Newly-expanded Applied Genomics Centre grows student research at KPU

Thu, May 25, 2023

A major expansion of the Applied Genomics Centre (AGC) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s (KPU) Surrey campus and new funding will supercharge cutting-edge research and further expand opportunities for students.

AGC Opening

Andrew Mercier, B.C. Minister of State for Workforce Development, and Sukh Dhaliwal, MP for Surrey-Newton, joined KPU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis to officially open a second lab space today, effectively doubling the AGC in size and ushering in a new phase of highly-specialized genetics research relied on by the B.C. agricultural sector.

“Our province is only as resilient as its people. The new Applied Genomics Centre at KPU will provide students with better access to technological education and skills training,” says Mercier. “This centre continues our government’s work to provide rewarding careers and opportunities for British Columbians and ensures that people have the skills and knowledge they need to pursue the opportunities of tomorrow.”

“The Applied Genomics Centre exemplifies what KPU is about – allowing students to focus on developing advanced hands-on skills, in addition to traditional academics. Momentum in this field continues to build, and this expansion bears testament to the success of our research and partnerships with industry and government partners,” says Dr. Davis.

Providing a boost to the AGC is new financial support from industry and government, including $1 million from the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund, bringing total funding to over $9 million.

AGC Opening

“Creating new opportunities in health science, biology, and horticulture throughout our province is vital to the long-term wellness of British Columbians,” says Brenda Bailey, Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation. “By supporting the Applied Genomics Centre at KPU through the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, we are helping researchers foster innovative technologies that will help us better understand our genetic well-being and develop sustainable farming methods for our agriculture sector.”

That support has financed lab construction and outfitted the AGC with state-of-the-art genomics equipment for advanced genetics research, including DNA sequencing, SNP genotyping, and real-time PCR. It’s also allowed the AGC to build a strong team of 30 researchers – faculty, laboratory staff, and students – with a broad range of expertise to support the innovation needs of more than 30 agriculture partners.

“It’s really about capacity – increasing the number of students that we can have and the number of industry partner projects that we can take on. The new lab is not only creating new space but also adding new equipment, which gives us new opportunities for projects,” says Dr. Paul Adams, AGC Director and a faculty member in the biology department at KPU.

There’s certainly demand. Students in health science, biology, horticulture, and brewing programs are eager to get into the lab to gain experience in scientific research – for courses linked with the centre, capstone projects and paid research assistant positions.

"KPU students get hands-on experience and a chance to develop skills on equipment that very few undergrads would ever get a chance to,” says Adams. “Being able to bring those students into the lab and give them hands-on training with the tools and technology used today by industry is a huge opportunity.”

Industry partners are also lining up with projects. Major AGC projects all involve students, and include researching crop production sustainability, developing new varieties of hops used in brewing beer, breeding ornamental plants, crossing breeds of beef cattle to cope with climate change, and combatting illness in cows and horses.

“There’s significant demand for genetics research, and our partners are seeing the value of what KPU offers. The Applied Genomics Centre is connecting KPU to industry and community partners while offering powerful experiences for our students,” says Dr. Deepak Gupta, associate vice president for research, innovation, and graduate studies. “Thanks to the generous funding and support from our partners, the centre is able to help find solutions to assist industry in our region and beyond.

Founded in 2019, the AGC has received funding from KPU, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund, Genome BC, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC, BC Ataxia Society, and industry partners.