How do drugs know where they’re needed to do their job in the human body? The University of Victoria-Genome BC Proteomics Centre is closer to being able to provide an answer to that complex question thanks to more than $620,000 in funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The grant is paying for new technology that will allow scientists to see two-dimensional images of drugs travelling within the tissues of the body and to track how that tissue reacts to medication and to the environment.

"We're delighted to have this support,” says Dr. Howard Brunt, UVic’s vice-president research.  “It provides UVic students and researchers with the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology and ultimately influence human and environmental health.”

Tissue imaging using Matrix-Assisted Laser Desorption Ionization technology, known as MALDI imaging, will aid in mapping the chemical reactions of the human body. This new imaging technique will lead to more rapid and accurate diagnosis of patients and more effective treatments.

MALDI imaging allows for two-dimensional spatial resolution of proteins and small molecules in tissue. In this technique, a thin slice of tissue is placed onto a MALDI target plate and coated with a matrix. The plate is then placed into a mass spectrometer and data is acquired under a fine laser beam. The result is a two-dimensional optical image of the tissue slice that shows the distribution patterns of proteins, peptides, lipids and drugs at the molecular level.

“This new instrumentation will allow us to explore further into human health states, disease development and treatment efficacies,” says Proteomics Centre Director Dr. Christoph Borchers. “Working with collaborators we will transform molecular images into proteomic and metabolomic information. This will be used to develop a 4-D virtual reality atlas of the human body and improve a clinician’s ability to diagnose and treat disease. Of particular interest is the diagnosis of specific heart diseases that are currently very challenging to accurately diagnose.”

The new technology may well help researchers determine the pathways drugs take in the human body and how they react chemically at the locations they reach. This would aid with the diagnosis and treatment of hundreds of illnesses as well as with the development of new, more effective pharmaceuticals. For more information visit



Media Contacts:

Jennifer Reid (Project Manager, UVic- Genome BC Proteomics Centre) at 250-483-3222 or

Maria Lironi (UVic Communications) at 250-721-6139 or


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The University of Victoria- Genome BC Proteomics Centre, a not-for-profit entity, is a state-of-the-art proteomics research and service laboratory located at UVic’s Vancouver Island Technology Park in Victoria.

The term ‘proteomics’ (its root a combination of PROTEin and genOME) designates the specific study of proteins, particularly how they’re built (structure) and what they do (function). Proteins are highly complex nitrogen-containing compounds found in all animal and vegetable tissues. They are made up of amino acids and are essential for growth and repair in the body.

Established in 1982, the centre is the longest operating proteomics core facility in Canada, serving academia, industry and government, both collaboratively and on a fee-for-service basis.

The laboratory is supported by a collaborative relationship between Genome BC and UVic. The centre offers a wide array of services in addition to MALDI imaging, including biomarker discovery and validation, and comprehensive metabolomics profiling. It currently houses more than $10 million dollars in cutting-edge analytical equipment and is the largest lab of its kind in Canada.