Awards and recognition

Drs. Leonard Foster and Sabrina Leslie awarded CFI Innovation Fund grants

We are excited to share that Drs. Leonard Foster and Sabrina Leslie are among ten UBC researchers who have been awarded grants through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Innovation Fund.

Dr. Leonard Foster

The CFI Innovation Fund invests in infrastructure that supports Canadian research projects which have social, health, environmental and economic benefits. The funding awarded to Foster and Leslie, alongside their teams and trainees, will allow them to acquire new equipment including mass spectrometers, analytical equipment and higher-resolution imaging technology.

“We are in a field where the technology is still developing very quickly. CFI is a program that allows Canadian science to keep up with those advances in technology… it’s critical to stay current,” shares Foster on the importance of receiving this funding.

Foster’s research project aims to measure changes in protein expression in cells that have been infected by a virus, and learn how these proteins may interact with one another on a larger scale. In the short term, his team hopes to minimize symptoms from viral infections by inhibiting viral enzymes. In the long term, he sees this work speeding up response times to new emerging viruses.

Dr. Sabrina Leslie

Leslie’s CFI project is focused on advancing single-particle and single-cell imaging to offer a more complete understanding of how molecules and cells interact. Her lab is particularly interested in how genomic medicines behave at the smallest scale, and how this opens doors to innovating new medicines. An example of this, from work that Leslie’s lab had begun even before the pandemic, includes lipid nanoparticles used in the delivery of mRNA in COVID-19 vaccines.

In addition to supporting these significant developments, Leslie’s research will contribute to public understanding of how these nanomedicines work through high-resolution imaging, which is why the project has been named Multi-scale Seeing-Is-Believing.

“There’s an opportunity to communicate to the public using quantitative imaging data about the ‘journey’ of a single lipid particle as it enters and interacts with cells,” says Leslie.

With this funding, Foster and Leslie’s labs will collaborate to contribute to the fundamental science understanding and treatment of viral infection at the cellular level, thus contributing to stronger detection, response and prevention methods for potential future pandemics.


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