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Improving the Health & Well-Being of Albertans through Epigenetics Research Excellence

Media Release, Calgary, March 11, 2015 -
The Alberta Epigenetics Network brings together more than 40 researchers, educators, and clinicians representing a powerfully diverse range of scientific disciplines. With $1.2 million in support from the Government of Alberta and Alberta’s three largest research universities, the Network will increase the scale and impact of epigenetics research occurring in Alberta and accelerate the application of important epigenetic discoveries and therapies.

Epigenetics directly affects the health and well-being of all Albertans. It controls normal processes such as development, aging, and memory and plays a pivotal role in many diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. Studying how developmental and external environmental factors such as diet and lifestyle influence epigenetics mechanisms will enable researchers to develop new, more personalized therapies to improve health. Epigenetics is also important in agriculture; by understanding how epigenetics influences traits controlling livestock and crop health and development, Alberta farmers can increase their productivity.

“By connecting researchers and clinicians and leveraging existing expertise and resources we are stronger together,” says Dr. Lorne Babiuk, Vice-President (Research) at the University of Alberta. “The potential of this Network is tremendous—improving our knowledge and understanding of epigenetics can help address some of society’s most serious health issues, not to mention also having applications in agriculture—one of Alberta’s largest industries. Knowledge created and accelerated by the Network will lead to new technologies and applications that will improve the health and socioeconomic well-being of Albertans and beyond. The University of Alberta is very proud to be a partner in this important initiative.”

Dr. Ed McCauley, Vice President (Research) at the University of Calgary explains, “the Alberta Epigenetics Network represents a vital way for scientists and clinicians to continue to lead in growing fields of health research by not only bringing diverse perspectives together, but by also leveraging the new opportunities strong platforms in computing and engineering are ushering in,” says Dr. Ed McCauley,. “While everyone benefits from this kind of leadership – the students who are training as part of this initiative are critical for Alberta’s ongoing work in health discovery.”

“The positive health outcomes that may result from this collaborative effort between the University of Lethbridge and its research partners at the University of Alberta and University of Calgary are very promising,” says Dr. Lesley Brown, U of L’s Interim Vice-President (Research). “The field of epigenetics and its applications offer so much potential; this funding commitment is truly an investment in the health of Albertans.”

To increase the scale, impact, and application of epigenetics research, the Alberta Epigenetics Network provides many programs (www.epigeneticsnetwork.ca/programs) to facilitate collaboration, coordination of infrastructure, and to accelerate the application of epigenetics discoveries in the areas of health and agriculture.

As Dr. Igor Kovalchuk, a Network Science Lead and University of Lethbridge researcher, explains: “Epigenetics holds keys to understanding and treating many complex human diseases as well as understanding the intricate interactions of living organisms with the environment. Establishing this network puts scientists from Alberta, and Albertans, on the front line of discovery in one of the most exciting fields of science.”

Alberta Epigenetics Network’s five- year funding plan:
• Government of Alberta $754,000
• University of Alberta $149,833
• University of Calgary $149,833
• University of Lethbridge $149,833

For more information, visit www.epigeneticsnetwork.ca.

Improving the Health & Well-Being of Albertans through Epigenetics Research Excellence

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