Dirk Heinz (Scientific Director of HZI) and Lorne Babiuk (Vice-President Research Alberta)

Dirk Heinz and Lorne Babiuk

Alberta joins forces with Germany in fight against hepatitis

A newly formed Helmholtz-Alberta Initiative – Infectious Disease Research (HAI-IDR) team will help lead the fight against hepatitis. The highly anticipated expansion into infection research was sealed with the signing of the Research Consortium Agreement at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI). Virologist Dr. Lorne Babiuk, University of Alberta’s Vice-President Research, has high expectations for the program. His German counterpart Dr. Dirk Heinz, the Scientific Director of HZI, says that the new research program will help “to be well-prepared to meet future infectious diseases head on”.

Hepatitis – more common than believed

Hepatitis affects almost one in every three people on earth. An infectious liver disease that knows no borders, its affects range from short-term illness, to chronic infection and life threatening consequences like cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure and liver cancer.

Although considered a drug users disease — most new cases are intravenous drug users — it is often contracted via tattooing and body piercing. Members of certain occupations, such as healthcare workers, police, firefighters, are also considered at high risk.

Through research and collaboration, HAI-IDR researchers will help advance the development of preventative vaccines and treatments. The results will not only help hepatitis patients and prevent future infections, but also reduce the disease’s immense healthcare economic burdens.

Training future virologists

In addition to itsresearch program, HAI-IDR also contains an integrated education and training program for future virologists — a new generation of researchers to set make global contributions in research, academia and the biotechnology industry. The next graduate summer school is already in the planning for August 2014.

What’s next

HAI-IDR envisions expansion into new projects to address other infectious diseases. Through its research and discovery and graduate education and training HAI-IDR will help meet emerging and future infectious diseases head on.

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