University of Calgary

Prion research

June 18, 2009

Unraveling the mystery of prions

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine researcher Markus Czub. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine researcher Markus Czub. / Photo: Ken Bendiktsen
The University of Calgary will soon be known as a hub for prion research. Prions are the proteins that cause diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jacob-Disease (CJD) in humans, BSE in cattle, and CWD in deer and elk.

Recent investments by the Alberta Prion Research Institute (APRI), and the Alberta Ingenuity Fund (AIF), which total nearly $15 million across the Province, have been committed to support new research infrastructure, university and industry-led research projects, and the recruitment of new prion researchers to Alberta. 

Markus Czub, a Faculty of Veterinary Medicine researcher has established a multi disciplinary prion research group with partners from the U of C faculties of medicine and veterinary medicine, the University of  Lethbridge and institutions in Manitoba and Germany.

“We have two main priorities,” says Czub.  “We are seeking to develop tests that will enable us to diagnose prion diseases as early as possible, and second, we want to discover mechanisms that will ultimately prevent the uptake of prions and thus prevent infections.”

Support from APRI and AIF has attracted additional funding from industry and other provincial and federal agencies, amounting to $26 million, for basic pre-commercial research and development across the province.   

A new bio-safety level 2 laboratory at the Foothills Campus will allow APRI funded researchers to study different forms of prions. APRI’s investment in this laboratory infrastructure combined with significant investment made by the U of C, will specifically allow co-location of prion researchers and permit them to work with infectious prion materials in a secure environment that protects researchers.           

“APRI’s immediate goal is to unravel the mysteries associated with of prions. But the end result is more than just answers.  In working to achieve our goals, we are building research capacity and expertise here in Alberta,” said Kevin Keough, interim Executive Director of APRI.

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