A researcher at Brandon University has picked up funding through Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada that will help with work to create a better understanding of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Vincent Chen, an Assistant Professor in BU’s Department of Chemistry, is a recipient of an NSERC Discovery Grant, with a value of $165,000 over five years. Chen’s lab at BU specializes in the study of gap junction ion channels that are responsible for direct cell-to-cell communication. The proteins making up these channels regulate a number of cellular processes including growth, proliferation and migration, as well as cell death and survival.

“This NSERC discovery grant will allow us to better understand the biochemical pathways of gap junctional intercellular communication, and how these channels are misregulated in diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke” Chen said. “By understanding how tissues of the brain and heart use gap junctions provides critically important avenues for us to identify new biomarkers and design novel therapeutic approaches to mitigate disease.”

The Discovery Grant Program is NSERC’s largest funding program. The long-term funding allows researchers to explore new pathways in their research as they are discovered. Chen becomes BU’s 11th active NSERC Discovery Grant holder.

“I am truly excited by the work being done by our faculty, and am delighted to see the quality of research being recognized by national funding agencies such as NSERC,” said Dr. Heather Duncan, BU’s Associate Vice-President of Research. “As teachers, our faculty members are making a real difference in the lives of our students each day. And, over time, research such as the work being done by Dr. Chen is building knowledge that will help countless others around the world.”

Brandon University student Harald Grove is also benefitting from NSERC funding, through the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship-Master’s Award. A student in the Master of Science (Environmental and Life Sciences) program, Grove will receive $17,500 in funding over one year for his study of the effects of microRNAs on metabolism in the greater wax moth. Greater wax moths are valued in research because they can often be used as a stand-in for mammals in the study of microbial infections.

“We take great pride in the research opportunities that we can present to students at Brandon University,” said Dr. Meir Serfaty, Acting Vice-President (Academic and Provost) at BU. “The growth of our graduate programs has opened doors for top-notch student research. Building a strong portfolio of research here is going to help our students progress in their academic and professional careers, while giving them a strong foundation for great discoveries in the future.”

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