Grads help in SARS discovery

May 01, 2003, vol. 27, no. 1
By Diane Luckow

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Four SFU graduates are among the team of eight Vancouver genome researchers recently acclaimed for charting the draft sequence of the virus that may cause SARS.

Marco Marra, director of the B.C. Genome Sciences Centre (BCGSC) and an adjunct professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU, directed the team that made the SARS breakthrough.

Marra earned his PhD in genetics at SFU in 1994. He was honoured with an outstanding alumni award in 2000.

Steven Jones, head of bioinformatics for the centre and also an adjunct professor at SFU, graduated with an MSc in genetics from SFU in 1994 before earning his PhD at the Sanger Centre in Cambridge, U.K.

Jacqueline Schein, head of genome mapping, earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at SFU while Angela Brooks-Wilson, group leader cancer genomics, earned her undergraduate degree at SFU.

An additional seven SFU grads at the centre were also integral to the work, says Schein, a group which includes Yaron Butterfield, Anca Petrescu, Jaswinder Khattra, Duane Smailus, Pawan Pandoh, Alison Cloutier and Noreen Girn.

“SFU has long had a reputation for producing strong graduates who can make significant contributions in this and other biotechnology-related fields,” says Barry Honda, a professor in the department of molecular biology and biochemistry at SFU. “We've also been fortunate to have very good students apply to and complete the program.”

This fall, the molecular biology and biochemistry department will build on its success with the introduction of a joint major in computing science and molecular biology and biochemistry. The first program of its kind in B.C., it will attract students interested in bioinformatics - a field that uses novel computational approaches to analyze and visualize the vast amounts of biological data being discovered daily in the field of genomics.

To learn more about SFU's prowess in the field of medical and health research, please see this issue's special feature.

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