Deep in the National Research Council’s Oxford Street headquarters sits a brand new, $4-million masterpiece: the world’s most sensitive biomolecular MRI.
And researchers are optimistic the new MRI facility, officially opened yesterday, will help bolster a growing life-sciences sector in Halifax.
“If a major, life-threatening disease sweeps across our nation, then issues like the fuel efficiency of your hybrid SUV may be less important to you,” said Donald Weaver, a Dalhousie University drug researcher who’s been involved in five biotech startup companies.
“Having a facility like this is more likely to result in a biotech company wanting to be here. The more companies come here, the better it is for employment, the better it is for the regional economy.”
The new facility will allow researchers to examine in greater detail how certain drugs interact with proteins in the body, and will help them study blood, tissues or other cells in greater detail.
Private sector, government and university scientists will be able to use the facility.
Previously, Weaver said, drug researchers would have to test thousands of versions of drugs to find one that would react well; now, they can cut that number substantially.
That will save time and money in drug R&D.
Scientists can also use just a fraction of the sample sizes they once needed, and can ensure their molecular samples are in pure form.
Down the road, Weaver said, that means a new and important industry for the local economy.
“The health sector and the biomedical sector is going to be so hugely important to national and international economies in the coming years. This is a sector we’ve got to pay attention to.”
Roman Szumski, vice-president of the National Research Council, said Halifax is a perfect place for the new MRI.
“Halifax has a very good track record of doing good things with sophisticated equipment, so it’s a good place to make this sort of investment,” Szumski said.
There are 55 core life-sciences companies in Nova Scotia.