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Stephen Owen Announces New Bioinformatics Training Program

(May 20, 2003, Burnaby, BC) - The Honourable Stephen Owen, Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification)(Indian Affairs and Northern development) on behalf of the Honourable Allan Rock, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), today announced the official launch of the Canadian Bioinformatics Resource Industry Service (CBRi), a one-year pilot project that will provide expertise and consulting to small-to-medium-size biotechnology companies and targeted bioinformatics training at a new $1.3 million facility at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT).


"Western Economic Diversification Canada is pleased to support an industry that plays such an important role in improving the health of Canadians," said the Honourable Stephen Owen, "Strengthening the capacity of the biotech sector is critical to the successful growth of the Life Sciences Cluster in B.C."


Bioinformatics uses computing technology and expertise to store, retrieve, visually analyze and distribute complex biological information. Bioinformatics applications enable researchers to investigate increasing amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional analysis techniques. 


Jointly established by the National Research Council’s Canadian Bioinformatics Resource (NRC-CBR), BCIT, and Vitesse (Reskilling) Canada Inc., CBRi is Canada’s first dedicated training and support facility in bioinformatics and is designed to fill an industry-identified gap in bioinformatics know-how.


“With the tremendous growth of the biotech sector in the past four years, it is crucial that the availability of skilled workers keeps pace with the needs of Canadian firms,” said Dr. Arthur Carty, NRC President. “This will keep Canada on track to make critical headway into worldwide biotech markets.”  

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is assisting the CBRi project with $190,000 in start-up and launch funding. NRC-CBR has provided more than $1-million in resources including mainframe computer equipment. In addition, NRC-CBR will provide systems administration and a network of contacts to provide expertise and consulting. BCIT will provide access to an already-existing training resource centre with a $1.5-million Internet Engineering Lab, computer resources and broadband network connections. Vitesse (Reskilling) Canada will develop, manage and deliver bioinformatics courses based on industry needs


"We have a strong interest in helping to build winning biotech companies,” says Norman Streat, BCIT Applied Research Dean. “We're extremely proud to be selected as the first CBRi node in Canada. It recognizes BCIT's leadership in linking educational resources with the needs of industry. We're also most appreciative of the support being provided by Western Diversification."


“We’re excited about bringing our strengths to this project, and getting involved with local biotech companies to help build a stronger local biotechnology industry by working to ensure that the industry has rapid access to people specifically trained with their needs in mind,” says Taras Hollyer, Vitesse’s Program Manager for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.


In the coming year, NRC anticipates expanding the CBRi pilot program across Canada and providing access to CANARIE’s CA*net 4, a network for Internet research and education.  CA*net 4 connects the provincial research networks, international peer networks, universities, research centres, government research laboratories, schools, and other sites.


Recognized globally for research and innovation, Canada’s National Research Council (NRC) is a leader in the development of an innovative, knowledge-based economy for Canada through science and technology. NRC operates world-class research facilities as well as information, technology and innovation support networks from coast to coast. NRC works hand in hand with partners from industry, government and universities to help ignite the spark of innovation in communities across the land and to give Canadian companies a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.


NRC-CBR is a national network of collaborating institutes, universities and individuals dedicated to the provision of bioinformatics services to Canadian researchers. NRC-CBR has approximately 1,100 registered non-profit users across the country, with many more taking advantage of web services, and provides bioinformatics infrastructure to seventeen research institutes and universities from Halifax to Vancouver.


Since its establishment in 1987, WD's mandate has been to promote the development and diversification of the economy of Western Canada and to advance the interests of the West in national economic policy. Working in cooperation with industry associations, financial institutions and the four western provinces, WD is involved in several innovative partnerships with both the public and private sectors. Resources are strategically targeted to industries having the greatest potential for growth and that support the federal government's Canadian Innovation Strategy.


BCIT's Technology Centre is the applied research and development hub of the polytechnic institute. The centre is home to 44 full-time researchers, including dedicated biotechnology-bioinformatics staff.


Vitesse is an independent not-for-profit organization operating with a national mandate and was created in 1996 through a partnership between NRC, University of Ottawa, Carleton University and knowledge-sector employers.

For more information, please visit NRC’s Web site at or contact:

Shannon Cassidy
Media Relations
National Research Council Canada
Tel: (613) 998-7352
Cell: (613) 725-7392

Michael Becker
Media Relations
Tel: (604) 432-8773

Taras Hollyer
Program Manager
Vitesse Re-SkillingTM Canada Inc.
Tel: (613) 746-3595 ext. 224

Susan Schooley
Manager, Communications
Western Economic Diversification Canada
Tel: (604) 666-1318

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