Punja wins synergy award

Oct 30, 2003, vol. 28, no. 5
By Carol Thorbes

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He is known for his incisive understanding of relationships between fungi and plants.

But none of the relationships studied by Simon Fraser University scientist Zamir Punja (left) is as praiseworthy as the symbiotic relationship he has developed with the B.C. Greenhouse Growers Association (BCGGA).

The productivity of Punja's 12-year relationship with the vegetable producers' group has garnered him the most prestigious university-industry award in Canada.

The SFU biology professor is the recipient of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council's (NSERC) 2003 synergy award for innovation and the Leo Derikx award, the top synergy award. The former puts a $25,000 research grant in Punja's lab coat pocket.

The Leo Derikx award, named after a former NSERC director general of research partnerships, goes to only one researcher and industry partner duo nationally, each year.

The synergy awards recognize university researchers and industries for long-standing collaborative research and development relationships that lead to tangible commercial results.

Derikx, a driving force in building and developing university-industry partnerships in Canada, helped create the synergy awards.

Punja and the BCGGA - among seven duos receiving this year's awards - developed crop protection and environmental management technologies that have enhanced the competitiveness of the Canadian greenhouse vegetable industry.

Punja and BCGGA have identified genes that enhance pest resistance, developed techniques to identify and monitor pest populations, enhanced post-harvest quality and registered new products for disease management.

Punja formally receives his award at a NSERC-sponsored dinner at Vancouver's Fairmont hotel on Oct. 27.

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