U of L pro­fes­sor named ‘tier 2’ Canada Re­search Chair


AUniver­sity of Leth­bridge pro­fes­sor work­ing in a new-age field of med­i­cal re­search has been named a “tier 2” Canada Re­search Chair by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

Athana­sios Zovoilis, a pro­fes­sor in the chem­istry and bio­chem­istry de­part­ment at U of L, is a spe­cial­ist in bioin­for­mat­ics and ge­nomics. It’s a new dis­ci­pline that pro­vides the com­puter pro­grams that can read and an­a­lyze the data pro­duced by mod­ern se­quencers.

In ad­di­tion to $500,000 in funding through the Canada Re­search Chair pro­gram, Zovoilis will re­ceive more than $53,000 from the Canada Foun­da­tion for In­no­va­tion’s John R. Evans Lead­ers Fund for lab­o­ra­tory tools and equip­ment.

Zovoilis came to Leth­bridge from Har­vard Univer­sity in Bos­ton to es­tab­lish and pur­sue a re­search pro­gram aimed at de­vel­op­ing per­son­al­ized treat­ments for dis­eases like cancer and de­men­tia.

“It was not a very dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, I have to say,” says Zovoilis in a news re­lease. “Hav­ing lived in Canada be­fore, I know there’s sup­port for sci­ence, for fam­i­lies and for in­te­grat­ing peo­ple to the so­ci­ety. It makes the per­fect com­bi­na­tion.”

Orig­i­nally from Greece, Zovoilis be­gan med­i­cal stud­ies in his home­land and com­pleted them in Ger­many. Af­ter wit­ness­ing the im­pact of dis­eases like Alzheimer’s and cancer on mem­bers of his com­mu­nity, he knew he wanted a ca­reer where he could help peo­ple.

“I didn’t like this feel­ing of help­less­ness. That was one of the things that mo­ti­vated me to go to med­i­cal school,” he says.

While in med­i­cal school, molec­u­lar bi­ol­ogy cap­tured his in­ter­est. The Hu­man Genome Project was un­der­way and the re­search pos­si­bil­i­ties it pre­sented were cap­ti­vat­ing.

“A new era was start­ing and I de­cided to spe­cial­ize in it,” says Zovoilis. “I was con­vinced that if we want to fight Alzheimer’s and cancer we have to un­der­stand what’s hap­pen­ing at the molec­u­lar level in our cells. If we un­der­stand the ba­sic mech­a­nisms that un­der­lie these dis­eases then we will be able to fight them more ef­fi­ciently.”

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