Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF) has named Dr. Hans Joachim Wieden as the Innovates Centre of Research Excellence (iCORE) Chair of Bioengineering.
AITF’s $2-million investment, over five years, further enables Wieden’s University of Lethbridge research team to study how biological systems can be engineered to achieve breakthroughs in materials science, chemistry, biochemistry, health and nanoscience.
“We are proud that world-class research will be done in Lethbridge, and excited about the opportunities that it will create for Alberta students, companies and the economy,” says Deputy Premier and Minister of Enterprise and Advanced Education Thomas Lukaszuk. “Support for this work is a great example of the government’s commitment to post-secondary research.”
The potential for discovery in the study of synthetic biology is virtually limitless.
“The range of societal and commercial issues we can address through the advancement of biomolecular engineering and synthetic biology will only continue to expand as we go further,” says Wieden, the newly appointed Chair and current director of the Alberta RNA (Ribonucleic acid) Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) at the U of L.
Synthetic biologists focus on how biological systems can be engineered to achieve a new desired outcome.
“The U of L has identified RNA-based research as an emerging program of emphasis due to the work of several of our researchers,” says University of Lethbridge Vice-President (Research), Dr. Dan Weeks.
Wieden’s team, for example, recently focused its research on the development of new antibiotics that may help to battle the growing resistance of disease-producing pathogens against currently used antibiotics.
The Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures funding is complemented by the recent introduction of research initiatives such as the Campus Alberta Innovation Program and the Alberta Innovates Health Solutions program, which have added to the breadth of research inquiry at the U of L.
“The ongoing potential of Dr. Wieden’s applied research supports our goal to grow the province’s research and innovation environment, and expand opportunities for economic diversification,” says Randy Goebel, Vice-President of iCORE and the Alberta Innovates Academy. “We look forward to continuing our support of Alberta’s leadership in bioengineering.”
Wieden's students have also benefitted from the support of geekStarter, another AITF-funded program. geekStarter helps student teams in nanotechnology, information and communications technology and omics (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics and regulomics) achieve breakthroughs in research and innovation.
With the support of geekStarter, some of Wieden’s student teams have participated in the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition. They have since gone on to enter the workforce and, in at least one instance, become entrepreneurs in a related field.
“These students have developed a new way of detecting hormones and are patenting their technology for use in agricultural and medical research,” says Wieden. “The importance of creating teaching opportunities through basic and applied research programs cannot be overstated.”
About Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures (AITF)
Part of Alberta’s research and innovation system, Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures is helping build healthy, sustainable businesses in the province. Through a suite of programs and services for entrepreneurs, companies, researchers, post-secondary institutions and investors, Tech Futures provides technical services and funding support to facilitate the commercialization of technologies, to develop new knowledge-based industry clusters and help encourage an entrepreneurial culture in Alberta. Through the Innovates Centre of Research Excellence (iCORE), Alberta Innovates-Technology Futures attracts top talent to Alberta to create multi-disciplinary, collaborative teams building research capabilities.