York researchers receive over $1.4 million in funding

York University researchers have been awarded over $1.4 million to support their leading-edge research to study topics ranging from a study of tumor suppression to invasive species and mapping of atomic structure using cold positronium. The awards were announced yesterday by Ontario Premier and Research & Innovation Minister Dalton McGuinty.

The awards are part of a $20-million investment announced by the government of Ontario to support 126 projects under the Ontario Research Fund (ORF). The investment will help researchers obtain the laboratory equipment and computer software they need to conduct their research.

The investment by the province of Ontario matches the funding commitment made by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) announced last spring. Project funding is shared among CFI (up to 40 per cent), the province (up to 40 per cent), and the research institutions (at least 20 per cent).

“We know that jurisdictions that invest in innovation will be home to the most rewarding jobs, the strongest economies and the best quality of life,” McGuinty said in his announcement. “By providing researchers with the tools they need to succeed, we’re laying the foundation for generations of research talent to come.”

York researchers will use the ORF funding for the following projects:

Samuel Benchimol, York’s Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Health Research is studying how the tumor suppression gene known as p53 acts to regulate normal cell growth and suppress the development of cancer. Using state-of-the-art experimental approaches in cell and molecular biology, Benchimol will use his award to fund equipment required to study the role of the p53 tumour suppression protein in mouse and human cells ($317,901).

Christopher Lortie, a researcher in the Department of Biology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, will study invasive plant species in a new facility equipped with tools to measure plant ecophysiology, morphology and performance, as well as nutrient content ($203,021).

Physics Professor Cody Storry will use his research funding to develop a facility at York which will produce large numbers of cold positronium (an electron and an antielectron in a bound state) using a new technique he developed at Harvard. An extension of this technique may produce the first trappable antihydrogen atoms. The positronium studies will extend the variety of atomic systems currently under study at York into the antimatter sector ($241,433).

Valeria Tsoukanova, a researcher in the Department of Chemistry in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, will undertake a new research program in biophysical chemistry and biomaterials design using the most advanced in-situ surface imaging techniques available. This research will provide a solid basis for rational design of coatings for implantable materials and drug delivery systems ($219,983).

School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences researcher Rolando Ceddia will equip a multidisciplinary research laboratory with state-of-the-art physiology, metabolism, cell and molecular biology tools to investigate the regulation of energy storage, obstacles to losing weight and the effects of potential new drugs ($226,518).

Professor Mazyar Fallah, School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences, Faculty of Health, will use neurophysiology equipment to research how the brain selects sensory input to process, and how it binds that information into a perceptual whole. The answers may reveal how basic mechanisms of visual processing, when dysfunctional, underlie autism and attention disorders ($236,918).

Biology Professor Roberto Quinlan in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, has received funding to develop a facility for long-term limnological and paleoecological research. The facility will be used for innovative research using both ecological and paleoecological approaches to examine ecosystem dynamics in freshwater lakes and ponds. The aim of Quinlan’s research is to assess long-term changes in aquatic ecosystems, in response to natural environmental fluctuations and multiple human-induced disturbances. The results of his research will provide new insights into the influences of environmental variables on aquatic ecosystems ($179,302).

Professor Michael Scheid, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, will use his funding to study the regulation of AGC Kinases in human disease. Scheid’s research uses stem cells to study how a group of signaling molecules, called the AGC family of protein kinases, are able to control cell growth, division and survival, and how they contribute to the development of cancer in humans ($213, 566).