ABOUT US The Institute
In May 2003, the discovery of the first domestic cow infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in an Alberta herd devastated the country's beef and cattle industries overnight. International trade borders closed to Canadian beef and cattle. Amid the uncertainty and economic losses, the Government of Alberta received international praise for its focus on public interest and its transparent and effective response.
A lasting legacy of Alberta's response to the 2003 BSE crisis is an investment in research. The Government of Alberta created the Alberta Prion Research Institute in April 2005 to fund research on BSE and other prion and protein misfolding diseases. The province invested $35 million over seven years and renewed its commitment to prion research in 2012 with an additional investment of $15 million through March 2015. In 2015, the province invested an additional $27.5 million through March 2021.
The Alberta Prion Research Institute has provided funding to create a world-class talent pool of research expertise and to build state-of-the-art research labs at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary. These investments have resulted in establishing Alberta’s significant scientific capacity to address the socioeconomic challenges posed by BSE and other prion-related diseases.
The Alberta Prion Research Institute's targeted funding and commitment to excellence has attracted 11 world-class researchers to Alberta. The Alberta Prion Research Institute funds the laboratories and equipment scientists need for their research. It also supports their efforts to put science into practice through sound public policy, practical applications, surveillance measures, diagnostic tools and therapies that will save lives and save dollars.
Since its establishment, the Alberta Prion Research Institute has funded 53 researchers and three industry partners. Eleven of these are researchers from outside of Alberta who were recruited to the University of Alberta and University of Calgary with funding from the Alberta Prion Research Institute. Alberta, which previously did not have any prion researchers, has now become a global leader in prion research.
The Prion Institute focuses on the following areas of research excellence:
Protein folding and misfolding
Applying tools of structural biology, biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology and bio-computing to understand the mechanisms of BSE, TSEs and other diseases of protein misfolding.
Pathobiology of TSEs
Understanding BSE/TSE biology susceptibility, transmissibility and disease progression using genomics, proteomics, metabolomics and other innovative approaches that will contribute to the diagnosis, prevention, cure, and possible elimination of the diseases.
Surveillance and Control
Minimizing risks associated with prion exposure, including disposal of specified risk material, technologies for inactivation and decontamination of prions in water, wastewater, soil and the environment.
Also focused on diagnosing BSE based on prion genomics, focusing on immunologic and biomedical engineering technologies to apply, validate and improve antemortem tests developed elsewhere, and to explore opportunities for new tests to be developed in Alberta.
TSEs and Society
Studying policy and response modeling, assessing economic and sociological components of community impact, risk perceptions, consumer acceptance and impact on markets, and ensuring fair and accurate communication of scientific advances. This component will also provide information useful to all levels of government for the development of public policies regarding TSEs.
The Alberta Prion Research Institute is committed to the prevention, mitigation and treatment of prion and protein misfolding diseases in animals and humans. The Alberta Prion Research Institute invests in fundamental and applied research that takes an interdisciplinary approach to solving the prion mystery. It supports projects that focus on innovation and invention.
The Alberta Prion Research Institute's immediate goal is to fund research that helps unfold the mysteries of prion and protein misfolding behaviour; prevent and manage prion and prion-like diseases; and address the economic, environmental, social and economic consequences of these diseases. While working to achieve that goal, the Alberta Prion Research Institute is building research capacity and expertise in Alberta.
The Alberta Prion Research Institute aims to increase knowledge and understanding in all areas of prion and protein misfolding science. This includes the basic biology of prions, prion diseases and other protein misfolding diseases; surveillance and control of these diseases; and understanding the socioeconomic impact of them. Additionally, the Institute organizes events for Albertans, industry and the research community to discuss the research currently being done in Alberta and possible opportunities for collaboration.