New centre looks at biomolecular interactions

Scientists at the new Centre for Research on Biomolecular Interactions (CRBI) at York University, which officially opens today, aim to make discoveries that will impact global health care and the treatment of diseases.

Understanding the foundation of key interactions at the molecular level is the research focus at the new centre, which will be housed in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. Scientists will study how biomolecules interact at every level – from pure molecules to single cells to the entire organism. They will examine these interactions under normal circumstances and in the development of a disease. Their research will result in a deeper understanding of the "mechanical" changes that occur in disease during biomedical interactions that have gone awry. 

The CRBI members have already been busy at work exploring important molecular interactions of biomolecules such as nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins. With the formation of the centre, they will now have the opportunity to combine their forces and share resources. The centre encompasses faculty members and research teams that include more than 70 graduate students, research associates, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate students.  Researchers from chemistry and biology departments at York include Professors Gerald Audette, Samuel Benchimol, Kathy Hudak, Philip Johnson, Sergey Krylov (director), John McDermott, Andrew White and Derek Wilson.

Above: Some of the members of the new Centre for Research on Biomolecular Interactions at York University. Front row, from left: Sergey Krylov, John McDermott and Derek Wilson. Middle row, from left: Philip Johnson and Gerald Audette. Back row, from left: Mark Bayfield and Andrew White. Missing from the photo are Professors Samuel Benchimol and Kathy Hudak.

The group’s combined expertise, which varies from analytical and physical chemistry to structural, cell and molecular biology, provides an opportunity for research projects to be pursued in an interdisciplinary and comprehensive manner. The team uses cutting-edge approaches to gain full understanding of key molecular players and events that can lead to disease, and by doing so, hopes to address prevention and future treatment of many diseases. 

The centre is bustling with energy and activities, and future plans include extending the centre’s external and industry collaborations, launching a new peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Biomolecular Interactions, and hosting a research retreat.

“The creation of the Centre for Research on Biomolecular Interactions is an important step that will strengthen the existing collaborations and foster new ones at York University and beyond,” says York chemistry Professor Sergey Krylov, director of the CRBI and Canada Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry. “The centre is a nucleus for great researchers and it encourages a stimulating and cooperative environment. We have energy, enthusiasm and research synergy; I anticipate our collaborative research will lead to advances in various areas including disease detection and understanding of disease processes.”   

There will be an opening celebration for the CRBI today in the Seymour Schulich Building on York’s Keele campus. The invitation-only event includes a reception and a keynote lecture by Professor Jack Greenblatt from the Terrace Donnelly Centre for Cellular & Biomolecular Research at the University of Toronto, who will address the importance of studying biomolecular interactions in his talk titled “Protein complexes and functional pathways in yeast, bacteria and mammalian cells”.