Genomics Blog

February 20, 2015 9:26 AM
Getting to Know Your Body - the Metabolomic Way
It all started with basic metabolomics research led by Dr. David Wishart at the University of Alberta. Wishart's work has become known worldwide and led to the establishment of The Metabolomics Innovation Centre in Edmonton.
Now that basic research is being spun-off into the commercial space through companies like OMx Personal Health Analytics which works closely with TMIC. The company's promise to help "know your body" is part of the growing desire by people to make better decisions about their health by having more accurate information about what is going on inside their bodies.
With a test that measures more than 120 metabolomic indicators OMx has made it possible to really get to know how your body is functioning.
Freelance broadcaster and journalist Don Hill visited OMx and talked about the disruptive science of metabolomics with Michael Wilson, one of the company's founders.

Give it a listen
and let us know what you think about a more personal approach to our health and health care.

March 5, 2015 2:01 PM
What's the Buzz in Bee Biology? Eminent Bee Researcher Explains the Role of Genomics in Bee Health
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Media Release, March 4, 2015. Since 2006, North America has lost nearly one third of its honeybee population due to infectious diseases and climate change. As honeybees are one of the most important pollinators in Canadian agriculture, countless crops across the country—including blueberries in British Columbia and canola in Alberta—are at risk.

March 4, 2015 1:42 PM
What 23andMe looks like
DNA is not your destinyI have a tendency to be an early adopter of technology. Most of it I like to think, is useful and genetic testing is one of those technologies that requires knowledge, trust, and a dash of hope to adopt early on.
23andMe was founded in 2006 by Linda Avey, Anne Wojcicki, and Paul Cusenza. Anne Wojcicki is the only one of the 3 still with the company and though 23andMe is not an arm of Google, Anne is married to Google co-founder Sergey Brin and there was Google money in the initial investment that got 23andMe off the ground.
In 2007 the company started offering direct-to-consumer genetic testing and in 2008 I (with the help of Genome Alberta) laid down the 999.00 dollars it took back then to get the test. The idea was to use it and tests from Navigenics, deCode, the Ancestry Project, and later the National Genographic Project, as an outreach tool and to help explain to the public what genetics and genetic testing is all about.   
February 28, 2015 5:37 PM
“Personalized medicine” renamed “precision medicine”

Most people around the world were happy about U.S. President Obama’s announcement of his Precision Medicine Initiative. But more than a few were also a wee bit confused. Precision Medicine, what the heck is that?  

It’s a new term for the concept previously called Personalized Medicine. The new term is just a bit more, um, precise, although the concept is still heavily personalized.

Confused yet? That’s perfectly understandable.

Think of it this way: precision medicine is an expansion of personalized medicine.

Previously personalized medicine was largely thought of in terms of matching medication choices to a person’s own DNA for maximum effect. Side effects and adverse reactions are also diminished this way.

It was a matter of personalizing the medicine choices, be they traditional medicines or new genetic-based drugs, to each patient. There are lots of articles here at GenomeAlberta if you want to learn more about the approach. You might want to start with my earlier post “The Great “We vs Me” Personalized Medicine Debate.

Despite the many advances in personalized medicine, it didn’t always translate well at the patient level for a multitude of reasons, many of which I explained earlier in another post “Gene Patents, Physician Mistakes, and Other Mishaps Shaping Personalized Medicine Outcomes.”

I’m happy to report a few of those issues are being addressed now but, unfortunately, others are still hanging around fouling things up. And, of course, a few new challenges appeared on the scene too. You’ll find information on those (as well as few suggestions on how we might address them) in another post titled “From Precision Medicine Springs Need for Data Diagnosticians and Formulary Eradication.

Precision medicine takes into account a bit more than the term personalized medicine originally meant. Precision medicine is defined as an approach considering “individual differences in people’s genes, environments, and lifestyles,” or at least that’s how President Obama explains it. No one is quibbling about it because, yes, it’s important to consider the patient’s environment and lifestyle in the personalized medicine formula too! 

February 26, 2015 11:06 AM
From Precision Medicine Springs Need for Data Diagnosticians and Formulary Eradication

Big data expert Pam Baker says that for precision medicine to work, a new "data diagnostician" specialty will be needed—and formularies must be eradicated.

Precision medicine, aka personalized medicine, got a hefty boost when President Obama recently announced his US$215 million Precision Medicine Initiative. He called it “one of the greatest opportunities for new medical breakthroughs that we have ever seen,” and indeed it is. While there were many who applauded the Initiative, some proceeded with hand-wringing over the excitement outpacing the science.

But no, the science is there. It’s in full-bloom in some areas and budding in others, but it is there. What’s missing are the new professionals—data diagnosticians—needed to make it useable throughout the existing healthcare system; a major restructuring of public healthcare goals; and, the eradication or vast expansion of private and public insurer drug formularies.

Here is what needs to happen next for precision medicine to come to fruition in patient care.
February 23, 2015 10:15 AM
Calgary-based research moves out of Facchini lab and into the marketplace
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Media Release, Calgary, February 23, 2015 – Epimeron Inc. (“Epimeron”), a Calgary-based biotechnology company, today announced that it has licensed certain of its proprietary technologies to a US-based company.  The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Epimeron President and CEO Dr. Joseph Tucker stated, “We are pleased with the validation of our technology and business approach that entering into this agreement affords.”  Dr. Tucker continued, “Epimeron’s success in closing this deal, which we envisage being the first of many, was facilitated by our partners at Genome Alberta and Innovate Calgary.  Their willingness to work with us to fund and optimally structure Epimeron right from the outset was pivotal in enabling the Company’s achievements to date.”
Epimeron’s technologies were developed by a team of researchers at the University of Calgary, led by Dr. Peter Facchini.  “Epimeron’s U.S. licensing partnership validates the world-class quality of technology and expertise that is originating from our research labs,” said Dr. Ed McCauley, VP Research, University of Calgary. “Congratulations to Epimeron, Dr. Facchini and his team on a successful transaction.”