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Genetics research centre officially opened in Faculty of Medicine

By Virginia Middleton | May 1, 2015

Memorial University officially opened the Craig L. Dobbin Genetics Research Centre May 1.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s original gene pool and relatively closed environment provides unique opportunities to study genetic patterns and certain diseases. This state-of-the-art genetics research centre builds significant capacity for Memorial researchers to continue their important work in this area.

The Craig L. Dobbin Genetics Research Centre is housed in a new six-storey building adjacent to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s, N.L. The centre is housed on levels three, four and five, with space on level six shelled-in for future research. The research areas include both wet lab and dry lab research space that is used by researchers and staff from Memorial University and Eastern Health.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador invested $17.9 million in the centre, while $11.2 million was provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) through the Research Hospital Fund. The centre, a collaboration between Memorial University and Eastern Health, was one of only eight projects nationwide to receive funding through this rigorous competition.

“The exceptional facilities found at this remarkable centre will enable Memorial University’s researchers, along with their colleagues from other institutions, to conduct experiments that will reveal new dimensions of human genetics,” said Gilles Patry, president and chief executive officer, CFI. “Their discoveries and innovations will have the potential to improve the lives of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for generations to come.”

Paul Davis, premier, Newfoundland and Labrador, says that research from the new centre will have a profound impact on the people of the province as discoveries are found, treatments are determined and patients are able to directly benefit.

“The work that will take place at this state-of-the-art research centre will directly benefit the people of the province,” said Premier Davis. “The research performed here will help to create a better understanding of the genetic causes of diseases and disorders, which we expect will lend to improved treatments and prevention methods and ultimately a cure.”

The genetics research centre is named in honour of the late Craig L. Dobbin, a successful Newfoundland businessman and philanthropist. The naming is in recognition of a landmark gift from Elaine Dobbin that will support undergraduate student bursaries, graduate student scholarships, two post-doctoral fellowships and a research fund in the Faculty of Medicine.

“The generosity shown by the provincial government, the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Ms. Dobbin will create opportunities for students and researchers to conduct innovative research directly related to the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said President Gary Kachanoski. “Genetics research in the Faculty of Medicine has long been an area of expertise and our researchers have successfully identified genes associated with inheritable diseases and translated their discoveries into improved patient outcomes. This centre will significantly advance our capacity in this area and drive innovation.”

The genetics research centre is expected to help the Faculty of Medicine attract world-class researchers looking to perform cutting-edge research with advanced technology. The genetics centre includes one of the largest and fastest high-performance computing systems in Canada, which enables faster analysis of data related to critical health-care challenges.

Dr. James Rourke, dean, Faculty of Medicine, says ongoing research is a key component of health care. “With the Craig L. Dobbin Genetics Research Centre’s new research tools and technologies, we have the capacity to go even further with our medical discoveries,” said Dr. Rourke. “This means we will have the ability to look at the needs of the province and turn those needs into opportunities to help heal communities. It’s a matter of taking what we learn at the research bench and having it brought to the bedside of a patient.” 

 The genetics research centre is co-located with the Faculty of Medicine’s Medical Education Centre, which was officially opened in fall 2014. The provincial government invested $22 million in the facility, which includes the Clinical Learning and Simulation Centre, expanded and updated lecture theatres, small-group learning rooms and educational support units.