Alberta Innovates to offer $1M for chronic wasting disease research


Alberta Innovates is launching a research program to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The crown corporation said Tuesday it will make up to $1 million available for projects aimed at finding solutions to the challenges associated with the fatal disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, elk and reindeer.

The disease — which is closely related to mad cow disease — affects the nervous system of deer and is caused by misfolded prion proteins in the brains of cervids (deer, elk, caribou). It is difficult to eradicate, as prions are shed in urine and feces, and can remain in soil for years, infecting other animals.

Chronic wasting disease has increased in prevalence each year since it was first detected in Alberta in 2005. The issue has grown beyond animals in the wild and has spread to farmed elk and deer in Alberta, costing producers considerable resources, time and money, according to an Alberta Innovates news release.

Alberta Innovates’ new Chronic Wasting Disease Research Program will provide funding for researchers from academic institutions, as well as for-profit small and medium-sized businesses, who work with prions with a focus on chronic wasting disease. The intent of the program is to encourage collaboration within Alberta — and between Alberta-based investigators and researchers outside of Alberta — for better understanding of the disease and the development of innovative risk-management strategies to control chronic wasting disease.