About Us

Empowering Scientists

Envisioned by Dr. Michael Smith, a Nobel Laureate and a pioneer at the interface of biology and technology, UBC’s Biotechnology Laboratory (later renamed in 2004 when the new building opened as the Michael Smith Laboratories) was the first of its kind: a dynamic hub that includes clusters of interdisciplinary researchers working together, under one roof. This hub became a community where biologists and engineers collaborate to make impactful contributions to society’s greatest needs. Fast-forward two decades, the Michael Smith Laboratories (MSL) is now home to a team of researchers from a number of faculties including Science, Medicine, Applied Science, Forestry, and Land and Food Systems. 

A History of Excellence


Director’s Message

Committed to Research Excellence and Community Impact

Welcome to UBC’s Michael Smith Laboratories, where biotechnology research and educational outreach converge to inspire creative ideas and experiments to society’s most pressing health and environmental needs.

Here at the Michael Smith Laboratories, we think differently. We collaborate with our diverse networks of peers, and encourage one another to overcome challenges and uncover innovative solutions to problems of societal importance. We work on health, broadly interpreted. We support our scientists with cutting-edge resources and tools. Together, we strive to make a difference.

The Michael Smith Laboratories’ leadership can be seen through the impact of its people and programs and the research impact that comes out of Michael Smith Labs. Fundamentally, we are enabling biotechnology research excellence.

With over 100 awards, countless high-impact publications, several biotechnology companies, outreach to thousands of high school students, and millions of dollars raised, the Michael Smith Laboratories is truly influential. The biotechnology research carried out at the Michael Smith Laboratories connects fundamental science to practical solutions needed for our future. At the core of our work, we inspire and enable research excellence in biotechnology.

We are fortunate to attract some of the brightest stars in biotechnology research. Our graduate students, research fellows, and faculty have invested their time and effort to build this community into what it is today. The MSL is not an island. Consistent with Michael Smith’s original vision, we are built on three guiding principles – research, education, and community relevance. Our outreach and science education efforts, centered at the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory, connect our fundamental science to Canadian communities.

I am honoured to be a part of this unique organization and am committed to fostering an environment that will inspire the next generation of leaders in Canadian biotechnology.

– Dr. Peter Zandstra, Director, Michael Smith Laboratories

About Us

Dr. Michael Smith

Michael Smith | Photo by Martin Dee and provided by UBC Archives.

Dr. Michael Smith (1932-2000), Nobel Prize Laureate, will be remembered as a great humanitarian who was passionate about research and science. He received his PhD in 1956 from the University of Manchester and then undertook his post-doctoral studies in Gobind Khorana’s Laboratory at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada.

In 1993, Smith received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research on site-directed mutagenesis, a technique where a specific DNA sequence can be altered in a targeted manner. As a true humanitarian, he donated half of the Nobel Prize money to Science World British Columbia (now Telus World of Science) and to the Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology (SCWIST). The other half was given to researchers working on the genetics of schizophrenia, a widespread mental disorder for which research money was scarce.

Michael Smith was a distinguished and creative scientist, a humble man known for his humanity. He gave generously to the people of Canada and the world, using his time and energy to reach out to audiences with his message about the importance of science to everyone’s life. Smith was a natural leader who made the journey from humble beginnings to scientific greatness, without losing touch with his roots. Smith’s legacy lives on through BC’s biotechnology industries, research institutes and centres (such as Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre), and funding organizations (such as Genome British Columbia, and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research).

Watch the Legacy Video

This video was created and funded by Genome British Columbia and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, with support from the Michael Smith Laboratories.

About Us

Awards + Recognition

At the Michael Smith Laboratories, our research aims to influence the world around us. The Michael Smith Laboratories’ faculty have received numerous awards and recognition from professional associations, foundations, and academic institutions.

  • One Nobel Prize Laureate
  • Seven Royal Society of Canada Fellows
  • Four Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs (past and active) and Two Tier II Canada Research Chair (past and active)
  • One Canadian Medical Hall of Fame Laureate
  • Three Howard Hughes International Research Scholars
  • Three Steacie Prizes Recipients