An inter-university collaboration led by Mark Lefsrud, Associate Professor in the Department of Bioresource Engineering, has received a $1.65 million research grant, to be distributed over six years, from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) Program. The announcement was made on June 2.
The Canadian Government and NSERC announced a total investment of $24.75 million in CREATE program funding to 15 research teams across Canada. The CREATE Program improves the mentoring of, and training environment for, the Canadian researchers of tomorrow by improving areas such as communication, collaboration and professional skills; and providing experience relevant to both academic and non-academic research environments.
This CREATE training program, Quality Assurance and Quality Control for Cannabis Production, Products and Training (QAQCC), led by Professor Lefsrud, is composed of a complementary team of nine experienced researchers from McGill University, the University of Ottawa and the University of Saskatchewan, who all harbour expertise and knowledge applicable to the cannabis sector. They will work together to train students across Canada to ensure high-quality and safe cannabis production and products in Canada.
“I would like to thank the Government of Canada and NSERC for their significant investment in Professor Lefsrud’s McGill-led research and training program,” said Martha Crago, Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation. “The CREATE program enables an emerging generation of researchers to pursue fundamental, long-term research while at the same time gaining the skills they need to bridge the gap between academia and industry. Congratulations to Professor Lefsrud, the QAQCC team, and their students for this exciting new venture.”
The recent legalization of cannabis in Canada has set the stage for academia, industry and government to work together toward standardizing the cannabis industry based on product quality and safety for consumers and communities. Yet, there is a lack of scientifically validated methods for large-scale cultivation and postharvest processing of the cannabis plant, and different approaches have resulted in inconsistent product harvest, potency and quality. The QAQCC CREATE program addresses these knowledge gaps and allows Canada to lead the charge in quality assurance and quality control for cannabis production and products.
“The overall objective of the QAQCC CREATE program is to establish a scientifically-focused industry and government-directed, competency-based program in which trainees develop core competencies and gain value-added training in a new and emerging Canadian industry involving a controlled substance,” said Lefsrud. “Our aim is to set the standard for best practices in training and procedures for the cannabis sector in Canada and around the world.”
Seventy-two student trainees are planned to participate in the program during the course of their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Trainees will perform research and contribute toward the development of researched-based methods and standards of operation for cannabis cultivation, postharvest handling and processing, as well as chemical extraction and analytical quality assurance.
In addition, the trainees will develop hard and soft professional skills that allow for a smooth transition into the workforce, whether in academia or in the public or private sectors. Their acquired skills will include study design, scientific methodology, data and statistical analyses, mentoring and teaching experience, as well as scientific, technical and regulatory writing through their research.
The QAQCC CREATE program places McGill University, the University of Ottawa, the University of Saskatchewan and their industry partners at the forefront of this emerging field of cannabis production by building knowledge and professional skills prior to job entry in industries and government sectors related to cannabis production. The skill sets acquired in quality assurance and quality control will apply to related fields, including pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and agri-food industries.
The QAQCC CREATE research collaboration involves partnerships with Health Canada’s Office of Cannabis Science and Surveillance, in addition to a network of over ten Canadian cannabis license holders. The initiative covers several Natural Sciences and Engineering disciplines, spanning cannabis plant genetics, production, postharvest processing compound extraction and formulation, and is part of the Agriculture and Plant Science research axis at the McGill Research Centre for Cannabis.
“This QAQCC team will become the heart of cannabis research and training in Canada,” said Professor Lefsrud. “Under Dr. Sarah MacPherson’s management as QAQCC Coordinator, we are hopeful that this collaborative network will become a global leader in cannabis research.”
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