Lakehead’s Biorefining Research Initiative to Bring Economic Growth to Region

(October 06, 2008 – Thunder Bay, ON) Today’s official launch of Lakehead University’s Biorefining Research Initiative (BRI) marks another step toward making Lakehead University a national leader in forestry-based research and innovation, and bringing increased bioeconomy-based prosperity to the Thunder Bay region.

In May 2007 the Government of Ontario awarded $6 million to Lakehead University in support of cutting-edge research in biorefining – a field that develops ways of refining renewable biomass materials, such as forest plants, fungi, and microorganisms.  This significant research funding established the foundation of BRI and enabled Lakehead University to recruit world-class researchers in the biorefining field to develop transformative technologies and products from forest biomass. Dr. Dekker, a distinguished Australian biochemist who has conducted collaborative research projects with countries such as Brazil, Germany, and Spain, has accepted the leadership of BRI as its Founding Director.  Dr. Wensheng Qin, an expert in molecular biology and plant biotechnology from Stanford University, also joins BRI as one of its Ontario Research Chairs.

Michael Power of the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute addresses attendees at the official launch of Lakehead's Biorefining Research Initiative

To enhance and complement the research talent pool at BRI, a SHARCNET/MMRC Molecular Simulation Research Chair has been added.  This position has been collaboratively funded by the Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET) and Molecular Medicine Research Centre, now known as Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI). The Chair will utilize Lakehead University's high-performance computing facilities and TBRRI’s state-of-the-art biomedical imaging facilities to design, model, and test novel molecules and enzymes used in the conversion of biomass or development of new biomarkers.  The position is expected to be filled soon.

Dr. Robert Dekker, Director of the Biorefining Research Initiative
“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Dekker and Dr. Qin to Lakehead University, and to have their knowledge and expertise at the fore of the Biorefining Research Initiative,” says Lakehead University’s Vice President of Research, Dr. Rui Wang. “The BRI will attract investment to the Thunder Bay region, and make our forest industry more competitive and sustainable,” he added. Collaborations between BRI and industry partners are being developed.  “We are also looking to secure additional research funding from provincial and federal granting agencies,” Dr. Qin said.

The vision of the Biorefining Research Initiative (BRI) is not limited to fuels and forest biomass, but also considers the economic benefits derived from the forest ecosystem. Dr. Dekker said, “By creating valuable products from renewable biomass, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, while at the same time creating new jobs and businesses.”



Media:  Drs. Wang, Dekker, and Qin are available for media interview.  For arrangements and additional information, please contact Lisa Pelot, Communications Officer, 807-343-8177, or or Eleanor Abaya, Director of Communications, 807-343-8372, or

About Lakehead
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 7,500 students and 2,000 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit


Last updated October 07, 2008

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