$400K in donations to enhance U of L prairie plant research
The University of Lethbridge received $400,000 in donations from two corporations to advance its community engagement efforts in the sciences and to fund cutting-edge prairie plant research on Friday.
A donation of $250,000 from Power Corporation of Canada will provide infrastructure to help develop a flexible lab and makerspace in the U of L’s Science Commons and another gift will help fund the plant science research of the Dr. Jim Coutts Prairie Research Program, which will examine prairie plants to determine chemical properties which could be important to science in general, and in particular to human health. The research will include insights from local Indigenous elders who will share traditional knowledge about the healing properties of certain plants. Canada Life donated an additional $150,000 toward both projects in co-ordination with Power Corp.
“It is astonishing that, even in the 21st century, we are only beginning to realize that plants from the Alberta Prairies contain chemicals of medical importance,” said U of L biologist Roy Golsteyn, who heads the Dr. Jim Coutts Prairie Research Program. “This funding will continue to support our students and our research as we investigate these plants, seeking the chemicals that may lead to new and better treatments for eradicating cancer.”
“There are plants which are unique here (in southwest Alberta),” he added, “and these plants have some very important chemicals in them. We also know from our contacts with the First Nation communities, who have been very generous with us, that they also know things about these plants that help them with their health.”
It was a university research approach unique in Canada, and well worth funding in its own right, said Paul Genest, senior vicepresident, Power Corporation of Canada.
“What we see at the University of Lethbridge is cutting-edge research and a commitment to a first-class student experience here involving students actually in the research,” said Genest, senior vicepresident in giving his reasons for his company’s support. “And also the values of the palace — there is clearly a commitment to community engagement. There is an involvement with Indigenous Elders and respect for traditional knowledge (in the Dr. Jim Coutts Prairie Research Program), and really cultivating something new in Canada which is looking at the whole ecosystem for life-saving drugs that will improve quality of life.”
Genest also admitted he took some personal satisfaction in making the donation in memory of his friend, the program’s namesake, Dr. Jim Coutts.
While that prairie plant research is cuttingedge and important, the fraction of the donation earmarked for the Science Commons makerspace and flex-lab is no less important, in his mind, said Canada Life CEO Paul Mahon.
“We saw the work University of Lethbridge was doing to try to advance education in a couple different ways,” he explained. “When we saw the diversity of trying to bring different sciences together and the whole idea of collaboration as well, but also the theme of focusing not just on undergrad and grad students but also K-12, all those things coming together really said there was something special here and we really wanted to be supportive of it.”
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