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Past Winner
2006 Innovation Challenge Award

Lucien Junior Bergeron

Technology Platform for Targeting RNA of Biological
Interest Based on the SOFA Delta Ribozyme

Université de Sherbrooke

Lucien Junior Bergeron
Lucien Junior Bergeron

Lucien Junior Bergeron is a young scientist full of ideas and ambition.

In his doctoral research at the Université de Sherbrooke, Dr. Bergeron devised an ingenious gene-inactivation system based on the delta ribozyme, an enzyme whose RNA has catalytic properties. This ribozyme acts something like a pair of molecular scissors that can target specific RNA sequences at the cellular level. Dr. Bergeron's scientific contribution was to make these scissors more precise, more targeted and faster-acting.

Dr. Bergeron's research demonstrated that the delta ribozyme is far more specific than had previously been thought and can in fact be used effectively in the cellular environment. Having made this discovery, the young scientist went on to invent a revolutionary concept – the specific on/off adapter (SOFA) – which increased the specificity of this ribozyme by a factor of approximately 800.

For his work, Dr. Bergeron has earned a $5,000 runner-up prize in this year's NSERC Innovation Challenge. Each year, postgraduate students from across the country are challenged to present the best idea for applying the results of their thesis research.

The applications of the SOFA delta ribozyme in the fields of biotechnology, gene therapy, and functional genomics are practically unlimited. Current research projects in which this ribozyme is being used include efforts to develop therapies for the hepatitis C virus and for lymphoblastic leukemia. Dr. Bergeron's research has also sparked unprecedented interest in the delta ribozyme within the scientific community, which sees it as having potential applications that include the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Bergeron takes an active interest in the commercial potential of his research and of the process that he has developed. He is listed as co-inventor in two patent applications filed by the Université de Sherbrooke. One of these applications, involving the SOFA delta ribozyme, could yield substantial financial returns for the university.

The major biotechnology firms that attended the BioContact/CIHR 2005 symposium recognized the potential of Dr. Bergeron's process by granting his research project a BioContact/CIHR Next Generation Award. This award goes to the top 12 Canadian student research projects in the field of biotechnology, ranked according to their potential for the advancement of knowledge and for commercialization.

Dr. Bergeron is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.