Scientists offer glimpse of work being done at Health Sciences North Research Institute

The Health Sciences North Research Institute (HSNRI) opened its doors in Sudbury on Tuesday for a tour of the new facility and a glimpse at some of the research being conducted within its walls.

A variety of cancer research being conducted, from nicotine vaccines to natural therapies

Scientists at Sudbury's Health Sciences North Research Institute offered a rare glimpse inside the recently renovated facility during an open house on Tuesday. ( Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

The Health Sciences North Research Institute (HSNRI) opened its doors in Sudbury on Tuesday for a tour of its new facility and a glimpse at some of the research being conducted within its walls.

The facility held an open house in conjunction with Laurentian University's Research Week, which runs until March 23.

HSNRI moved into the new 15 thousand square foot space on Walford Road — formerly St. Theresa's elementary school — last June.

"It's been quite a nice move over to be in a beautiful physical place, to then make it easier to do good work," Dr. Rob Lafrenie, one of the centre's leading researchers, said.

Cancer research 'really not happening' anywhere else

Much of that work, Lafrenie explained, is focused on a wide variety of cancer-related research, from the development of drugs that kill cancer cells to a nicotine vaccine.

Researchers are also exploring how different natural remedies interact with chemotherapy treatments.

"We're hoping to be able to determine if people who take natural products of a specific type either do well, or do poorly, and then to report back to the patients and their doctors, and change the way we think about how these things work," Lafrenie said.

Dr. Rob Lafrenie, one the top researchers at the Health Sciences North Research Institute, led a tour of the facility. ( Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

He added that ongoing research into radon as a root cause for cancer, as well as early-mutation gene changes caused by marijuana smoke, are "really not happening in the same way anywhere else in the world."

The facility is also looking to expand in the future, with plans to construct a Cultural Safety Lab that will focus on First Nations health.

"They're going to do social science around health and wellness in Aboriginal or First Nations populations, and try to figure out what the proper barriers are to healthcare," Lafrenie explained.

"I think we have a chance to make very important strides forward in health and wellness in northern Ontario."

With files from Benjamin Aubé