By Ryan Calvery
Saanich News – Weekend Edition
March 22, 2003

In the wake of recent outbreaks of mysterious diseases and super-bugs, the University of Victoria is stepping up its research capabilities by aligning itself with the province's largest independent laboratory company. 

MDS Metro Laboratory Services, a medical research company that employs more than 300 people on Vancouver Island, signed a cooperation agreement March 13 with the university. The agreement will transplant both UVic's Proteomics Centre and MDS Metro's facilities so that they are situated next to each other in at the Vancouver Island Technology Park. 

Both parties anticipate the partnership of proteomics, the study and dissection of proteins, and MDS Metro's health research will lead to advances in medical diagnostics and treatment. 

"It's a tremendous benefit," said Dr. Bob Olafson, director of the UVic-Genome BC Proteomics Centre. "MDS is very interested in proteomics. They would like to have us close by so we could collaborate." 

Almost five times larger than the current university facility, the new 17,000 square-foot hi-tech research laboratory is projected to be up and running by the end of June, said Olafson. 

Dale Gann, marketing manager of the Vancouver Island Technology Park, and a person who helped foster the aggreement, is confident this new alliance is only the beginning. 

"It establishes the Capital Region as a hub of life sciences technology," he said. "It puts us on the map." 

Gann predicts that other medical research companies will follow MDS Metro's lead and turn the Victoria area into a cluster of research facilities, giving the local economy a needed boost. 

According to the Vancouver Island Technology Park, MDS Metro contributes $21 million directly into the province. 

The agreement is not only a benefit to the local economy, said Gann, but firmly establishes the Vancouver Island Technology Park, which celebrates its one-year anniversary in April, as a major contender in global medical research. 

"There's no other campus like it in technology, except Microsoft," said Gann. 

The signing of the agreement is an example of the provincial government's push for public and private partnerships. 

"We are working with the private sector and post-secondary institutions to make B.C. a leader in life sciences," Premier Gordon Campbell states in a press release. "This new research facility is a model for the innovative new partnerships that will help us meet our commitment to be one of the world's top 10 technology centres by 2006."