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Source: McGill University

NSERC rewards McGill innovation

October 16, 2006

Winning projects
benefit health, food, communications, computer industries

McGill University researchers and innovators have been recognized with three
different awards for innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering
Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
Synergy Award for Innovation

Communications research with the potential to impact every Canadian at home,
work and play earned McGill and its industry and research partners one of
seven 2006 NSERC Synergy Awards for Innovation. Led by host institution
McGill and by telecommunications company Nortel, the Agile All-Photonic
Networks (AAPN) was honoured for strengthening the Canadian communications
industry's ability to compete internationally. AAPN's current advances
include a Topological Design Tool and detailed optical switching technology
roadmap information, as well as the technology to test partner hardware in
university labs.

Headed by McGill professor David Plant, Chair of the Department of
Electrical and Computer Engineering, AAPN was launched in 2003 as a
partnership of five universities that collectively lead original research,
define and develop technologies and transfer results to industry. The
collaboration aims to meet the many challenges facing the optical
communications systems and technology sectors driven in large part by the
explosive growth of the Internet from 21,000 users in 1985 to an expected
two billion within the next few years. This award comes with a $25,000
research grant to the lead university on the winning projects, to be divided
appropriately among partner universities.
2006 Leo Derikx Award

McGill was one of 12 university partners to receive the 2006 Leo Derikx
Award, a special Synergy Award named after the former director general of
research partnerships at NSERC. Also worth $25,000, the award recognizes
innovative collaborative projects at the pre-competitive stage of research
and development.

Led by Professor Sue Whitesides, Director of the School of Computer Science,
McGill was recognized for its partnership with the Toronto-based IBM Centre
for Advanced Studies (CAS), which each year hosts up to 150 faculty members
and about 60 graduate students from 50 universities around the world. CAS
projects often lead to publications, patents and prototypes, while
emphasizing graduate student training.
Innovation Challenge

At the same time, NSERC announced the winners of the Innovation Challenge,
in which postgraduate students from across the country are challenged to
present the best idea for applying the results of their thesis research.

While working on her master's thesis at McGill under Dr. Donald Smith, Chair
of the Plant Science department, microbiologist Elizabeth Gray discovered a
new protein-like toxin that kills bacteria and promotes plant growth. The
new bacteriocin, which she named Thuricin 17, kills or slows the growth of
specific strains of bacteria and has potential applications as an antibiotic
and food preservative. Though many bacteria are now resistant to commonly
used drugs such as penicillin, no such resistance developed with Thuricin
17, which can also be applied to the food industry as a new, natural
alternative to preservatives such as nitrates.

Her proposal for the development of Thuricin 17 for the health and food
industries has earned her one of the two $5,000 runner-up prizes in this
year's NSERC Innovation Challenge competition.

For more information on research and innovation at McGill University:

Michael Bourguignon
McGill University Relations Office



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