Breathing new life into life sciences

McIntyre Building

When the Life Sciences Complex (LSC) opened its doors in the fall of 2008, completing the largest construction project in the history of McGill, it officially launched a new era in multidisciplinary collaboration.

Funded through a historic $10-million gift from Francesco Bellini, DSc’04, the LSC brought together leading researchers from the Faculties of Medicine and Science to work side-by-side to translate basic scientific discoveries in biology, biochemistry and other disciplines to improve health care and innovate treatment.

Made up of the newly constructed Francesco Bellini Life Sciences Building and the Rosalind and Morris Goodman Cancer Centre, as well as the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building and Stewart Biological Sciences Building, the LSC cements McGill’s and Montreal’s place as a research hub in biomedical and life sciences. With its leading edge facilities and equipment, it has drawn international attention and helped attract top-tier researchers to the University from all over the world, and it is known as one of the best facilities in Canada to conduct research and development in the medical field.

“The opening of the Life Sciences Complex marked a giant step forward in interdisciplinary research, which today is being conducted onsite by some of the world’s leading scientists,” says Dr. David H. Eidelman, Vice-Principal of Health Affairs and Dean of Medicine. “Our goal is to bring the benefits of discovery more quickly to society, and it’s thanks to the vision of both our public and private partners that this model facility has been created in Montreal.”

The LSC’s High Throughput Screening facility, for instance, enables researchers to exponentially speed up testing in areas such as drug development, while its imaging facility allows scientists to “see” their work with live cell or tissue imaging as never before thanks to the state-of-the-art tools and technology crucial to research in the post-genomic era.

Research at the LSC is concentrated on five biomedical fields: Cancer, Complex Traits, Chemical Biology, Developmental Biology, and Cell Information Systems. At the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, medical researchers are bringing new knowledge to bear on areas like breast cancer, pulmonary cancer and cancer stem cells. Researchers in the Complex Traits Group are examining the way different genes interact to cause disease or how environmental factors affect human health; investigators in the field recently identified the gene that causes spina bifida, a common birth defect. Other LSC scientists bring their expertise to the fight against cystic fibrosis or to a better understanding of auto-immune disorders.

In addition to the Bellini gift, construction of the LSC was made possible through the support of numerous donors, including the Morris and Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation, the estates of Phyllis Butterworth and Dorothy Karp, BSc’44, MSc’46, PhD’53, and the Dr. John R. and Mrs. Clara M. Fraser Memorial Trust.

Their generosity has not been misplaced. “We now have the means to power whole new avenues of research, new treatments and new opportunities for the biomedical sector,” says Dean of Science Martin Grant. “Most of all, we have the potential to deliver good news to people for decades to come.”