The University of Saskatchewan will be building a centre for biomanufacturing that will have about 20 researchers using advanced genetic techniques, computer technology and automation.
The Canada Foundation for Innovation is investing $3.2 million in the centre.
Dr. Baljit Singh, the university’s vice-president for research, said “this new centre will establish the University of Saskatchewan as the national node for engineering biology applications in agriculture and food that will accelerate science and innovation to support and grow our agri-food sector.”
Plant scientist Tim Sharbel, lead researcher on the team, said engineering biology will enable the team to take the next step in the application of genomics to agriculture.
“We can now identify important genes but translating this into something that’s useful to industry and beneficial to society is a gap that’s been very difficult until now.”
Marrying biological science with the power of automation and computers will enable scientists to run many tests in parallel, rather than manually conducting them one at a time, enabling the rapid production and testing of thousands of gene and protein variants for development of new products and plant varieties.
The new platform will be used for crop improvement such as better canola varieties, for health applications such as searching for new drugs, for food research, such as finding flavourings for pea-based plant-protein imitations for hamburgers, and for improving nutrition.