Stephen Withers, whose lab is developing new ways to synthesize carbohydrate-based therapeutics, is one of four new Canada Research Chairs (CRC) named to UBC this spring.
The professor of Chemistry, jointly appointed with Biochemistry, joins three CRC renewals announced within the Faculty of Science.
"These world-class researchers are a testament to UBC’s international reputation for excellence," says John Hepburn, Vice-President, Research. "Both the university community and Canada will benefit significantly from the experience and leadership of these great minds."
Withers is applying the tools of chemistry to understand and exploit biological processes, particularly the roles of carbohydrates. He has developed ways to reprogram the enzymes that ordinarily degrade complex sugars so that they synthesise the sugars instead, and has mimicked the process of natural selection to re-engineer enzymes to perform entirely new tasks.
The approaches will enable Withers to generate strategies to rapidly create 'designer' catalysts for the assembly of any complex sugar required. This will lead to new treatments for a variety of infectious and genetic diseases. His Tier 1 CRC includes $1.4 million in funding.
UBC Science researchers Jeremy Heyl (CRC in Neutron Stars and Black Holes), Reinhard Jetter (CRC in Natural Plant Products) and Dominik Schötzau (CRC in Numerical Analysis of Renewal Multiphysics Problems) are this spring's CRC renewals. Each receives $500,000 in funding.
Chair appointments provide research and salary support for either seven- or five-year terms. The seven-year terms are renewable; the five-year terms can be renewed once. The federally funded research positions are designed to build Canada's research capacity. An investment of $900 million will support the establishment of 2,000 Chairs at universities across the country.