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October 28, 2013

University of Lethbridge Researcher Wins 2013 ASTech Award for Outstanding Contribution to Alberta’s Agriculture Industry

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University of Lethbridge epigenetic researcher Dr. Igor Kovalchuk was honoured with the Innovation in Agricultural Science Award at the 2013 ASTech Awards held in Calgary Oct. 25.
The Innovation in Agricultural Science Award recognizes an individual, team, or company that has demonstrated exceptional innovation or has developed a technology of significance to Alberta’s agriculture industries. Because of Kovalchuk’s groundbreaking epigenetic work (the study of how genes are expressed or “turned on” by environmental factors) fields of medicinal poppies may soon grow in the Canadian Prairies and biomonitoring plants will detect pollution in the air, water and earth.
Vice-President (Research) Dr. Dan Weeks says Kovalchuk’s drive sets him apart, and that support of epigenetic research has the potential to build new industries in Alberta, as well as creates opportunities for southern Alberta farmers to grow higher value crops.
“Dr. Igor Kovalchuk has a personality to lead and succeed,” says Weeks. “Dr. Kovalchuk’s focus on bringing novel crops, hardier crops, and better yielding crops to southern Alberta is impressive.  His efforts, achievements and drive exemplify the growing research culture at our university.”
Kovalchuk is currently working with a Canadian biotech company that plans to develop a market for the high thebaine poppy industry in Canada. Kovalchuk’s lab is the scientific arm of this endeavour into the development of a poppy industry.
His own company, Plantbiosis, is currently developing new varieties of transgenic plants that will have unique properties – to sense the presence of environmental pollution. Building on his previous success with plant biomonitors, he has developed a completely novel idea of plant biomonitoring that would allow the ability to sense the presence of a pollutant and also to detect and visualize it through laser-based aerial imaging.
Click here to read the original news release.

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