On November 2, the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) announced the results of its collaborative funding program, with a total of over $44 million awarded to institutions across the country. McGill researchers were among the cohort with more than $1.5 million in project funds awarded. In all, 19 McGill projects were supported through these initiatives. The NRC collaborative funding program is organized into three separate themes:
- Challenge programs – focussed on disruptive technologies to address economic, social, and environmental challenges
- Supercluster support programs – to support the five topics identified as priority research areas in 2018: Digital Technology, Protein Industries (PIC), Next Generation Manufacturing (NGen), Scale AI, and Oceans
- Ideation Fund initiatives – to explore transformative research ideas in collaboration with external partners such as academic institutions and small and medium-sized enterprises.
“The support of the NRC through this collaborative funding program partners the creativity and talent of our researchers with those at the NRC,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal, Research and Innovation. “Each of these projects has the potential to make a real impact on people’s lives.”
Funding “enables fruitful collaboration” with world-class scientists
One such example is the work of Bioengineering Professor Amine Kamen, who received support for two projects. The first leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the production of biological agents such as vaccines through the pairing of virtual and physical bioreactors. The second examines at the genomic level the production of Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) vectors. This could lead to dramatically reduced costs for the targeted delivery of gene therapy treatments.
“Funding from the NRC is helping us develop these platform technologies,” explained Kamen. “They will help ensure our preparedness in the situation of emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases.”
Another researcher to have two projects funded was Professor Odile Liboiron-Ladouceur. She has been working on methods to incorporate AI into the design of photonic components, which not only accelerates the design cycles but also pushes the performance of photonic integrated circuits a step further. These circuits have multiple applications, including fiber optic networks, satellite communications, medical diagnostics, and other areas.
“Funding from NRC enables a fruitful collaboration with NRC world-class scientists who take part in the training of graduate students as next-generation leaders,” said Liboiron-Ladouceur, citing another major benefit of the NRC program.
The complete list of McGill recipient projects is as follows:
Professor Amine A. Kamen, Bioengineering, for Digital-twin of bioreactor for accelerated design and optimal operations in production of complex biologics and, Genome-wide CRISPR screen to identify genes that increase the yield and functionality of AAV vectors
Professor Odile Liboiron-Ladouceur, Electrical & Computer Engineering, for AI-assisted miniaturization of integrated photonic components and, Silicon Photonics multiplexer design with machine learning methods
Professor Yelena Simine, Science, for AI-Enabled Design of Aptamers
Professor Lawrence R. Chen, Electrical & Computer Engineering, for Terabit optical networks based on quantum dot lasers and photonic integration
Professor Sylvain Coulombe, Chemical Engineering, for Functionalized BNNTs for Energy Applications
Professor Sasha Omanovic, Chemical Engineering for Development of new composite/ functionalized cathodes for bio-electrochemical conversion of CO2 and CH4
Superclusters support program
Professor Parisa Ariya, Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences, for Microcosm studies for improved detection, physicochemical process characterization and modelling of the transport, degradation and fate of microplastics in Canadian waters (COVID-19)
Ideation Fund initiatives
Professor Michael Strauss, Anatomy & Cell Biology, for Tracking the mechanism of antibody trafficking across the blood brain barrier with advanced 3D-structure
Professor Sylvain Coulombe, Chemical Engineering, for developing a scalable solvent-free process for functionalization of Boron Nitride Nanotubes
Professor Audrey Helene Moores-François, Chemistry, for functionalized chitosan nanocrystals as catalysts for organic transformation reactions
Professor Mark Driscoll, Mechanical Engineering, for full body medical image segmentation for simulation-ready finite element models
Professor Abdolhamid Shafaroud Akbarzadeh, Bioresource Engineering, for bio-inspired Architected Ceramics for High Temperature Applications
Professor Victoria Kaspi, Physics, for a time-domain digital signal processing backend for fast radio burst follow up
Professor Maryam Tabrizian, Biomedical Engineering, for one step multiplex aptamer selection and validation using magnetic nanoparticle aptamer library (aptaMAG) coupled to microfluidic surface plasmon resonance imaging biosensor
Professor Lyle Whyte, Natural Resources Sciences, for an improved bio-inorganic system to couple solar energy to microbial carbon dioxide fixation
Professor Donald Smith, Plant Science, for Core microbes for field pea farming
Professor Jeffrey Bergthorson, Mechanical Engineering, for Optimized configuration of metal energy carrier for renewable energy sources