October 17th, 2017

U of L professor named ‘tier 2’ Canada Research Chair

By Mabell, Dave on May 19, 2017.

Lethbridge Herald

A University of Lethbridge professor working in a new-age field of medical research has been named a “tier 2” Canada Research Chair by the federal government.

Athanasios Zovoilis, a professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department at U of L, is a specialist in bioinformatics and genomics. It’s a new discipline that provides the computer programs that can read and analyze the data produced by modern sequencers.

In addition to $500,000 in funding through the Canada Research Chair program, Zovoilis will receive more than $53,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund for laboratory tools and equipment.

Zovoilis came to Lethbridge from Harvard University in Boston to establish and pursue a research program aimed at developing personalized treatments for diseases like cancer and dementia.

“It was not a very difficult decision, I have to say,” says Zovoilis in a news release. “Having lived in Canada before, I know there’s support for science, for families and for integrating people to the society. It makes the perfect combination.”

Originally from Greece, Zovoilis began medical studies in his homeland and completed them in Germany. After witnessing the impact of diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer on members of his community, he knew he wanted a career where he could help people.

“I didn’t like this feeling of helplessness. That was one of the things that motivated me to go to medical school,” he says.

While in medical school, molecular biology captured his interest. The Human Genome Project was underway and the research possibilities it presented were captivating.

“A new era was starting and I decided to specialize in it,” says Zovoilis. “I was convinced that if we want to fight Alzheimer’s and cancer we have to understand what’s happening at the molecular level in our cells. If we understand the basic mechanisms that underlie these diseases then we will be able to fight them more efficiently.”

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