Researchers hooked on zebrafish

Dalhousie University Professor  Jason Berman uses zebrafish to understand the mysteries of how cancers, blood disorders, and rare genetic conditions manifest—and should be treated—in individuals.

His lab is the only one in Canada, and one of only a few in the world pioneering testing drug treatments in fish.

“Right now there is a big push for personalized medicine. Different drug treatments are needed for individual cancers and testing responses of these cancers in the fish can help direct therapies,” he says.

“The goal is eventually to use this method to determine in a timely way which treatment will work the best in a given patient when they are diagnosed.”

Making drug trials more nimble at getting new drugs to market as safely and quickly as possible is another of the goals of his research team. That team has formed a number of local, national and international academic partnerships, recently becoming the Atlantic node of the Vancouver-based Centre for Drug Research and Development,one of the premiere centres for drug development in North America.

Dr. Berman came to Nova Scotia nine years ago because Dalhousie University presented him with unique opportunities for building his research program, while working with patients in a clinical setting and training a new generation of investigators who can advance cancer research.

The Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust recently contributed $120,350 to Dr. Berman’s work. That funding was used to purchase the key infrastructure that enabled him to expand his lab and allowed his team to do this groundbreaking work.

“With that zebrafish facility and imaging suite, we’ve been able to attract great people to our lab, international trainees, people from great labs in Canada,”` says Dr. Berman.

His lab also received additional help from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, the Collaborative Health Research Projects initiative, Genome Canada, Ewing Sarcoma Foundation of Canada, C17 Childhood Cancer Network, and the Centre for Drug Research & Discovery.

This funding support laid the groundwork for another expansion of his laboratory in late 2014 in the new Dalhousie Life Sciences Research Institute.

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