Federal government recognizes two Queen’s research affiliates

$120 million in funding awarded to national research facilities associated with Queen’s 

François-Philippe Champagne announced funding at Queen’s.
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Prior to the start of a new semester, two national research facilities associated with Queen’s received $120 million in funding from the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) Major Science Initiatives Fund (MSI).

In the announcement, François-Philippe Champagne, minister of innovation, science, and industry, highlighted the importance of investing in Canada’s research infrastructure.

Receiving $102 million over six years is SNOLAB, an underground research facility that allowed Queen’s professor Dr. Arthur McDonald to win the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics.

Minister Champagne also announced a $19 million renewal of funding for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group Operations and Statistics Centre at Queen’s University (CCTG).

SNOLAB: A Canadian “gem” leading the way in Canadian underground physics

The SNOLAB is primarily a particle astrophysics lab located two kilometres underground in an active mine in Sudbury, Ontario.

The funding will allow SNOLAB to build infrastructure for new experiments and support existing projects.

“The types of experiments that we house are primarily physics experiments, but it’s not only that. We also have some experiments going on in biology and life sciences,” SNOLAB Executive Director Jodi Cooley said in an interview with The Journal.

SNOLAB’s environment has unique experimental capabilities. SNOLAB is a “clean room,” which Cooley said “has to do with what size particles and what type of particles are in the air.”

One of the many ongoing experiments at SNOLAB aims to detect dark matter—illuminous matter that Cooley describes as the “glue” binding the stars in our galaxy together. 

“This dark matter mystery has been around for 100 years,” Cooley said. “This is fundamental research for increasing our knowledge.”

Currently, there are four faculty, three adjunct professors, seven research staff, ten graduate students and two undergraduate students from Queen’s involved with SNOLAB.

“On the way to solving these very interesting and difficult problems, inevitably you end up inventing something new or coming up with ideas that turn into things that are commercially useful,” Cooley said.

CCTG: A world class network of clinical trials in cancer research 

The Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), headquartered at the Queen’s Operational and Statistical Centre, is “the biggest and most sophisticated clinical trial unit in the country,” Director of CCTG Janet Dancey said in an interview with The Journal.

“We do trials of all types of promising treatment, all phases of trials, for all patients with cancer,” Dancey said.

CCTG is currently participating in 172 active trials and has 150 researchers at Queen’s leading close to a third of their projects.

“From the portfolio of active trials, there were 22 of the phase three trials that were completed and were analyzed. Of those 22, 13 were positive, defining a new standard of [cancer] care. Of those, three were CCTG led trials, and the others (CCTG) contributed to,” Dancey said. 

CCTG trials work towards reducing the burden of cancer and its treatment, personalizing treatment for individuals, and seeking biological characteristics that are unique predictors for specific cancers.

“We want to know [cancer patients’] thoughts, their opinions about treatment, and their experience of that treatment. We are trying to incorporate more of the patient perspective,” Dancey added.  

The biobank—created by CCTG and based at the Kingston Health Sciences Centre—is the largest biobank of specimens from cancer patients on clinical trials in the country.

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