Nov. 9, 2017

World-class microbiome facility opens for research at Cumming School of Medicine

Cutting-edge facility equips University of Calgary to become a leader in research to prevent and treat chronic diseases

The University of Calgary has officially opened the International Microbiome Centre (IMC) — a unique world-class centre designed to mobilize groundbreaking research into the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. Funded through Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Government of Alberta, and the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), the IMC will provide cutting-edge tools to study the microbiome, allowing the university to be a leader in this evolving field of research.

“Our government recognizes that innovation is a key factor in creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. We know that post-secondary institutions play an important role in innovation and we are proud of our close to $10 million investment in the International Microbiome Centre at the University of Calgary,” says the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada. “This investment will enhance global awareness and commercialization of Canada’s research and technology capabilities and strengthen Western Canada’s competitive advantage.”

Crowds gather for official International Microbiome Centre opening in the Health Research Innovation Centre at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Official International Microbiome Centre opening in the Health Research Innovation Centre.

Don Molyneaux, for the Cumming School of Medicine

The IMC, which is a major component of the university’s Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Diseases in the Changing Environment research strategy, will be an engine of innovation, creating personalized therapies by investigating the trillions of bacteria in the human body that make up our microbiome.

“The opening of the International Microbiome Centre represents a tremendous step forward in our capacity to deliver world-class research in this emerging field,” says Elizabeth Cannon, PhD, president, University of Calgary. “This type of centre attracts top talent to our city, and it fosters a dynamic, multi-disciplinary environment for learning and innovation amongst our students, faculty and staff. We’re delivering on our community’s expectations for what this university if capable of, and we’re contributing to meaningful solutions that address global issues like chronic diseases, infections, and energy innovation.”

UCalgary scientists have a brand new tool to study the microbiome

Designed to investigate the microbiome of plants, animals, and the physical environment, the IMC at the University of Calgary is positioned to make significant impacts in the microbiome research landscape that will improve health and wellness for people and animals around the world.

“One of the least-understood frontiers of medicine is the interaction between us and our microbiome,” says Paul Kubes, PhD, professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, and director of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases. “We know that the microbiome can be dramatically affected by antibiotics meant to kill specific infections, or a high fat diet which provides fuel for the wrong bugs. What we now want to understand is the impact these ‘disruptions’ have on the human body.”

The centre offers a one stop shop for research through its unique integration of mass cytometry, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, biobanking and live cell imaging. It’s also home to the world’s largest (929 square metres) germ-free lab dedicated to studying the microbiomes role in immunity and disease led by Dr. Kathy McCoy, scientific director of IMC and professor at CSM.

“The human microbiome has been associated with a growing number of human diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, asthma, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. The more we understand about the microbiome, the more chance we have to stop the development of these diseases,” says McCoy.

The IMC hosts a powerful coalition of researchers from across all areas of the university who will address global health issues and collaborate with industry partners to apply emerging microbiome discoveries to areas including health care and beyond. In addition to the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases, researchers will focus on food production and the search for alternative energy sources.

“Research at the IMC has the potential to create jobs by sparking new business opportunities in Alberta, help grow existing industries, improve therapeutic and diagnostic technologies for our health and the environment, and trigger translational discoveries that will benefit millions of people worldwide,” McCoy says.