Tomorrow's Health, Today's Research

History

The Centre for Biomedical Research is a collaborative collective of scientists and clinicians who are investigating important biomedical problems. The CBR is a multidisciplinary unit with an emphasis on genetics, molecular biology, and biotechnology. The centre was created to promote interdisciplinary basic and translational biomedical research.

The present day Centre for Biomedical Research began in 1994 as the Centre for Environmental Health. This was established by the molecular biologists Dr. Ben Koop, Dr. David Levin, Dr. Johan de Boer, Dr. Francis Choy and Dr. Barry Glickman who was the first Director.

Medical genetics was the main focus of the Centre at this time. For example, Francis Choy was interested in identifying mutations in genetic diseases. However, a somewhat wider scope was envisioned, hence the name of the Centre for Environmental Health.

The Centre became known for large-scale multidisciplinary approaches to basic science research. Centre members were interested in integrating molecular approaches to the larger picture, such as the physical environment. For example, Barry Glickman, building on his work in DNA mutation and repair, was interested in the environmental factors that interact with DNA. This work was conducted with de Boer and resulted in a method to track DNA damage in a transgenic rat as a model for human DNA in the real world.

During the later 1990s Ben Koop became part of the Human Genome Project, one of two worldwide research networks to announce in June 2000 that they had completed a rough draft of the human genome. Koop’s role was identifying human immune system genes. Koop became the director of the Centre for Environmental Health in 2002.

Meanwhile clinicians from local Victoria-area hospitals also joined the Centre. Membership was also from the BC Cancer Agency and infectious disease experts from UVic’s biochemistry/microbiology department. The research focus was unmistakably medical, and the centre was reborn in 2002 as the Centre for Biomedical Research. In 2004 UVic established a Division of Medical Sciences in conjunction with the UVic-UBC Island Medical Program partnership and there was a natural tendency for further related collaborations.

The breadth and scope of the Centre for Biomedical Research has continued to deepen, expand and strengthen. When the 3rd Director, neuroscientist Dr. E. Paul Zehr began his tenure in 2007 he brought with him a clear vision to firmly establish the Centre as a University-wide multi-faculty enterprise. Additionally, a key focus was to dramatically increase the awareness and profile of the Centre in community stakeholders locally, provincially, and nationally.

At the present time the Centre for Biomedical Research has more than 30 members spanning the Faculties of Science, Social Science, Engineering, and Education, and the Division of Medical Sciences. As such we have members from Biology, Chemistry, Microbiology & Biochemistry, Engineering, Education, Psychology, Mathematics, Medical Sciences, and Exercise Science. Additionally membership includes the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the BC Cancer Agency, and the Victoria Heart Institute Foundation.