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Science Technology Core and Services

The Science Technology Core and Services Division, led by Dr. Grant McClarty, combines leading-edge, molecular-based technology and expertise to provide in-house research, surveillance, outbreak and diagnostic support to National Microbiology Laboratory (NML) science programs. The Science Technology Core and Services Division incorporates state-of-the-art equipment, platforms and services in the areas of:

  • Bioinformatics (computer analysis of DNA and protein sequence information)
  • Genomics (DNA sequencing, genotyping and microarray analysis)
  • Proteomics and mass spectrometry (protein identification, sequencing and expression analysis)
  • Monoclonal antibodies (immunoreagents and antigens)

By creating and promoting program utilization of a central supply of advanced investigative technology and methods, the division contributes to the range and speed of NML services and the efficient use of public health resources. The division is also responsible for the:

  • Epidemiology Research and Training Section
  • Small Animal Facility Section
  • Media and Wash-up Section
  • Molecular Pathobiology Section
  • Applied Biosafety Research Program
  • Biorepository Program
  • Cell Culture Facility

Bioinformatics

The Bioinformatics Section, led by Dr. Gary Van Domselaar, supports the research, surveillance, diagnostic, and outbreak response activities of the NML programs and its collaborators by processing, storing, managing, analyzing, and understanding biological data. The section employs high performance computing to process, store, and analyze the massive biological data sets generated by modern genomics and proteomics sequencing technologies.

The section also engages in the development and application of cutting-edge computational tools, algorithms, and analytical methods for public health research, surveillance, diagnostics, and outbreak response.

Genomics

The Genomics Section, led by Dr. Morag Graham, provides NML programs, collaborators, and stakeholders with technical support and research involving molecular-based analyses and genomics technologies. The section enables rapid and accurate detection of infectious agents for surveillance, reference services and diagnostic purposes, thereby enhancing the agency's role and capabilities during outbreak response. The section also enables large-scale, basic and applied research projects to resolve outstanding - and often complex - public health questions, provides leadership and training, and delivers its own leading-edge research.

Molecular PathoBiology

The Molecular PathoBiology Section, led by Dr Stephanie Booth, carries out diagnostic pathology in support of NML programs and employs an array of multi-disciplinary techniques to understand the pathogenesis of infectious diseases. Pathobiology is a discipline that ties together the fundamental concepts of biology, medicine, and public health. By harnessing state-of-the-art technologies to study the physiological and genetic mechanisms that underlie human infectious disease, the section aims to translate fundamental data to prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Proteomics and Mass Spectrometry

The Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics (MSP) Section, led by Dr. Garrett Westmacott, provides leadership and support to NML on cutting-edge technologies and best practices in mass spectrometry and proteomics. The MSP section operates as a core facility, providing a shared, user-driven resource, and a focal point for training and information exchange. Key technologies include multi-dimensional liquid chromatography (2D-LC), liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS), and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF MS). The section uses these technologies to measure biological systems at the molecular, primarily protein, level, measuring molecular identity, abundance, and function.

The goal is to develop and provide LC- and MS-based methods and applications that will lead to improved diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infectious disease.

Bioforensics Assay Development and Diagnostics

The Bioforensics Assay Development and Diagnostics (BADD) Section, led by Dr. Cindi Corbett, focuses on:

  • providing specialized diagnostic CL3 reference services for emerging bacterial diseases
  • improving Canada's capacity to respond to acts involving bioterrorism or biowarfare, through:
    • the creation of an integrated response network (Canadian Laboratory Response Network)
    • providing PHAC / NML’s Mobile laboratory response capabilities
    • participating as a core member of the Canadian National CBRNE Response Team
  • emergency outbreak preparedness and response
  • developing novel immunoreagents and assays to enhance detection, diagnostic and therapeutic immunoreagent capabilities developed within Canada

The BADD section leads the deployment of Microbiological Emergency Response Teams (MERT) to respond to bioterrorism or infectious disease outbreaks in Canada and internationally, and is capable of performing molecular diagnosis of all 'A' list bioterrorism agents. Furthermore, this section offers immunological reagent development support to the research and diagnostic activities of NML programs as well as other agencies and laboratories, both nationally and internationally. Examples of the section’s current endeavours in reagent and assay development include public health threats of importance to Canadians, such as pH1N1, Clostridium botulinum, Cache Valley fever virus, Acinetobacter baumannii, ricin, and containment risk level 4 viruses (e.g., Ebola, Nipah).

NML Epidemiology Research and Training

The Laboratory Epidemiology Research and Training Section supports laboratory surveillance and epidemiologic research activities across NML program areas.

Veterinary Technical Services

The Veterinary Technical Services (VTS), led by Nicole Beausoleil, provides containment caging and support systems, providing on-site animal care services for various level 2 projects within the NML as well as to NCFAD to enable the research and diagnostic activities of these science programs. These services include all animal acquisition, manipulations and husbandry, generation and submission of reports, consulting on project approval processes with a presence on the Animal Care Committee, in-house training and consulting with other NML departments regarding the guidelines of the Canadian Council on Animal Care. In accommodating the small animal procedures of client programs, the facility contributes to the development of knowledge and technologies that strengthen the capacity to detect and respond to infectious disease threats in Canada and internationally on a day-to-day basis or in an outbreak scenario.

Media, Wash-up and Specimen Receiving

The Media, Wash-up and Specimen Receiving Section, led by Shafquat Siddiqi, operates a central facility providing NML, CSCHAH and NCFAD science programs with high-quality microbiological media preparation, biohazardous waste management, sterilization, and specimen receiving and distribution services.

Applied Biosafety Research Program

The Applied Biosafety Research Program, led by Dr. Steven Theriault, is responsible for:

  • conducting applied bio-safety research to facilitate advances in laboratory containment, decontamination methodologies, and the development of standards for decontamination
  • facilitating the synthetic biology program at NML
  • providing scientific expertise to NML / NCFAD related to bio-safety and applied bio-safety research
  • advancing applied bio-safety research at the NML, PHAC and NCFAD
  • developing and maintaining collaborations with external stakeholders (National and International) to advance applied research globally
  • developing and delivering bio-safety training programs

The ABRP's main focus is to promote the science of bio-safety, bio-containment, applied research, and bio-security, to develop stronger nationally / internationally-based knowledge on applied bio-safety research and develop training programs to assist in bio-safety issues.

Biorepository Program

Reference collections represent a core component of our mission at PHAC. They are unique in the world, critical to research in medicine and public health, and they provide the agency with the ability to not only detect, respond to, and control diseases today, but are vital to unravelling tomorrow’s unexpected disease crises.

The Biorepository Program, led by Louis Bryden, provides support for biospecimen management including:

  • Curation of invaluable scientific collections
  • Biological inventory data management and security
  • Intellectual Property management
  • Resource sharing
  • Deposit services

Our infrastructure will support the future of life science and biotechnology by providing services that conform to an accredited quality management system including ISO 9001.