The first high-throughput genomics lab in BC outside of the Lower Mainland is now open at Thompson Rivers University, thanks to nearly $750,000 in federal and provincial funding.
TRUGen opened today with Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology Bruce Ralston in attendance. Through the BC Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF), the provincial government has contributed $291,000 to purchase equipment for the lab. The Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund provided matching funds.
“The BC government’s investment in TRUgen supports leading genetic research that will enhance agricultural and environmental remediation and help the healthy food and beverage industries innovate and stay competitive,” said Ralston. “Today’s grand opening supports regional tech- and resource-based industries, job creation and a diverse and innovative economy that works for everyone.”
“This funding by both the provincial and the federal governments puts TRU at the forefront of reclamation science and technology. Not only do these tools provide a unique learning environment for our students, the results of the research undertaken in TRUGen will have national and international impact,” said Alan Shaver, TRU President and Vice-Chancellor.
The lab is under the direction of microbiology faculty member Dr. Jonathan Van Hamme, with a primary focus on environmental remediation, waste treatment, agriculture and the Canadian food, beverage and nutraceutical industries.
“All of this new equipment provides us with capacity for making more genomic sequencing libraries, along with increased quality control and automation,” Van Hamme said. “This has taken our hands-on time in the lab from 12 hours down to 30 minutes.”
The lab is already busy, with two postdoctoral researchers, three graduate students and five undergraduate researchers. Current projects include using DNA to track rare species of animals, amphibians and insects in the environment.
With so much added capacity, Van Hamme hopes to increase collaborations with researchers at other universities, in government as well as in industry, who will be able to send in samples for sequencing, or come into the lab for hands-on experience using the technology.
“I think people are surprised that we have the infrastructure that we do at TRU. We have a lot of really great equipment and we let our undergraduates get their hands on it, which is really unique in terms of training opportunities.”
This funding is a boost to Van Hamme’s already robust research program and unique lab, which has benefited from two previous CFI grants. Last year, Van Hamme was also awarded a $190,000 grant from Genome BC for a project that assesses the long-term impacts of biosolids on soil microbial communities during mine reclamation.
The BC Knowledge Development Fund provides funding for public post-secondary institutions, research hospitals and affiliated non-profit agencies. Investments are aimed at attracting and retaining world-class research and innovation talent in BC. Projects funded by the BCKDF have the potential to grow BC’s economy by spurring technology commercialization, talent development and job creation.
In the news
Dr. Jonathan Van Hamme, Associate Professor
Danna Bach, Communications Officer