Nov. 2, 2021

Four UCalgary researchers honoured for excellence in biomechanics, epilepsy and carbon capture

Alberta Science and Technology Leadership awards recognize outstanding achievements in research that creates impact
From left: George Shimizu, Walter Herzog, Deborah Kurrasch, Ali Telmadarreie
From left: George Shimizu, Walter Herzog, Deborah Kurrasch, and Ali Telmadarreie.

The Alberta Science and Technology Leadership (ASTech) Foundation showcases the substantial achievements in science and technology in Alberta and promotes the importance of these activities that result in social and economic benefits. 

The University of Calgary researchers were honoured with four awards, including one given to Dr. Walter Herzog, PhD, as the Researcher of the Year. This year marked the highest number of submitted nominations, with UCalgary taking four out of the five awards at the virtual celebration last week. 

“We are proud of our researchers and their exemplary work. These awards illustrate the high impact that results from research-based innovation,” says Dr. William Ghali, vice-president (research). “Alberta’s robust innovation ecosystem enables research outcomes that improve our quality of life and drive positive change.” 

“The ASTech Foundation has recognized significant achievements in science and technology for over 30 years, and UCalgary has represented strongly because of the impact we are creating for our communities and beyond,” says Dr. Robert Ian Thompson, associate vice-president (research) and executive director, research services. “Congratulations to the ASTech winners.”

Outstanding Achievement in Energy and Environmental Innovation, sponsored by Syncrude Canada Ltd.

Dr. George Shimizu, PhD, professor, University of Calgary

George Shimizu’s research interests have focused on affordable carbon capture to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Shimizu’s research group has discovered and, with academic and industry partners, de-risked the most promising solid for carbon capture, CALF20, with applications for capture from cement, steel and chemical reforming industrial gas streams. CALF20 is a highly stable, easily regenerated, and scalable CO2 solid capture sorbent, a viable solution to reduce climate change and transition to a net-zero emission world. Shimizu is a professor in the Department of Chemistry.

Emerging Change Maker, sponsored by RSM Canada

Dr. Ali Telmadarreie, PhD

Ali Telmadarreie is the CEO and co-founder of CNERGREEN Corp., a company with a mission to help the oil industry in energy transition by reducing the carbon intensity of enhanced oil recovery process, improving the efficiency of oil recovery, and enabling more CO2 storage without having to drill new wells. Its step-change NanoFoam technology tailors nanoparticles and commercial chemicals to make CO2 foam and any gas-based foams (including steam foam) stable in any reservoir.

CNERGREEN has received recognition for its potential to significantly change the impacts of oil recovery in new and old wells and reservoirs. Telmadarreie was a CERC team research associate.

Outstanding Woman in Innovation, sponsored by TSGI Corporation

Dr. Deborah Kurrasch, PhD, professor, University of Calgary

Deborah Kurrasch’s lab developed a novel drug screening platform designed to uncover therapies with unexpected mechanisms of action, with their lead program focused on paediatric developmental epileptic encephalopathies (DEEs). These rare genetic epilepsies can result in severe seizures and contribute to cognitive and behavioural impairments. Medicines with new mechanisms of action are required for DEEs, although it is unclear where to best focus drug discovery programs, leaving these epileptic children and their families without reprieve. 

Kurrasch’s platform technology reveals new druggable pathways that can be used to kick-start anti-seizure drug development programs. Kurrasch’s company, Path Therapeutics, is conducting preclinical studies on a novel anti-seizure drug developed by her team to apply this platform technology across a myriad of brain disorders for which drugs with new mechanisms of action are desperately needed. This platform technology brings innovation into the broader field of drug discovery to push pharmaceutical companies to look beyond disease hypotheses and instead trust cellular readouts to guide drug discovery programs. Kurrasch is a professor in the Department of Medical Genetics at the Cumming School of Medicine.

Researcher of the Year

Dr. Walter Herzog, PhD, professor, University of Calgary

Walter Herzog’s research has revolutionized the understanding of muscle contraction and biomechanics. His research has changed how scientists think about muscle contraction and force production. Herzog discovered that muscle contraction cannot be explained with the cross-bridge theory alone, as had been considered for more than half a century, and that a previously neglected structural protein, titin, contributes to muscle contraction.

Titin is the biggest protein ever discovered and is the most abundant structural protein in the heart and skeletal muscles. Knowledge of titin’s function in normal and diseased muscle contributes to understanding how genetic and environmental changes in titin affect muscles and how such changes can be prevented or corrected in diseased heart and skeletal muscles. Herzog’s research program is making a significant impact in the field and for people with heart and skeletal muscle disease. Herzog is a professor in the Faculties of Kinesiology, Veterinary Medicine and the Schulich School of Engineering, and the Cumming School of Medicine.

Celebrating 32 years, the Alberta Science Technology Leadership (ASTech) Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded through an industry initiative in 1989 to showcase substantial achievements in science and technology in Alberta and promote the importance of these activities to social and economic benefit.