Infectious diseases are the leading cause of premature mortality around the world and the fifth leading cause of premature mortality in Canada. The world scientific community has the tools and expertise to address emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases. Now an innovative project has been set up to bring these research efforts together, to systematically investigate life-threatening pathogens and to find rapid scientific solutions.
Brett Finlay, a microbiologist and Peter Wall Distinguished Professor at the University of British Columbia, and UBC colleagues Robert C. Brunham and Neil Reiner are project leaders of Functional Genomics for Emerging Infectious Diseases.
This project will use one overall approach to uncover the biology of infection of such serious diseases as SARS, influenza, West Nile, BSE, pathogenic E. coli, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. The approach consists of identifying microbial drug targets through the study of protein interaction networks and the application of innovative computational genomics. Protein interaction networks are complex - they are involved in catalytic processes, protein synthesis and gene expression within the cell.
The research team will share experimental approaches to study different pathogens and use whole-genome approaches to investigate common pathogens. This new knowledge base will be particularly valuable in the event that new infectious agents emerge – new strains of existing pathogens, for example, or previously unknown pathogens.
The research project will create new opportunities for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and will also maintain a rapid response team of highly competent genomics researchers, ready to find scientific solutions for new infectious threats as they arise.
Integrated GE3LS Research: Understanding the Role of Experts in Risk Communication
GE3LS Project Leaders: Valia Lestou and Katayoon (Kati) Riyazi University of British Columbia
The GE3LS component of this project is interested in understanding the role of experts in risk communication, an area of research that has been under-explored. GE3LS researchers, Drs. Valia Lestou and Katayoon Riyazi will draw on their cross disciplinary backgrounds to help address the issues raised by the Canadian public regarding these innovative technologies. They have two key research objectives:
- To investigate how experts make choices about communicating health risks before and during health crises. This will allow us to understand how scientists communicate scientific evidence to each other and policy-makers, how such information is translated into public health policy, and how and what information is communicated to the public.
- To conduct a comparative ethical analysis of antiviral and vaccine priority in pandemic influenza plans. Here the aim is to understand the perspectives of health care workers and the public on a range of ethical issues, such as the duty to care and allocation of resources during health crises.
The research will bring together issues around science, health policy and ethics and will be critical in defining the emerging field of ‘Public Health Ethics’ in Canada. The knowledge gained from this research will be indispensable for establishing ethical and effective risk communications strategies and for ultimately fostering dialogue and improving the relationship between scientists, policy-makers and the lay public before and during crisis situations.