News / Edmonton

New research robot to raise U of A's cancer fighting profile

University's Sample Jet is the first in Canada and one of three in the world.

Michael Overduin, Executive Director of the National High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Centre (NANUC), poses with the Sample Jet at the University of Alberta.

Melissa Fabrizio / University of Alberta

Michael Overduin, Executive Director of the National High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Centre (NANUC), poses with the Sample Jet at the University of Alberta.

A University of Alberta researcher says Edmonton’s cancer research prowess is under-recognized, but he hopes a new robot will help change that.

The university will unveil the cutting-edge Sample Jet – the first in Canada and one of three in the world – to the public Tuesday evening, to draw attention to the new technology and the school's growing body of work around cancer.

“We have a great cancer research community,” said Michael Overduin, Executive Director of the National High Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Centre (NANUC) where the robot is housed.

“I think Edmonton in general is not known for cancer research, even though it does great work, it has a great clinical trials group, about 300 researchers that are studying various types of cancer – both diagnostics and therapeutics, and also the basic biology that underlies cancer progression.”

NANUC is part of a global consortium that just got $5 million from UK charity Wellcome Trust, to tackle new disease targets, including an enzyme that causes triple negative breast cancer.

Overduin said the robot will allow scientists to focus on the molecular causes of cancer, heart and neurodegenerative or infectious diseases, for which new treatments are critically needed.

The Sample Jet has a robotic arm that collects samples, making it fun to watch as well as functional.

“It’s got a window that you can see what’s happening, so it’s visually enticing to watch the tubes moving around,” Overduin said.

In addition to offering tours of the Sample Jet, the U of A’s new student-led CureCancer network will be on hand from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with presentations by three trainees from the Cancer Research Institute of Northern Alberta, showing how they are developing new ways to improve detection and treatment of thyroid and breast cancer.

There will also be complimentary pizza and drinks.

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