ARCHIVED - Collaborations Breeding Success

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May 04, 2004— Ottawa, Ontario

NRC collaborates regularly with industry partners to make the best possible technology transfer. In 2002-2003, NRC research institutes and technology centres (over 20 located in all parts of Canada) signed over 450 new collaborative agreements with private sector partners in Canada and abroad.

NRC has continued this pace. In recent months a number of different agreements have been announced, among them, several unique collaborations with NRC's biotechnology institutes. Some of the recent highlights are listed below.

Safer Food and Water

According the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, food-borne illnesses are one of the most widespread health problems. Each year in the developing world, there are more than 2 million deaths caused by consumption of food contaminated with pathogens such as salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni and E.coli 0157:H7.

From left to right: Dr. Arthur Carty, NRC President; Dr. Gabrielle Adams, Director General of the NRC Institute for Biological Sciences; and, Rick Smith, President of Dow AgroSciences Canada.
From left to right: Dr. Arthur Carty, NRC President; Dr. Gabrielle Adams, Director General of the NRC Institute for Biological Sciences; and, Rick Smith, President of Dow AgroSciences Canada.

One approach is to try to stop these pathogens from entering into the food system by developing an elimination-at-source strategy. The NRC Institute for Biological Sciences (NRC-IBS) in Ottawa recently entered into a Strategic Research Alliance with Dow AgroSciences to help achieve this goal. The partnership will build upon earlier a previous successful collaboration between NRC-IBS and Dow AgroSciences.

"Through this alliance, we have made a substantial financial commitment that reflects our belief that the scientists at the NRC Institute for Biological Sciences are among the world's leading researchers."
Rick Smith, President, Dow AgroSciences Canada

So far, NRC-IBS researchers have identified a number of promising antibodies against E.coli. Researchers are now working to the use of plant gene expression systems to produce the same antibodies, referred to as "plantabodies". If successful, these plants could be fed to livestock, denying this pathogen the chance of entering the food system and greatly increasing the safety of food and water. The partnership includes a joint management board and funding for several other strategic joint-research projects.

New Plant Breeding Techniques


Genetic modification of foods and organisms has been the subject of great deal of interest in recent years, however, the practice of breeding for desirable traits in plants (i.e. Insect resistance) has been taking place for a long time. One method, transgenics, involves finding the gene associated with a desired function and inserting it into the genome of the plant in question.

Many desirable traits such as vitamin synthesis or health products are controlled by several genes. And it can be quite challenging to simultaneously introduce several genes.

"NRC-PBI has a history of successful partnerships and collaborations. NRC-PBI's partnership with Chromatin will increase our scientific and technical capabilities in canola improvement and diversification."
Dr. Kutty Kartha, Director General, NRC-PBI

Not long ago, the NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC-PBI) in Saskatoon signed a partnership agreement with Chicago-based Chromatin Inc. to help test a new plant-breeding technique with canola. Chromatin's "mini-chromosome" technology relies on the introduction of an artificial chromosome into plants (chromosomes are a key building block of genomes; each chromosome contains large numbers of genes). Mini-chromosome can carry a large number of genes. The result is much faster breeding cycles and the production of plants containing numerous sought-after traits. Under the partnership, researchers will help regenerate cells containing the mini chromosomes and develop them into full plants.

NRC-PBI was one of the institutions that originally developed canola, which is now valued at $2 billion to the Canadian economy. Now, using its extensive expertise in genetic modification, cell culture and breeding systems to improve canola traits and diversify this crop to increase its value to Canada.

A Vaccine for Alzheimers Disease

Not long ago, Time magazine announced that vaccines were making a comeback. According to Time, all of the "simple tasks" had been accomplished and researchers were now tackling diseases that, previously, had never been considered as treatable using vaccines. A new strategic alliance between Neurochem and NRC-IBS is working towards proving this prediction.

Montreal-based Neurochem is focused on the creation of a number of therapeutics for neurological disorders, among them, a synthetic vaccine for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's Disease. NRC-IBS has achieved tremendous success with the creation of a new platform for conjugated vaccines, work which has resulted in a breakthrough vaccine against Meningitis C. The partnership furthers NRC-IBS's work in age-related diseases and vaccines and provides Neurochem access to unique NRC expertise and resources.

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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