Bioanalysis Zone

Specialized Canadian NMR facility saved in dying moments

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Recent reports suggested that the Canadian National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids (ON, Canada) was facing closure, by mid-December, owing to a funding crisis. The Canadian National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids is managed by the University of Ottawa (ON, Canada) on behalf of a syndicate of Canadian universities. The facility receives funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the National Research Council Canada (NRC), Bruker Canada (all ON, Canada) and various regional funding agencies.

The funding crisis was a result of numerous factors; the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada ceased their funding of the center, and at the same time the NRC withdrew support and began charging rent to house the equipment.

On the 21st November 2014, David Bryce, a member of the steering committee at The Canadian National Ultrahigh-Field NMR Facility for Solids, released a statement to announce the closure and decommissioning of the facility. He noted, “With no feasible options to apply for funding for proper operations and maintenance on the horizon, the Steering Committee reluctantly concedes that the continued operations of the facility are not currently sustainable.”

However, the NRC and University of Ottawa are believed to have come to an agreement that could prevent the closure. Bryce recently released an update stating: “There have been some developments. In particular, NRC has agreed to waive the lease costs for the time being.”

The facility’s spectrometer is unique in that it is dedicated to solid-state NMR research in materials science, where the highest magnetic fields are beneficial for quadrupolar and low-gamma nuclei such as oxygen-17, magnesium-25 and chlorine-35 among others. This type of instrument is not available elsewhere in Canada.

This development could provide hope in an otherwise bleak time for Canadian science, with many major projects ceasing and others facing huge cuts in funding. Victor Terskikh, manager of the NMR facility, was pleased by the positive development, but also suggested that: “The story with struggling Canadian science is much, much bigger than the closure of our NMR facility, however dear it is to us.”

Sources: Eleventh hour reprieve for world-class Canadian NMR facility; National Ultrahigh-field NMR Facility for Solids.

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