gleave is a UBC Professor of Urologic Sciences and Director of the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). The centre has received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Terry Fox Foundation, the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC), the BC provincial government as well as numerous private funders.

November 2007




“When you’re dealing with advanced or recurrent cancer, we have to come up with multiple different target therapies to turn the cancer into a chronic disease that people die with rather than of.” Photo> Brian Hawkes

organism, they respond by wanting to survive. So cancer cells turn on genes that help them survive our systemic anti-cancer therapies,” says Gleave. “Through this, we’re interested in understanding what genes these cancer cells are turning on for survival and then developing inhibitors to block those survival pathways.” The research has resulted in the successful characterization of the role of several cancer survival genes such as bci-2, clusterin, HSP 27 and IGF binding proteins. Although the centre does not patent these genes, it patents the use of these genes through therapeutic inhibitors. One such inhibitor, OGX-011, is now the leading drug candidate for OncoGenex, the Vancouver-based biotech firm that Gleave founded in 2000 to patent intellectual property developed at the centre. OGX-011, which targets and inhibits the survival gene clusterin to enhance cancer cell death after chemotherapy, is currently in Phase Two clinical trials across North America and is poised to move onto registration Phase Three trials beginning in 2008. A second drug, OGX-427, which targets the survival gene HSP 27, has recently moved into its first in-man trials. In addition to his role as Director of the Prostate Centre, Gleave is Chief Scientific Officer of OncoGenex, which now has five patented products that have been out-licensed, three of which are currently moving through clinical development. The infrastructure at the Prostate Centre has helped to accelerate discovery and bring new therapeutics to patients more quickly and efficiently. It is this translational approach to research – where



November 2007

discoveries in the lab are directly translated to therapeutic developments – that has distinguished the centre from other cancer research institutes at other universities. Gleave also points to the multifaceted collaborations across disciplines and the involvement of research hospitals, academic institutions and industry, like local biotechs, Angiotech, QLT, Kinexus and major pharmaceutical companies like Aventis, Eli Lily and AstraZeneca in addition to IBM, that have helped shape the centre’s noteworthy achievements. “Part of our success is that we function as a translational cancer research program where we are intent on doing highquality discovery research but that research is a means to an end,” says Gleave. “We want to use the research to develop products to improve the outcome of patients with prostate cancer and in doing so function as a hybrid, between an academic centre and an industry, to commercialize products and enhance Canada’s economic competitiveness in the emerging biotech centres around the world.” Not only has the centre attracted national and international dollars into the province and provided a framework to discover, develop and out-license products to biotech firms like OncoGenex but it has also attracted key personnel with expertise in the industry. This level of expertise has helped BC grow the critical infrastructure necessary to be competitive in technology transfer at the academic level. The results speak for themselves: UBC is now ranked number eight in the world and number one in Canada in technology

transfer due in large part to successes like the Prostate Centre and OncoGenex. For patients currently suffering from cancer, the advantage of having this type of centre locally is more direct. By having the capacity to attract the best and brightest clinicians and researchers, patients benefit from gaining access to novel treatments that normally would have only been available at clinics elsewhere in the world. For Gleave, it is this improvement in patient treatment that ultimately drives him and his colleagues towards further discovery: “One of my dreams would be to take a discovery like we have with clusterin and HSP 27 and design and develop an inhibitor that then goes all the way to market and becomes something that prolongs life. That’s the holy grail of translational research,” he says. “When you’re dealing with advanced or recurrent cancer, people can no longer be helped by surgery and it’s too complicated to believe there is only one magic bullet. So we have to come up with multiple different target therapies to control the disease and delay progression, turn the cancer into a chronic disease that people die with rather than of.” Dr. Martin Gleave is a UBC Professor of Urologic Sciences and Director of the Prostate Centre at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH). The centre has received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Terry Fox Foundation, the National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC), the BC provincial government as well as numerous private funders.

November 2007




“The amount of climate change that we would observe in our lifetime isn’t very great so to understand a larger magnitude of change, you really have to look at longer records.” To the average fisherman, the mosquito-like midge – formally known as the chironomid – serves as an essential component to any well-equipped tackle box. Their plentiful numbers, which disperse most prominently near or along lakes, make them a favourite food source for a variety of freshwater fish. But to Dr. Ian R. Walker, Professor at UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, chironomids are more than just ample bait for hooking the perfect line. Scattered near the bottom of lakes and streams, their fossilized remains, preserved from thousands even millions of years ago, tell untold stories of past environmental conditions and potentially hold clues for predicting future climate change. “We rely on looking at paleoenvironmental evidence of how climate has changed to get a better perspective on how climate change has occurred in the past to then understand how it might shift in the future,” Walker says. “The amount of climate change that we would observe in our lifetime isn’t very great so to understand a larger magnitude of change, you really have to look at longer records.” Walker has dedicated nearly 25 years to investigating what secrets chironomids reveal about glacial and post-glacial environments throughout the millennia. Because their number, type and distribution are directly affected by climate changes, the larvae of chironomids are good indicators of a location’s temperature and climate. Lake sediments accumulate at a rate of about half a metre every 1,000 years, allowing the remains to preserve at an astonishing rate. Equipped with this knowledge, Walker realized early on in his academic career that mining the head parts of chironomids from core samples taken from lake bottoms could provide significant insight into climate change patterns. “I suggested one day that it would be interesting to take a core of a lake in order to analyze the remains of these insects and get an idea of how the lake had changed over time,” says Walker. “I started comparing results that I got in BC with results in New Brunswick and found that there were a lot of features in common during the period immediately following de-glaciation. It made me think of the potential relationship between these insects and climate.” What Walker found buried within the lake cores he sampled began to weave a complex tale of the climate and habitat of the living beings that inhabited the location thousands of years ago. The Okanagan Valley, where he has chosen to focus his work, has proven ripe for well-preserved midge remains due to its large diversity of lakes, which vary not only in size but also in salinity. The elevation gradients of the Okanagan’s mountains also provide generous amounts of variation in the patterns of insect distribution. In studying the midges, Walker was able to develop a mathematical

model that has the ability to assess quantitatively what the climate had been like at various times in the past. Among his discoveries are that temperatures at the end of the last glaciation (prior to 9,000 BC) were two degrees Celsius colder than now. Walker says his chironomid paleoecology research has also revealed that from about 9,000 to 6,000 BC, summer temperatures were two to three degrees warmer than today. Temperatures have been comparatively constant for the past 4,000 years, until the relatively recent warming trend began. “You can’t find out what the climate is going to be like in 50 years for certain unless you wait 50 years,” Walker says. “But you can run a climate model ‘backwards’ to simulate what the climate was like 10,000 years ago and compare that to the paleoenvironmental data and see if there is a good correspondence between the two. If there is a greater correspondence then we have greater faith in the climate model and its ability to project into the future.” With the climate change debate growing in the mainstream media, the need for insight into the human impact on ecosystems has never been more important. Although Walker has chosen to stay at the periphery of the controversy, he acknowledges that his research was among the first to point to midges as key indicators of climatic change, prompting a slew of other researchers around the world to investigate the links between water, sediments and climate change. “When I first started, there were about two or three people elsewhere in the world working on the fossil midges and now there are dozens in most countries in Western Europe and North America,” says Walker. “I was the first person to develop a mathematical model to quantitatively confirm what past climate was like based on the midges. Coincidentally, that was just around the time that people started to become concerned about environmental change.” Although sifting lake bottoms for long-dead bugs may not prove thrilling for everyone, Walker likens his research to piecing together the fragments of a complex but critical story: “It’s like a detective story. You have these little bits of clues of what happened in the past and you try to put together a story based on those little bits and pieces.” Dr. Ian R. Walker is a Professor in the Biology & Physical Geography, and the Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences units at UBC Okanagan. He has received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI), Forest Renewal BC and the BC Ministry of the Environment for his projects.

November 2007

11


“The amount of climate change that we would observe in our lifetime isn’t very great so to understand a larger magnitude of change, you really have to look at longer records.” To the average fisherman, the mosquito-like midge – formally known as the chironomid – serves as an essential component to any well-equipped tackle box. Their plentiful numbers, which disperse most prominently near or along lakes, make them a favourite food source for a variety of freshwater fish. But to Dr. Ian R. Walker, Professor at UBC Okanagan’s Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, chironomids are more than just ample bait for hooking the perfect line. Scattered near the bottom of lakes and streams, their fossilized remains, preserved from thousands even millions of years ago, tell untold stories of past environmental conditions and potentially hold clues for predicting future climate change. “We rely on looking at paleoenvironmental evidence of how climate has changed to get a better perspective on how climate change has occurred in the past to then understand how it might shift in the future,” Walker says. “The amount of climate change that we would observe in our lifetime isn’t very great so to understand a larger magnitude of change, you really have to look at longer records.” Walker has dedicated nearly 25 years to investigating what secrets chironomids reveal about glacial and post-glacial environments throughout the millennia. Because their number, type and distribution are directly affected by climate changes, the larvae of chironomids are good indicators of a location’s temperature and climate. Lake sediments accumulate at a rate of about half a metre every 1,000 years, allowing the remains to preserve at an astonishing rate. Equipped with this knowledge, Walker realized early on in his academic career that mining the head parts of chironomids from core samples taken from lake bottoms could provide significant insight into climate change patterns. “I suggested one day that it would be interesting to take a core of a lake in order to analyze the remains of these insects and get an idea of how the lake had changed over time,” says Walker. “I started comparing results that I got in BC with results in New Brunswick and found that there were a lot of features in common during the period immediately following de-glaciation. It made me think of the potential relationship between these insects and climate.” What Walker found buried within the lake cores he sampled began to weave a complex tale of the climate and habitat of the living beings that inhabited the location thousands of years ago. The Okanagan Valley, where he has chosen to focus his work, has proven ripe for well-preserved midge remains due to its large diversity of lakes, which vary not only in size but also in salinity. The elevation gradients of the Okanagan’s mountains also provide generous amounts of variation in the patterns of insect distribution. In studying the midges, Walker was able to develop a mathematical

model that has the ability to assess quantitatively what the climate had been like at various times in the past. Among his discoveries are that temperatures at the end of the last glaciation (prior to 9,000 BC) were two degrees Celsius colder than now. Walker says his chironomid paleoecology research has also revealed that from about 9,000 to 6,000 BC, summer temperatures were two to three degrees warmer than today. Temperatures have been comparatively constant for the past 4,000 years, until the relatively recent warming trend began. “You can’t find out what the climate is going to be like in 50 years for certain unless you wait 50 years,” Walker says. “But you can run a climate model ‘backwards’ to simulate what the climate was like 10,000 years ago and compare that to the paleoenvironmental data and see if there is a good correspondence between the two. If there is a greater correspondence then we have greater faith in the climate model and its ability to project into the future.” With the climate change debate growing in the mainstream media, the need for insight into the human impact on ecosystems has never been more important. Although Walker has chosen to stay at the periphery of the controversy, he acknowledges that his research was among the first to point to midges as key indicators of climatic change, prompting a slew of other researchers around the world to investigate the links between water, sediments and climate change. “When I first started, there were about two or three people elsewhere in the world working on the fossil midges and now there are dozens in most countries in Western Europe and North America,” says Walker. “I was the first person to develop a mathematical model to quantitatively confirm what past climate was like based on the midges. Coincidentally, that was just around the time that people started to become concerned about environmental change.” Although sifting lake bottoms for long-dead bugs may not prove thrilling for everyone, Walker likens his research to piecing together the fragments of a complex but critical story: “It’s like a detective story. You have these little bits of clues of what happened in the past and you try to put together a story based on those little bits and pieces.” Dr. Ian R. Walker is a Professor in the Biology & Physical Geography, and the Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences units at UBC Okanagan. He has received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation (CCFI), Forest Renewal BC and the BC Ministry of the Environment for his projects.

November 2007

11


SWEET JUSTICE

David Sweet is revolutionizing modern crime scene investigation by applying dental forensic technology to identify victims and prosecute criminals When Dr. David Sweet, Director of the Bureau of Legal Dentistry (BOLD) at UBC Vancouver, arrived at the scene of a brutal crime in 1995, he never could’ve imagined that the technique he had recently developed to earn his Ph.D. would not only provide the missing link to solving the case but would also transform the way forensic dentistry is used to bring perpetrators of violent crimes to justice. The brutality of the scene left little to the imagination that late October morning. Entangled in a myriad of weeds and branches, the body of a young woman had been found floating naked in a river. Police estimated that her remains had spent approximately five hours submerged in the river’s frigid waters. The numerous bruises, which purpled segments of her body, clearly indicated that a violent struggle had taken place. As investigators spied her remains more closely, a curious series of impressions appeared to distort the soft tissue of her skin. Within hours, these impressions were identified as bite marks – a vicious but common form of physical and sexual assault. It was at this point that Sweet, a recently graduated Ph.D. student with expertise in bite-mark analysis, was called in to recover and analyze the evidence. The frequency with which bite marks appear on victims of sexual assault or sexual homicide produced a modern approach to crime scene investigation that complemented traditional DNA analysis. Bite-mark identification involves a comparative analysis of a suspect’s teeth and the physical impressions and bruises left on the victim’s

November 2007

13


SWEET JUSTICE

David Sweet is revolutionizing modern crime scene investigation by applying dental forensic technology to identify victims and prosecute criminals When Dr. David Sweet, Director of the Bureau of Legal Dentistry (BOLD) at UBC Vancouver, arrived at the scene of a brutal crime in 1995, he never could’ve imagined that the technique he had recently developed to earn his Ph.D. would not only provide the missing link to solving the case but would also transform the way forensic dentistry is used to bring perpetrators of violent crimes to justice. The brutality of the scene left little to the imagination that late October morning. Entangled in a myriad of weeds and branches, the body of a young woman had been found floating naked in a river. Police estimated that her remains had spent approximately five hours submerged in the river’s frigid waters. The numerous bruises, which purpled segments of her body, clearly indicated that a violent struggle had taken place. As investigators spied her remains more closely, a curious series of impressions appeared to distort the soft tissue of her skin. Within hours, these impressions were identified as bite marks – a vicious but common form of physical and sexual assault. It was at this point that Sweet, a recently graduated Ph.D. student with expertise in bite-mark analysis, was called in to recover and analyze the evidence. The frequency with which bite marks appear on victims of sexual assault or sexual homicide produced a modern approach to crime scene investigation that complemented traditional DNA analysis. Bite-mark identification involves a comparative analysis of a suspect’s teeth and the physical impressions and bruises left on the victim’s

November 2007

13


Photos> David Sweet

“The traditional grants that professors rely on to fund their research is not available for forensic science in Canada.”

skin. Although proficient in this method, Sweet was frustrated with the limitations that this type of evidence posed, compelling him to search for a more effective means of analysis. “Skin is elastic, it’s distortable and it’s prone to change so I was uncomfortable in identifying one person as the biter, to the exclusion of all others, then go to court to testify this is the only person that could’ve done this,” Sweet says. “But I started to read that in the early 1990s, somebody had taken a postage stamp that had been licked onto an envelope and they were able to get DNA from this saliva.” Using this fragment of knowledge as his driving incentive, Sweet began to develop a technique that involved retrieving saliva off bite marks for his doctoral thesis. The results from the saliva swab can conclusively identify a suspect and it can work to either strengthen or refute other DNA evidence such as semen samples. Although the method was lauded by his professors and colleagues, a real-life application had yet to be tested. When Sweet was called in to investigate the bite marks on the woman’s body, the opportunity to test his technique finally materialized. “I began swabbing the woman’s bite mark for saliva but the police officers beside me were joking, ‘Doesn’t he know that she’s been in the water for over five hours? It has all washed off!’” Sweet laughs. “But I knew it was standard operating procedure and if I didn’t do it, I would have to answer in court why I didn’t do it. So I used the procedure not expecting to be successful in this particular case.”

14

November 2007

To Sweet’s surprise and delight, the evidence from the saliva on the bite mark returned packed with vital DNA information. Even though her body was in water for more than five hours, the sticky part of the saliva had kept the cells completely in tact. Investigators were then able to compare Sweet’s saliva samples with semen samples taken at the autopsy to positively identify a single suspect, who was later convicted of second-degree murder in the case. “Most doctoral students hope their research is going to be useful and they dream that it is,” said Sweet. “The very first case that I was involved in when I returned from Europe after my Ph.D. was a home run. I know that victim’s families appreciate that justice has been done because of these and other methods we have developed here at UBC have prosecuted people that were involved. There is no need to wait for the research to be used; it is used every day. I don’t think it gets any better than that.” The technique, now known as double swabbing or “Sweet swabbing,” is employed by forensic experts around the world to prosecute criminals. It is also one of the innovative techniques that have put Sweet and UBC’s BOLD laboratory on the forensic dentistry map. Opened in 1996 through a $500,000 grant from the BC provincial government, BOLD is Canada’s first facility devoted exclusively to police work, research and instruction in the use of forensic odontology, or the science of victim identification using dental characteristics for crime investigation and prosecution. Sweet has taken the techniques he developed at BOLD to impact

more than 700 forensic cases from the Pickton murder trial in Vancouver to the tsunami disaster in Thailand. In fact, most teeth and bones found in Canada that are used for DNA analysis are sent to BOLD for processing using a technique Sweet developed called cryogenic grinding, which involves extraction of DNA from hard tissues inside teeth or bone: “I hypothesized that if you make teeth into particles instead of a single entity, it will be far easier to find and extract the DNA from each one of those cells embedded inside the tooth,” explains Sweet. “If we pulverize the tooth, these cells will be at the surface. Then you open up the cell and take out the DNA so it’s a very common sense and straightforward procedure.” Sweet’s contributions to the field of forensic dentistry have not gone unnoticed by the international community. After leading the Canadian forensic dentistry Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team in the successful identification of all Canadian victims in the tsunami disaster, Sweet was named chief scientist for Interpol’s DVI Standing Committee, a role he was elected to by its members. But despite pioneering innovative technology that is used around the world, the BOLD lab still has an uphill battle when it comes to securing its existence on a year-to-year basis. Sweet estimates that BOLD needs at least $150,000 each year to stay in operation but because traditional science does not support death investigation and related forensic research, applying for grants like other professors isn’t an option.

“The traditional grants that professors rely on to fund their research is not available for forensic science in Canada,” Sweet comments. “We don’t have a national institute of justice like the US that supports this kind of research. And because it’s not basic science or medical research, it’s not funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).” As a result, Sweet and the BOLD lab have developed an innovative business model that relies on fee-for-service casework. Because BOLD has technologies and services that aren’t available anywhere else in the world, the service component of the lab is never without work. Municipal, national and international police agencies and others have started to rely on BOLD to answer critical questions that arise at the crime scene. In order to balance casework with research, the lab has had to work long hours and take on extra casework, which puts a strain on human resources, limits new funding opportunities and makes it nearly impossible to keep up with current technology. Even so, Sweet remains consistently humble and optimistic about BOLD’s future: “I am very proud of the fact that my lab is a shining example of the trident approach that every university tries to impress upon every faculty member: research, teaching and service. I am involved in all of those areas in a very big way. What better role can a university professor play than developing technology the scientific community, students and public can appreciate and use?”

November 2007

15


Photos> David Sweet

“The traditional grants that professors rely on to fund their research is not available for forensic science in Canada.”

skin. Although proficient in this method, Sweet was frustrated with the limitations that this type of evidence posed, compelling him to search for a more effective means of analysis. “Skin is elastic, it’s distortable and it’s prone to change so I was uncomfortable in identifying one person as the biter, to the exclusion of all others, then go to court to testify this is the only person that could’ve done this,” Sweet says. “But I started to read that in the early 1990s, somebody had taken a postage stamp that had been licked onto an envelope and they were able to get DNA from this saliva.” Using this fragment of knowledge as his driving incentive, Sweet began to develop a technique that involved retrieving saliva off bite marks for his doctoral thesis. The results from the saliva swab can conclusively identify a suspect and it can work to either strengthen or refute other DNA evidence such as semen samples. Although the method was lauded by his professors and colleagues, a real-life application had yet to be tested. When Sweet was called in to investigate the bite marks on the woman’s body, the opportunity to test his technique finally materialized. “I began swabbing the woman’s bite mark for saliva but the police officers beside me were joking, ‘Doesn’t he know that she’s been in the water for over five hours? It has all washed off!’” Sweet laughs. “But I knew it was standard operating procedure and if I didn’t do it, I would have to answer in court why I didn’t do it. So I used the procedure not expecting to be successful in this particular case.”

14

November 2007

To Sweet’s surprise and delight, the evidence from the saliva on the bite mark returned packed with vital DNA information. Even though her body was in water for more than five hours, the sticky part of the saliva had kept the cells completely in tact. Investigators were then able to compare Sweet’s saliva samples with semen samples taken at the autopsy to positively identify a single suspect, who was later convicted of second-degree murder in the case. “Most doctoral students hope their research is going to be useful and they dream that it is,” said Sweet. “The very first case that I was involved in when I returned from Europe after my Ph.D. was a home run. I know that victim’s families appreciate that justice has been done because of these and other methods we have developed here at UBC have prosecuted people that were involved. There is no need to wait for the research to be used; it is used every day. I don’t think it gets any better than that.” The technique, now known as double swabbing or “Sweet swabbing,” is employed by forensic experts around the world to prosecute criminals. It is also one of the innovative techniques that have put Sweet and UBC’s BOLD laboratory on the forensic dentistry map. Opened in 1996 through a $500,000 grant from the BC provincial government, BOLD is Canada’s first facility devoted exclusively to police work, research and instruction in the use of forensic odontology, or the science of victim identification using dental characteristics for crime investigation and prosecution. Sweet has taken the techniques he developed at BOLD to impact

more than 700 forensic cases from the Pickton murder trial in Vancouver to the tsunami disaster in Thailand. In fact, most teeth and bones found in Canada that are used for DNA analysis are sent to BOLD for processing using a technique Sweet developed called cryogenic grinding, which involves extraction of DNA from hard tissues inside teeth or bone: “I hypothesized that if you make teeth into particles instead of a single entity, it will be far easier to find and extract the DNA from each one of those cells embedded inside the tooth,” explains Sweet. “If we pulverize the tooth, these cells will be at the surface. Then you open up the cell and take out the DNA so it’s a very common sense and straightforward procedure.” Sweet’s contributions to the field of forensic dentistry have not gone unnoticed by the international community. After leading the Canadian forensic dentistry Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team in the successful identification of all Canadian victims in the tsunami disaster, Sweet was named chief scientist for Interpol’s DVI Standing Committee, a role he was elected to by its members. But despite pioneering innovative technology that is used around the world, the BOLD lab still has an uphill battle when it comes to securing its existence on a year-to-year basis. Sweet estimates that BOLD needs at least $150,000 each year to stay in operation but because traditional science does not support death investigation and related forensic research, applying for grants like other professors isn’t an option.

“The traditional grants that professors rely on to fund their research is not available for forensic science in Canada,” Sweet comments. “We don’t have a national institute of justice like the US that supports this kind of research. And because it’s not basic science or medical research, it’s not funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).” As a result, Sweet and the BOLD lab have developed an innovative business model that relies on fee-for-service casework. Because BOLD has technologies and services that aren’t available anywhere else in the world, the service component of the lab is never without work. Municipal, national and international police agencies and others have started to rely on BOLD to answer critical questions that arise at the crime scene. In order to balance casework with research, the lab has had to work long hours and take on extra casework, which puts a strain on human resources, limits new funding opportunities and makes it nearly impossible to keep up with current technology. Even so, Sweet remains consistently humble and optimistic about BOLD’s future: “I am very proud of the fact that my lab is a shining example of the trident approach that every university tries to impress upon every faculty member: research, teaching and service. I am involved in all of those areas in a very big way. What better role can a university professor play than developing technology the scientific community, students and public can appreciate and use?”

November 2007

15


From subverting language and form in screenplays, monologues and novels, Maureen Medved reveals the wonders of wordplay and how it has shaped her storytelling career Maureen Medved, Assistant Professor at UBC Vancouver’s Creative Writing Program, never thought of herself as a writer. In fact, her writing career began without much writing at all. But whether through performance monologues, fiction novels, theatrical plays or movie screenplays, it is Medved’s role as a storyteller that has prompted her to explore unconventional approaches to writing– approaches that allow her to push the boundaries of language in distinct and often imaginative ways. “Some people say that my stories don’t have a traditional structure but actually they do, I just like to subvert them,” she says. “They’re told in a way that even Aristotle, if he were around, would say she knows my work. The reason that I subvert form isn’t just to be an innovator but because this is the way this character would tell the story – it’s organic to the character.” This emphasis on character development inspired Medved to pick up the pen to begin her storytelling career – first as a performance artist. She began writing monologues based on characters she invented and episodes in their lives, which she performed in public spaces like art galleries and nightclubs. But her storytelling soon evolved to move from performance to page. Focusing on one of her monologue characters named Tracey Berkowitz, Medved embarked on her first foray into novel writing. “I was very influenced by coming-of-age stories that I had read as a child about teenage boys that were going through adventures like Catcher in the Rye,” says Medved. “I remember at that stage searching for stories told from a female perspective that were edgy and about taking huge physical and emotional risks and not being able to find them. I felt that the feelings I was having at the time were not being expressed in the books that I was reading.”

“The reason that I subvert form isn’t just to be an innovator but because this is the way this character would tell the story – it’s organic to the character.” The result of this exhaustive search was Medved’s own first novel entitled The Tracey Fragments. A blend of frantic facts and fictions, the book takes readers on a journey into the shattered psyche of a 15-year old girl who is on the verge of imploding. Although the novel wasn’t autobiographical, the Tracey character became Medved’s spokesperson for the frustrations of being young, female, angry and passionate. The Tracey Fragments may have been written following a conventional storytelling trajectory but Medved’s approach to telling Tracey’s story was less than conventional. Concentrating on the natural poetry of everyday speech, Medved took what would normally be subconscious thoughts of a character and made them conscious to the reader – no matter how disjointed they may seem. Because of her familiarity with screen and stage writing, Medved

also began envisioning how the events of the novel would play out as a movie while she was writing the novel – something she admits most writers don’t even consider until well after publication. While most novels are optioned by producers who hire others to write the screenplay, Medved was resolute about writing the adaptation herself and pretended the novel didn’t exist in order to bring it to life on the screen: “Books are a very internal form. Film is a visual art – it’s like a visual form of storytelling. But I envisioned the film as I was writing the novel so I knew I had to write the screenplay. I wanted to capture the essence of the book without sticking to the book so I actually wrote things into the screenplay that weren’t even in the book.” Nearly 10 years since its original publication date, The Tracey Fragments premiered to audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival in early 2007. There, the film and its director Bruce McDonald were awarded the Manfred Salzgeber Award Prize for the most innovative feature film of the year. Like the novel, the film adaptation takes an unusual approach to visual storytelling by using multiframe, a filming technique that has been described by some as “a pop art explosion.” With The Tracey Fragments moving on to its North American premiere, Medved has set her sights on completing a new novel. Although reluctant to reveal too much, she describes the book as another character study about a woman in her middle years who has her own kind of crisis that she’s working through. “The person that I’m working with right now is a very quiet and introverted person who in mid-life, is finally ready to burst open,” she says. “All my stories begin with characters who are in the middle of a crisis. I want to speak for a character who normally doesn’t have a voice to speak – somebody who is on the fringes of society. By fringes, I mean someone whose voice isn’t normally heard or others don’t pay attention to that person. That’s the kind of person who speaks to me.” As a published writer, Medved knows the impact that a relatable character has, particularly when she receives feedback about one of her characters that has touched something within a reader. As such, Medved steadfastly champions the vital role that storytelling plays in research: “I think stories are as important as anything else we could be learning about because it’s feeding the human soul. Every single person in the world is walking around with his or her own narrative. Narrative and storytelling isn’t the prerogative of a few, it’s part of our DNA. It’s an integral part of who we are as humans.” The film adaptation of The Tracey Fragments is set to make its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007 and stars Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men 3). First published in 1998, the novel The Tracey Fragments will be re-released by House of Anansi Press to coincide with the film’s Canadian release in the fall. Les Allusifs is publishing a French language version of the book, which should also be available in the fall. She has received funding from Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

November 2007

17


From subverting language and form in screenplays, monologues and novels, Maureen Medved reveals the wonders of wordplay and how it has shaped her storytelling career Maureen Medved, Assistant Professor at UBC Vancouver’s Creative Writing Program, never thought of herself as a writer. In fact, her writing career began without much writing at all. But whether through performance monologues, fiction novels, theatrical plays or movie screenplays, it is Medved’s role as a storyteller that has prompted her to explore unconventional approaches to writing– approaches that allow her to push the boundaries of language in distinct and often imaginative ways. “Some people say that my stories don’t have a traditional structure but actually they do, I just like to subvert them,” she says. “They’re told in a way that even Aristotle, if he were around, would say she knows my work. The reason that I subvert form isn’t just to be an innovator but because this is the way this character would tell the story – it’s organic to the character.” This emphasis on character development inspired Medved to pick up the pen to begin her storytelling career – first as a performance artist. She began writing monologues based on characters she invented and episodes in their lives, which she performed in public spaces like art galleries and nightclubs. But her storytelling soon evolved to move from performance to page. Focusing on one of her monologue characters named Tracey Berkowitz, Medved embarked on her first foray into novel writing. “I was very influenced by coming-of-age stories that I had read as a child about teenage boys that were going through adventures like Catcher in the Rye,” says Medved. “I remember at that stage searching for stories told from a female perspective that were edgy and about taking huge physical and emotional risks and not being able to find them. I felt that the feelings I was having at the time were not being expressed in the books that I was reading.”

“The reason that I subvert form isn’t just to be an innovator but because this is the way this character would tell the story – it’s organic to the character.” The result of this exhaustive search was Medved’s own first novel entitled The Tracey Fragments. A blend of frantic facts and fictions, the book takes readers on a journey into the shattered psyche of a 15-year old girl who is on the verge of imploding. Although the novel wasn’t autobiographical, the Tracey character became Medved’s spokesperson for the frustrations of being young, female, angry and passionate. The Tracey Fragments may have been written following a conventional storytelling trajectory but Medved’s approach to telling Tracey’s story was less than conventional. Concentrating on the natural poetry of everyday speech, Medved took what would normally be subconscious thoughts of a character and made them conscious to the reader – no matter how disjointed they may seem. Because of her familiarity with screen and stage writing, Medved

also began envisioning how the events of the novel would play out as a movie while she was writing the novel – something she admits most writers don’t even consider until well after publication. While most novels are optioned by producers who hire others to write the screenplay, Medved was resolute about writing the adaptation herself and pretended the novel didn’t exist in order to bring it to life on the screen: “Books are a very internal form. Film is a visual art – it’s like a visual form of storytelling. But I envisioned the film as I was writing the novel so I knew I had to write the screenplay. I wanted to capture the essence of the book without sticking to the book so I actually wrote things into the screenplay that weren’t even in the book.” Nearly 10 years since its original publication date, The Tracey Fragments premiered to audiences at the Berlin International Film Festival in early 2007. There, the film and its director Bruce McDonald were awarded the Manfred Salzgeber Award Prize for the most innovative feature film of the year. Like the novel, the film adaptation takes an unusual approach to visual storytelling by using multiframe, a filming technique that has been described by some as “a pop art explosion.” With The Tracey Fragments moving on to its North American premiere, Medved has set her sights on completing a new novel. Although reluctant to reveal too much, she describes the book as another character study about a woman in her middle years who has her own kind of crisis that she’s working through. “The person that I’m working with right now is a very quiet and introverted person who in mid-life, is finally ready to burst open,” she says. “All my stories begin with characters who are in the middle of a crisis. I want to speak for a character who normally doesn’t have a voice to speak – somebody who is on the fringes of society. By fringes, I mean someone whose voice isn’t normally heard or others don’t pay attention to that person. That’s the kind of person who speaks to me.” As a published writer, Medved knows the impact that a relatable character has, particularly when she receives feedback about one of her characters that has touched something within a reader. As such, Medved steadfastly champions the vital role that storytelling plays in research: “I think stories are as important as anything else we could be learning about because it’s feeding the human soul. Every single person in the world is walking around with his or her own narrative. Narrative and storytelling isn’t the prerogative of a few, it’s part of our DNA. It’s an integral part of who we are as humans.” The film adaptation of The Tracey Fragments is set to make its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2007 and stars Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men 3). First published in 1998, the novel The Tracey Fragments will be re-released by House of Anansi Press to coincide with the film’s Canadian release in the fall. Les Allusifs is publishing a French language version of the book, which should also be available in the fall. She has received funding from Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), the BC Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

November 2007

17


far-removed from the human scale of ordinary experiences,” says Leander. “By investigating these groups, we’re finding out that our traditional notions are wrong. This is resulting in a complete dismantling of the plant-animal concept which will have a major ripple effect on our overall understanding of phylogenic relationships.” Fueling this breakdown of the traditional

apicomplexan parasites that infect vertebrates are more closely related to each other than to marine gregarines. Accordingly, treatments of Cryptosporidium infections have usually involved drugs known to work on other apicomplexan parasites of vertebrates, namely, coccidians, but these drugs have shown to be totally ineffective. Our work is showing that

between cells is not so strong in these species, we can reconstruct the intermediate stages that occurred as part of the process of evolving highly integrated structures.” By exploring organismal diversity and reconstructing how certain character states evolved over time through detailed comparative analyses of morphological features and gene sequences, Leander’s

“Understanding how cells came together to form a larger individual organism gives us great insight into how our own bodies evolved and work now.”

Photos> Brian Leander

Brian Leander is exploring the hidden world of microbial life and redefining traditional scientific taxonomy in the process

Peering down his microscope, Dr. Brian Leander, Assistant Professor of Zoology and Botany at UBC Vancouver, eavesdrops intently on a hidden and foreign world – one that defies ordinary human experiences. This is the world inhabited by microscopic, primarily single-celled organisms, which are easily the most diverse and abundant life forms on the planet. Although microbial organisms are generally assumed to be fairly simple in form, the microbes that Leander works on tend to have extremely complicated shapes and sizes. “We’re at the edge of knowledge because we’re looking at organisms people have never even dreamed of or couldn’t

18

November 2007

revolution

evolution

even dream of. If you look at a movie like Monsters Inc., you see all sorts of creatures built from familiar things pieced together in strange ways – a variety of eyes, arms and maybe an octopus tentacle or two. The things we’re describing go beyond that limited field of human imagination.” Working at the microscopic level gives Leander a sense of the structures and processes that are fundamental to all life, ranging from relatively complex forms to simpler, more streamlined forms. By identifying shared characteristics that unify diverse groups of species, like the wings of insects or the feathers of birds for example, Leander works to untangle the complicated,

and often convoluted, evolutionary histories that gave rise to those characteristics in an effort to understand some of the deepest relationships of life. But while fascinating to observe, Leander is usually confronted with the puzzling conundrum of how to classify organisms that appear, by all accounts, to defy all traditional scientific taxonomy. “If you look at the history of scientific classification, most people are inclined to pigeonhole [eukaryotic] life into one of two familiar categories: plants or animals. But there are about thirty other groups of eukaryotes out there that are just as dissimilar as plants are to animals – and they’re thriving at a microscopic scale that is

scientific naming system is Leander’s work on convergent evolution, or how fundamentally different lineages of eukaryotic life have developed (superficially) similar features in response to similar environmental conditions over long periods of time. Understanding convergent evolution is critical for inferring broad patterns of organismal diversification (macroevolution) and for recognizing the fundamental biological problems that organisms face on Earth (natural selection) and the ways that different groups of organisms have solved them. Research in the Leander lab is uncovering several interesting examples of convergence at the cellular level in a variety of marine environments involving predatory, photosynthetic and parasitic organisms. Work on marine parasites, for instance, is providing solid evidence for how different lineages of parasites took independent routes to the same hosts and converged on some similar characters. One particular example relates to the parasite Cryptosporidium, which infects the intestinal systems of livestock and humans, has the potential to kill hosts with compromised immune systems and is infamous as a causative agent of disease outbreaks associated with contaminated public water supplies. Leander explains: “A large group of eukaryotes – called the Apicomplexa – contains both gregarines, which are parasites of marine invertebrates and insects, and several important parasites of terrestrial vertebrates, including humans (e.g. Plasmodium and Cryptosporidium). The general paradigm is that the

Cryptosporidium is only very distantly related to other terrestrial parasites and appears to be an independent offshoot of marine gregarines. Therefore, this emerging phylogenetic context indicates that there are bigger biological differences between Cryptosporidium and other terrestrial apicomplexans than what has been previously assumed, and this helps explain why the anti-coccidial drugs used to try and kill Cryptosporidium aren’t working.” Leander stresses that the primary aim of his lab is not to look at Cryptosporidium in the hopes of developing drug targets that would kill these parasites in humans. However, he acknowledges that his research on marine relatives could serve as a means to this end by giving biomedical researchers the context needed to pursue these targets independently. Instead, Leander stays focused on the science of biodiversity and evolutionary biology and his work provides a wide range of insights that influence the way we think about our relationship to the rest of nature. “Our research sits in the nexus between the origin of the cell and the many different origins of multicellularity. As humans, we want to understand how our highly multicellular bodies came to be, how our cells interact with each other and how disorders in human bodies come and go. Understanding how cells came together to form a larger individual organism gives us great insight into how our own bodies evolved and work now. Several less differentiated organisms offer relatively straightforward models to address these questions. Because the degree of integration

overall goal is to make significant contributions to an all-species Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org). This research is also intended to provide compelling evidence for historical transformations in morphological form that are associated with major transitions in the evolution of life. Although his research often leads to many perplexing sources of data, it is Leander’s curiosity that ultimately drives his exploration into the relatively hidden and foreign world dominated by microbes and that leads him to discover unconventional sources of knowledge. “On one level, convergent evolution at the cellular level is a nuisance because it hinders our ability to interpret the fossil record and to understand who is related to whom, which then muddles with the accuracy of our scientific system of names. On the other hand, convergent evolution is fantastic because it informs us about the selective forces operating at microbial scales and broad patterns of macroevolution during the earliest stages of Earth’s history.” Brian Leander is a CIFAR Scholar and Tula-CMDE Investigator. His work is also funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the National Science Foundation (USA), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Through programs like the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR – Integrated Microbial Biodiversity) and the Tula Foundation’s Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution (CMDE), Canada is among the strongest groups of people in the world focused on microbial diversity.

November 2007

19


far-removed from the human scale of ordinary experiences,” says Leander. “By investigating these groups, we’re finding out that our traditional notions are wrong. This is resulting in a complete dismantling of the plant-animal concept which will have a major ripple effect on our overall understanding of phylogenic relationships.” Fueling this breakdown of the traditional

apicomplexan parasites that infect vertebrates are more closely related to each other than to marine gregarines. Accordingly, treatments of Cryptosporidium infections have usually involved drugs known to work on other apicomplexan parasites of vertebrates, namely, coccidians, but these drugs have shown to be totally ineffective. Our work is showing that

between cells is not so strong in these species, we can reconstruct the intermediate stages that occurred as part of the process of evolving highly integrated structures.” By exploring organismal diversity and reconstructing how certain character states evolved over time through detailed comparative analyses of morphological features and gene sequences, Leander’s

“Understanding how cells came together to form a larger individual organism gives us great insight into how our own bodies evolved and work now.”

Photos> Brian Leander

Brian Leander is exploring the hidden world of microbial life and redefining traditional scientific taxonomy in the process

Peering down his microscope, Dr. Brian Leander, Assistant Professor of Zoology and Botany at UBC Vancouver, eavesdrops intently on a hidden and foreign world – one that defies ordinary human experiences. This is the world inhabited by microscopic, primarily single-celled organisms, which are easily the most diverse and abundant life forms on the planet. Although microbial organisms are generally assumed to be fairly simple in form, the microbes that Leander works on tend to have extremely complicated shapes and sizes. “We’re at the edge of knowledge because we’re looking at organisms people have never even dreamed of or couldn’t

18

November 2007

revolution

evolution

even dream of. If you look at a movie like Monsters Inc., you see all sorts of creatures built from familiar things pieced together in strange ways – a variety of eyes, arms and maybe an octopus tentacle or two. The things we’re describing go beyond that limited field of human imagination.” Working at the microscopic level gives Leander a sense of the structures and processes that are fundamental to all life, ranging from relatively complex forms to simpler, more streamlined forms. By identifying shared characteristics that unify diverse groups of species, like the wings of insects or the feathers of birds for example, Leander works to untangle the complicated,

and often convoluted, evolutionary histories that gave rise to those characteristics in an effort to understand some of the deepest relationships of life. But while fascinating to observe, Leander is usually confronted with the puzzling conundrum of how to classify organisms that appear, by all accounts, to defy all traditional scientific taxonomy. “If you look at the history of scientific classification, most people are inclined to pigeonhole [eukaryotic] life into one of two familiar categories: plants or animals. But there are about thirty other groups of eukaryotes out there that are just as dissimilar as plants are to animals – and they’re thriving at a microscopic scale that is

scientific naming system is Leander’s work on convergent evolution, or how fundamentally different lineages of eukaryotic life have developed (superficially) similar features in response to similar environmental conditions over long periods of time. Understanding convergent evolution is critical for inferring broad patterns of organismal diversification (macroevolution) and for recognizing the fundamental biological problems that organisms face on Earth (natural selection) and the ways that different groups of organisms have solved them. Research in the Leander lab is uncovering several interesting examples of convergence at the cellular level in a variety of marine environments involving predatory, photosynthetic and parasitic organisms. Work on marine parasites, for instance, is providing solid evidence for how different lineages of parasites took independent routes to the same hosts and converged on some similar characters. One particular example relates to the parasite Cryptosporidium, which infects the intestinal systems of livestock and humans, has the potential to kill hosts with compromised immune systems and is infamous as a causative agent of disease outbreaks associated with contaminated public water supplies. Leander explains: “A large group of eukaryotes – called the Apicomplexa – contains both gregarines, which are parasites of marine invertebrates and insects, and several important parasites of terrestrial vertebrates, including humans (e.g. Plasmodium and Cryptosporidium). The general paradigm is that the

Cryptosporidium is only very distantly related to other terrestrial parasites and appears to be an independent offshoot of marine gregarines. Therefore, this emerging phylogenetic context indicates that there are bigger biological differences between Cryptosporidium and other terrestrial apicomplexans than what has been previously assumed, and this helps explain why the anti-coccidial drugs used to try and kill Cryptosporidium aren’t working.” Leander stresses that the primary aim of his lab is not to look at Cryptosporidium in the hopes of developing drug targets that would kill these parasites in humans. However, he acknowledges that his research on marine relatives could serve as a means to this end by giving biomedical researchers the context needed to pursue these targets independently. Instead, Leander stays focused on the science of biodiversity and evolutionary biology and his work provides a wide range of insights that influence the way we think about our relationship to the rest of nature. “Our research sits in the nexus between the origin of the cell and the many different origins of multicellularity. As humans, we want to understand how our highly multicellular bodies came to be, how our cells interact with each other and how disorders in human bodies come and go. Understanding how cells came together to form a larger individual organism gives us great insight into how our own bodies evolved and work now. Several less differentiated organisms offer relatively straightforward models to address these questions. Because the degree of integration

overall goal is to make significant contributions to an all-species Encyclopedia of Life (www.eol.org). This research is also intended to provide compelling evidence for historical transformations in morphological form that are associated with major transitions in the evolution of life. Although his research often leads to many perplexing sources of data, it is Leander’s curiosity that ultimately drives his exploration into the relatively hidden and foreign world dominated by microbes and that leads him to discover unconventional sources of knowledge. “On one level, convergent evolution at the cellular level is a nuisance because it hinders our ability to interpret the fossil record and to understand who is related to whom, which then muddles with the accuracy of our scientific system of names. On the other hand, convergent evolution is fantastic because it informs us about the selective forces operating at microbial scales and broad patterns of macroevolution during the earliest stages of Earth’s history.” Brian Leander is a CIFAR Scholar and Tula-CMDE Investigator. His work is also funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the National Science Foundation (USA), and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Through programs like the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR – Integrated Microbial Biodiversity) and the Tula Foundation’s Centre for Microbial Diversity and Evolution (CMDE), Canada is among the strongest groups of people in the world focused on microbial diversity.

November 2007

19


One part research infrastructure, one part commercial enterprise, the Centre for Drug Research and Development is taking a unique approach to helping develop BC’s burgeoning biotech industry

Dr. Sandra Dunn, an Assistant Professor at UBC Vancouver’s Department of Pediatrics, Experimental Medicine and Medical Genetics, knew her research had stumbled onto something extraordinary when she discovered a new protein that cancer cells absolutely require in order to survive. By inhibiting the activation pathway of this protein, cancer cells could effectively be destroyed, all without disrupting healthy cells in the process. The challenge was finding an effective means to block that pathway: an objective that required considerable expertise in chemistry. Without an inhibitor, Dunn could not secure the funding to advance her research to the next level. Even despite a significant effort and the promise her discovery held, her request for a proofof-principle grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was turned down. With help from UBC’s University-Industry Liaison Office (UILO), Dunn met with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) executives Dr. Pieter Cullis and Natalie Dakers who introduced her to a collaboration with Dr. Marco Ciufolini, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at UBC and head of the Division of Drug Design and Synthesis at CDRD. With a track record in creating complex molecules and in developing new medicines, especially anti-cancer agents, Ciufolini started to formulate a solution based upon the location of key amino acids in Dunn’s newly discovered protein. Having overcome the first research obstacle, Dunn, Ciufolini and Dr. Martin Gleave, Director of the Prostate Cancer Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, jointly re-applied to CIHR. Within six months, the team received a $150,000 grant which has since significantly advanced the research, producing the first-ever inhibitors for Dunn’s protein. The new compounds first saw light in Ciufolini’s laboratory and then were evaluated in Dunn’s laboratory. “This story is a classic example of how we see CDRD working,” says Natalie Dakers, CEO of CDRD. “We have the resources, expertise, contacts and collaborative opportunities needed to make an idea more competitive, allowing researchers to secure the funding necessary to advance their idea.” Supported by universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes and several biotechnology companies in BC, CDRD is a hybrid non-profit organization that integrates an academic research infrastructure with a private company focused on drug commercialization. The Drug Research Institute (DRI) is the

November 2007

21


One part research infrastructure, one part commercial enterprise, the Centre for Drug Research and Development is taking a unique approach to helping develop BC’s burgeoning biotech industry

Dr. Sandra Dunn, an Assistant Professor at UBC Vancouver’s Department of Pediatrics, Experimental Medicine and Medical Genetics, knew her research had stumbled onto something extraordinary when she discovered a new protein that cancer cells absolutely require in order to survive. By inhibiting the activation pathway of this protein, cancer cells could effectively be destroyed, all without disrupting healthy cells in the process. The challenge was finding an effective means to block that pathway: an objective that required considerable expertise in chemistry. Without an inhibitor, Dunn could not secure the funding to advance her research to the next level. Even despite a significant effort and the promise her discovery held, her request for a proofof-principle grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was turned down. With help from UBC’s University-Industry Liaison Office (UILO), Dunn met with the Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) executives Dr. Pieter Cullis and Natalie Dakers who introduced her to a collaboration with Dr. Marco Ciufolini, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at UBC and head of the Division of Drug Design and Synthesis at CDRD. With a track record in creating complex molecules and in developing new medicines, especially anti-cancer agents, Ciufolini started to formulate a solution based upon the location of key amino acids in Dunn’s newly discovered protein. Having overcome the first research obstacle, Dunn, Ciufolini and Dr. Martin Gleave, Director of the Prostate Cancer Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, jointly re-applied to CIHR. Within six months, the team received a $150,000 grant which has since significantly advanced the research, producing the first-ever inhibitors for Dunn’s protein. The new compounds first saw light in Ciufolini’s laboratory and then were evaluated in Dunn’s laboratory. “This story is a classic example of how we see CDRD working,” says Natalie Dakers, CEO of CDRD. “We have the resources, expertise, contacts and collaborative opportunities needed to make an idea more competitive, allowing researchers to secure the funding necessary to advance their idea.” Supported by universities, teaching hospitals, research institutes and several biotechnology companies in BC, CDRD is a hybrid non-profit organization that integrates an academic research infrastructure with a private company focused on drug commercialization. The Drug Research Institute (DRI) is the

November 2007

21


“Investors are looking for a much lower risk when investing in these early-stage ideas. CDRD helps researchers get over this proof-of-concept stage by helping them advance their discoveries to a point where the investment risk is minimized.”

newswire research arm of CDRD and focuses on enabling BC researchers to further develop promising early-stage discoveries. The commercialization arm of CDRD is DDI Drug Development Inc. (DDI), which advances ideas assisted by CDRD by either licensing these discoveries to existing companies or helping create spin-off companies based on the discovery. It also generates income to provide CDRD with long-term self-sustainability. Originally conceived by UBC’s Dr. Pieter Cullis and Dr. David Dolphin, the concept for CDRD came in response to the need to address the growing commercialization gap between early- and later-stage drug developments. As a result of the high-tech market collapse in 2000, venture capitalists have become hesitant to inject serious dollars into early-stage technology unless the drug has advanced to clinical trials. But advancing a drug to clinical trials can only be achieved by developing its early-stage research, leaving many researchers in a catch-22. “We have great science in the province. BC has three of the profitable biotech companies out of 20 worldwide. But investors are looking for a much lower risk when investing in these earlystage ideas,” says Dakers. “That’s where CDRD comes in. We help researchers get over the proof-of-concept stage by helping them advance their discoveries to a point where the investment risk is minimized. Without CDRD, we are really concerned about how these ideas can move forward.” As a result, CDRD declares its primary operating goal is to provide a collaborative platform that makes research facilities, expertise and resources available to all BC researchers. This infrastructure will then help mature technologies developed at CDRD’s research institutes to a point where they are able to attract investors’ interest, and then be commercialized by the private sector. According to Dakers, collaboration on multiple levels is at the heart of what makes CDRD the only centre of its kind in Canada in that it provides the hub of a research facility where scientists can connect to and benefit from expertise and drug development infrastructure not readily accessible in the province. Dakers stresses that CDRD is a complement not a competitor to existing technology transfer offices like UBC’s UILO, which protects intellectual property developed at UBC and manages the licensing of the technology. “CDRD is not a granting agency

22

November 2007

so it does not evaluate projects to give funds out,” says Dakers. “Rather, CDRD provides expertise in the form of grant facilitation, project management and technical experience.” So far, the response to CDRD has been one of overwhelming support. In April 2007, the Province of BC provided an unprecedented $25 million in operating funds, which secured the official launch of the organization this year. To date, Dakers says CDRD has raised a total of $60 million, which is just about halfway towards its total funding requirements. Those funds will immediately be directed towards hiring 30 new employees by the end of the year and providing support to get the laboratories up and running. “It’s not just having the equipment,” says Dakers. “It’s about having experienced people associated with that equipment to really have it work.” In five years, Dakers and the CDRD team hope to have several new companies created, significant partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry including licenses signed and a fully operational centre that is facilitating 30 to 40 projects in CDRD and supporting 10 technologies in the DDI pipeline on an annual basis. CDRD is also looking forward to securing a permanent home in a proposed new building for UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a project that is a top priority for UBC. Although now a regional centre that incorporates multiple partnerships with its affiliated institutions across BC, CDRD credits UBC as a founding institution that has been instrumental in getting the concept off the ground. As the source of nearly 80 per cent of the research in the province, UBC will continue to be a major contributor to CDRD’s future success. The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) receives funding from a variety of governmental and industrial sources. Recent funding includes $700,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada, $1 million from the Michael Smith Foundation, $8 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), $8 million from the BC Knowledge Development Fund and $25 million from the Province of BC. CDRD invites all researchers across the province to become CDRD members and benefit from its equipment and expertise by registering on the website: www.cdrd.ca

UBC takes three Three UBC researchers have been awarded the 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), marking the first time the university has received three awards in four categories in one year. This year’s winners include Dr. James Olson (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Dick Tosdal (Mineral Deposit Research Unit), and Dr. Martha Salcudean (Mechanical Engineering). The NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation was created in 1995 to recognize the achievements of university-industry collaborations. Awards are judged on such criteria as partnership, effective use of resources and tangible benefits. A $25,000 NSERC research grant is awarded to the university while industry partners receive the Synergy sculpture. Past UBC recipients include Dr. Helen Burt and her collaboration with Angiotech Pharmaceuticals.

Engineered for efficiency

A model in mining

Pulp and paper partnership

The development of advanced pulp screen rotors that employ innovative energy-saving technology has garnered a 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for UBC’s Dr. James Olson and his industry partners: Advanced Fibre Technologies (AFI), BC Hydro and Canfor.

The 2007 Leo Derikx Award from the NSERC Synergy Awards has been awarded to UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU).

A UBC collaboration with Weyerhaeuser, an international forest products company, and Paprican, the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, is among the recipients of a 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation.

Pulp screens are an essential unit operation in the manufacture of high-quality pulp and paper products. They provide a cost-effective means of improving pulp quality by removing contaminants that degrade paper.

Established in 1989, MDRU is a collaborative research venture between the mining industry and UBC. MDRU was nominated by its industry partners – Kennecott Canada Inc., Teck Cominco Ltd. and Barrick Gold Corporation – for providing the mining industry with concepts, techniques, sustainability, highly trained individuals and university-level research collaborations.

“Our recent partnership with BC Hydro and Canfor is an example of university and industry coming together to improve the competitiveness of one of our most strategically important industries – pulp and paper,” said Olson.

Each year, the Leo Derikx Award is conferred to “an established innovative model of longstanding university-industry partnership in pre-competitive R&D that has improved the general well-being of an industry.”

This is the second Synergy award for Olson. His first was with OpTest Equipment Inc. and Paprican in 1998 for their Fibre Quality Analyzer.

In partnership with industry, Drs. Martha Salcudean, Zia Abdullah and late professor Ian Gartshore developed a mathematical model that allows for better understanding and optimization of recovery boilers. Recovery boilers are used to recover chemicals and provide steam to pulp mills. “I am very pleased with this award as I am a believer in university-industry collaboration especially for engineering professors,” said Salcudean. “It is most satisfying seeing the results of my research widely applied.”

November 2007

23


“Investors are looking for a much lower risk when investing in these early-stage ideas. CDRD helps researchers get over this proof-of-concept stage by helping them advance their discoveries to a point where the investment risk is minimized.”

newswire research arm of CDRD and focuses on enabling BC researchers to further develop promising early-stage discoveries. The commercialization arm of CDRD is DDI Drug Development Inc. (DDI), which advances ideas assisted by CDRD by either licensing these discoveries to existing companies or helping create spin-off companies based on the discovery. It also generates income to provide CDRD with long-term self-sustainability. Originally conceived by UBC’s Dr. Pieter Cullis and Dr. David Dolphin, the concept for CDRD came in response to the need to address the growing commercialization gap between early- and later-stage drug developments. As a result of the high-tech market collapse in 2000, venture capitalists have become hesitant to inject serious dollars into early-stage technology unless the drug has advanced to clinical trials. But advancing a drug to clinical trials can only be achieved by developing its early-stage research, leaving many researchers in a catch-22. “We have great science in the province. BC has three of the profitable biotech companies out of 20 worldwide. But investors are looking for a much lower risk when investing in these earlystage ideas,” says Dakers. “That’s where CDRD comes in. We help researchers get over the proof-of-concept stage by helping them advance their discoveries to a point where the investment risk is minimized. Without CDRD, we are really concerned about how these ideas can move forward.” As a result, CDRD declares its primary operating goal is to provide a collaborative platform that makes research facilities, expertise and resources available to all BC researchers. This infrastructure will then help mature technologies developed at CDRD’s research institutes to a point where they are able to attract investors’ interest, and then be commercialized by the private sector. According to Dakers, collaboration on multiple levels is at the heart of what makes CDRD the only centre of its kind in Canada in that it provides the hub of a research facility where scientists can connect to and benefit from expertise and drug development infrastructure not readily accessible in the province. Dakers stresses that CDRD is a complement not a competitor to existing technology transfer offices like UBC’s UILO, which protects intellectual property developed at UBC and manages the licensing of the technology. “CDRD is not a granting agency

22

November 2007

so it does not evaluate projects to give funds out,” says Dakers. “Rather, CDRD provides expertise in the form of grant facilitation, project management and technical experience.” So far, the response to CDRD has been one of overwhelming support. In April 2007, the Province of BC provided an unprecedented $25 million in operating funds, which secured the official launch of the organization this year. To date, Dakers says CDRD has raised a total of $60 million, which is just about halfway towards its total funding requirements. Those funds will immediately be directed towards hiring 30 new employees by the end of the year and providing support to get the laboratories up and running. “It’s not just having the equipment,” says Dakers. “It’s about having experienced people associated with that equipment to really have it work.” In five years, Dakers and the CDRD team hope to have several new companies created, significant partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry including licenses signed and a fully operational centre that is facilitating 30 to 40 projects in CDRD and supporting 10 technologies in the DDI pipeline on an annual basis. CDRD is also looking forward to securing a permanent home in a proposed new building for UBC’s Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, a project that is a top priority for UBC. Although now a regional centre that incorporates multiple partnerships with its affiliated institutions across BC, CDRD credits UBC as a founding institution that has been instrumental in getting the concept off the ground. As the source of nearly 80 per cent of the research in the province, UBC will continue to be a major contributor to CDRD’s future success. The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) receives funding from a variety of governmental and industrial sources. Recent funding includes $700,000 from Western Economic Diversification Canada, $1 million from the Michael Smith Foundation, $8 million from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), $8 million from the BC Knowledge Development Fund and $25 million from the Province of BC. CDRD invites all researchers across the province to become CDRD members and benefit from its equipment and expertise by registering on the website: www.cdrd.ca

UBC takes three Three UBC researchers have been awarded the 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), marking the first time the university has received three awards in four categories in one year. This year’s winners include Dr. James Olson (Mechanical Engineering), Dr. Dick Tosdal (Mineral Deposit Research Unit), and Dr. Martha Salcudean (Mechanical Engineering). The NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation was created in 1995 to recognize the achievements of university-industry collaborations. Awards are judged on such criteria as partnership, effective use of resources and tangible benefits. A $25,000 NSERC research grant is awarded to the university while industry partners receive the Synergy sculpture. Past UBC recipients include Dr. Helen Burt and her collaboration with Angiotech Pharmaceuticals.

Engineered for efficiency

A model in mining

Pulp and paper partnership

The development of advanced pulp screen rotors that employ innovative energy-saving technology has garnered a 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for UBC’s Dr. James Olson and his industry partners: Advanced Fibre Technologies (AFI), BC Hydro and Canfor.

The 2007 Leo Derikx Award from the NSERC Synergy Awards has been awarded to UBC’s Mineral Deposit Research Unit (MDRU).

A UBC collaboration with Weyerhaeuser, an international forest products company, and Paprican, the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, is among the recipients of a 2007 NSERC Synergy Award for Innovation.

Pulp screens are an essential unit operation in the manufacture of high-quality pulp and paper products. They provide a cost-effective means of improving pulp quality by removing contaminants that degrade paper.

Established in 1989, MDRU is a collaborative research venture between the mining industry and UBC. MDRU was nominated by its industry partners – Kennecott Canada Inc., Teck Cominco Ltd. and Barrick Gold Corporation – for providing the mining industry with concepts, techniques, sustainability, highly trained individuals and university-level research collaborations.

“Our recent partnership with BC Hydro and Canfor is an example of university and industry coming together to improve the competitiveness of one of our most strategically important industries – pulp and paper,” said Olson.

Each year, the Leo Derikx Award is conferred to “an established innovative model of longstanding university-industry partnership in pre-competitive R&D that has improved the general well-being of an industry.”

This is the second Synergy award for Olson. His first was with OpTest Equipment Inc. and Paprican in 1998 for their Fibre Quality Analyzer.

In partnership with industry, Drs. Martha Salcudean, Zia Abdullah and late professor Ian Gartshore developed a mathematical model that allows for better understanding and optimization of recovery boilers. Recovery boilers are used to recover chemicals and provide steam to pulp mills. “I am very pleased with this award as I am a believer in university-industry collaboration especially for engineering professors,” said Salcudean. “It is most satisfying seeing the results of my research widely applied.”

November 2007

23


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www.research.ubc.ca A Journal of Research and Discovery Published By Office of the Vice President Research, University of British Columbia Fax 604.822.6295 Email info.frontier@ubc.ca Writing and Design kaldor.com Circulation 5,000 All rights reserved Printed in Canada

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Frontier Issue 3 Fall 2007  

UBC's journal of research and discovery, published by the Office of the VP Research & International.

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