Thanks to our “innate immunity” – a system which is part of our natural biological makeup – we are able to withstand a daily onslaught of tens of thousands of potentially pathogenic microbes in air, food and water, and in our interactions with other people and animals. But our innate immunity can sometimes get overstimulated, leading to inflammation of tissue and even sepsis – a deadly infection of blood or tissue.
Robert Hancock, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at UBC, and Lorne Babiuk, Professor of Veterinary Microbiology at the University of Saskatchewan, are project leaders of the Pathogenomics of Innate Immunity (or PI2 ). Drawing on many of the unique research findings of a previous Genome Canada project, the Functional Pathogenomics of Mucosal Immunity Program, this project will advance our understanding of immune responses in humans and animals. Specific genes will be knocked out in mouse embryonic cells and in mice derived from these cells, and the cells and mice will then be challenged with the important human foodborne pathogen, Salmonella, which causes intestinal infections and diarrhea. A range of genes representing key pathways and decision points in innate immunity will be targeted for knocking out.
Human and bovine cells will also be targeted using siRNA methods, which use a class of short (2025 nucleotides long) RNA molecules that interfere with gene expression. By knocking out specific genes, the investigators will be able to determine their relevance in human and animal infections. Bringing together a team of worldclass scientists from Canada, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Singapore, Drs. Hancock and Babiuk aim to increase our knowledge about important infectionfighting mechanisms of immunity. At the same time, it is expected that the PI2 project will provide the basis for new methods of fighting infections in humans and animals.
Integrated GE3LS Research: Moving Science out of the Laboratory: Why are Some Scientists More Translational than Others?
GE3LS Project Leaders: Janet Atkinson-Grosjean University of British Columbia
Most large-scale scientific projects are expected to translate research results into clinical practice or commercial profit. Many academic researchers, however, are reluctant to exploit their discoveries. They feel uncomfortable moving beyond basic research into market-based or clinical applications.
Dr. Janet Atkinson-Grosjean, Senior Research Associate in the W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics (UBC), will examine the social, cultural and political factors that affect scientists’ willingness to translate discoveries into practice and/or profit. For market-based translation (‘merchant science’) in particular, researchers must develop skills in non-traditional activities such as intellectual property protection and product promotion. But the market also demands traditional ‘reputational capital’ in the form of advanced scientific publications, grants, and awards. Successful merchant scientists and translational researchers are able to switch with ease between scientific and entrepreneurial skill-sets. These scientists often depict their work in moral terms, suggesting it will increase overall prosperity by creating jobs or advancing therapies.
By examining the intersection of science, public policy and entrepreneurship in PI2, this project will try to frame the ethical dimensions of translational research and merchant science. The overall goal is to develop an evidence-base for informed policy and debate.