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Annual Report 2001-2002

NRC - science lends a helping hand

  Highlights of NRC's 2001-2002 international work  
NRC - science lends a helping hand

NRC conducts R&D in areas such as marine biosciences and seafood safety, medical diagnostics and devices, agricultural and pharmaceutical biotechnologies, construction codes and materials standards for buildings and infrastructure, aerospace and metrology - all are vital to ensuring public health and safety, not only for Canadians, but for people around the world. In 2001-2002, NRC continued this tradition of "R&D for the public good" through a number of international R&D efforts.

Improving marine toxin and reference standards

NRC-IMB is leading an international team of scientists from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan and the United States on a three-year APEC project to develop and validate new analytical methods and produce new marine toxin standards and reference materials. For the millions of people in the Pacific region dependent on seafood for their livelihood, and as their main source of protein, the project will have life-saving impacts.

Puffer fish poisonings solved

Analytical chemists at NRC-IMB successfully identified saxitoxin as the causative agent in near fatal poisonings in the United States associated with eating Atlantic Puffer fish, a species never previously associated with toxicity. Apart from the rapid resolution of the poisoning mystery, this expert research in marine toxins has resulted in increased awareness of a potential new source of seafood poisoning.

Helping identify the victims of the World Trade Center attack

In the aftermath of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center, health officials in New York City were faced with the unprecedented challenge of identifying the thousands who died when the twin towers collapsed. American firm Gene Codes Corporation, a leading company in the creation of DNA sequencing software and databases, was chosen for the task. Gene Codes Forensics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gene Codes Corporation, was created for the sole purpose of handling the specific needs of this project.

To help manage the tremendous amount of data generated by the project, Gene Codes recruited the leader of NRC's Canadian Bioinformatics Resource specifically for his world-leading expertise in genetic database management. Using NRC's expertise, new software was created that could rapidly catalogue, search, and compare vast amounts and different types of genetic information, with the ultimate goal of identifying victims. By using different DNA sequencing techniques, a unique DNA signature could be developed for each victim and compared to samples taken from a missing person's personal effects, such as a toothbrush or hairbrush. The software was the first of its kind able to handle such a vast array of information and data with the goal of identifying the victims as quickly as possible.

National Research Council-Conseil national de recherches Canada
Published: 2002-12-16
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