Protein Structure and Function
Proteins, the building blocks of life, are ultimately the targets of most biotechnology research, for defects in proteins or their levels of expression account for virtually every known human disease.
Researchers from the Faculties of Science, Medicine and Dentistry, and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences are involved in a number of initiatives that play a key role in the development of protein chemistry throughout Canada. Several researchers are members of the Protein Engineering Network of Centres of Excellence (PENCE), a nation-wide network of universities, institutes, government laboratories, and industries centred at the University of Alberta. PENCE promotes partnerships in the discovery and development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics. Researchers benefit from access to the National High Field NMR Centre (NANUC), a premier national 800 MHz facility that is housed at the University of Alberta and serves the needs of the Canadian nuclear magnetic resonance community.
Researchers are organized into three groups:
Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group in Protein Structure and Function
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Group in Protein Structure and Function is a major force on the world stage in protein structure and function research. The group of medical researchers answers fundamental questions in protein chemistry by applying its expertise in a wide variety of techniques to any given biological problem.
This group comprises researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Biological Sciences. The Chemistry Department researchers are developing the tools and methods that will dominate studies on protein expression over the foreseeable future. Researchers use mass spectrometry, laser spectroscopy, miniaturized analysis systems, advanced separation technology, and high-resolution microscopy. The Biological Sciences Department has a strong contingent of molecular biologists who conduct research on plant, animal, and microbial organisms. Their research affects areas as diverse as biotechnology, systematics, and the genetics of inherited diseases and the immune system.
Institute for Biomolecular Design
Established in 1999, the Institute for Biomolecular Design (IBD), an inter-disciplinary research and platform technology centre at the University of Alberta, represents an interdisciplinary collaborative effort in proteomics—the molecular nature of protein structure and function. It builds on the University of Alberta's internationally recognized strengths in bio-organic chemistry, structural biochemistry, molecular biology, and computer science.
Project CyberCell™ is the central research focus of IBD. The goal of Project CyberCell™ is to create an accurate dynamic model of a simple living organism using a molecular-level population dynamics approach. The overarching premise of Project CyberCell™ is the integration of experiment and theory, where directed, high-resolution biological and biomolecular measurements are used to drive and validate combinatorial numerical analysis and systems modeling.
Project CyberCell™ is a founding member of the International E.coli Alliance, an evolving international collaboration aimed at creating a lifelike computer model of a living cell through its Project Gemini initiative.