July 21, 2011

Government of British Columbia News Release

VICTORIA – B.C.’s future forests will include super-trees that can shrug off attacks by pests like the mountain pine beetle – or are remarkably efficient at sequestering carbon, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere.

People here and elsewhere will use a simple screening test to detect diabetes waiting to happen, so it can be prevented – and another to easily pinpoint which of many underlying conditions is causing a patient’s high blood pressure, so it can be treated successfully.

There’s a link between these four projects: Christoph Borchers, one of the world’s top proteomics researchers. Borchers’ appointment as the Don and Eleanor Rix B.C. Leadership Chair in Biomedical and Environmental Proteomics at the University of Victoria was announced today by Pat Bell, Minister Responsible for Jobs, Tourism and Innovation.

Proteomics is the study of the structure and functions of proteins. It can be used in every area of biochemical research. Borchers, director of the UVic Genome BC Proteomics Centre at the Vancouver Island Technology Park, is focusing on health and forestry in his LEEF chair role.

The chair comes with an endowment of $4.5 million – $2.25 million donated by the Rix Family Foundation established by Dr. Donald Rix, a leading physician, entrepreneur and philanthropist, who passed away in 2009. The Province provided the other $2.25 million from its Leading Edge Endowment Fund.

Since arriving in B.C. five years ago, Borchers has created a spinoff company, MRM Proteomics, with a business developer who attracts industry clients from all over the world to use the Proteomics Centre’s services. This has helped Borchers create 18 jobs, more than tripling the staff at the centre. He intends to hire more top researchers, leveraging the LEEF chair funding that pays his own salary.

Borchers, who earned his three degrees at the University of Konstanz in Germany, is president of the Canadian National Proteomics Network. He is working on Canada’s role in the upcoming Human Proteome Project – a far bigger task than the international Human Genome Project, which took 13 years to complete.

Quotes:

Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation –
“Our new LEEF chair already has a great track record of creating jobs in B.C. Christoph Borchers’ world-class work in proteomics will continue to increase knowledge, support industry, and provide a return on our investment in innovation through commercialization.”

Dr. Tom Pedersen, former UVic dean of science, representing the Rix Family Foundation –
“Dr. Don Rix, philanthropist and model corporate citizen admired as a leader and a mentor to many, was fascinated by the prospect that the new field of metabolomics might offer revolutionary new approaches that promise earlier detection of disease. He was committed to nurturing curiosity through research and education, leading to discoveries that promise to replace affliction with recovery and suffering with comfort.”

Howard Brunt, UVic’s vice-president, research –
“This new chair builds on UVic’s strengths as a national leader in the development, use and application of proteomics technologies for improving human and environmental health. We are deeply grateful to the Rix family and to the Province’s LEEF program for supporting Dr. Borchers’ prestigious chair.”

Ida Chong, Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA –
“We can be proud of the University of Victoria for attracting a scientist of Christoph Borchers’ calibre – and of the amazing projects he is spearheading at the Proteomics Centre. We are also grateful to the Rix family for their generosity.”

Quick Facts:

  • A proteome consists of the proteins – enzymes, antibodies and molecules – that make up the cells of living things.
  • There are an estimated one million proteins in the human proteome – compared with roughly 25,000 genes in the human genome.
  • The main tool used by proteomics researchers is the mass spectrometer, which identifies proteins by their molecular weight, and can cost upwards of $1.5 million.

Learn More:

YouTube:  Proteomics at UVic

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Media contacts:

Marisa Adair
Communications Director
Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation
250 920-8500

Val Shore
Communications Officer
University of Victoria
250 721-7641

 

A backgrounder follows.

Connect with the Province of B.C. at: www.gov.bc.ca/connect
Backgrounders:
Rix Research Chair in Proteomics