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Alberta researchers prominent in new genomics and precision health investment

Genome Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Government of Canada, and other public and private partners from across the country have invested $255 million in new health research. Covering cancer, cystic fibrosis, juvenile arthritis, childhood asthma, and many other diseases, the funding is going to the successful applicants in the 2017 Large-Scale Applied Research Project: Genomics and Precision Health, and the 2016 Genomics Technology Platforms – Operations Support and Technology Development Funds competitions.
We're pleased to say Alberta research and researchers fared well.

Ian Lewis from the University of Calgary and Deirdre Church from Calgary Laboratory Services are leading an $11 million dollar effort to introduce a new precision medicine management strategy to get the right antibiotics to the right patient to match the right level needed to cure the infection. The go-to antibiotics in use today are losing their effectiveness because of antibiotic resistance and this new approach to precision infection management (the team calls it PIM) will slow down growing resistance strains. By increasing the lifespan of existing drugs there will be more research time available to develop new treatments. The database of drugs and infections coupled with a new smartphone app called Spectrum will make it easier to save time - and potentially lives - in making informed clinical decisions to treat infections.

Francois Bernier from the University of Calgary is a co-lead on the C4R-SOLVE project to unlock the genetics behind rare diseases. Genomic sequencing speeds up the diagnosis for rare diseases and one of the objectives is to use the funding to make sequencing available to more Canadians. Better diagnosis means better care and better use of healthcare budgets.

We tend to associate arthritis with older people but it affects children as well, and can lead to a life of permanent disability. Susanne Benseler from the University of Calgary was a successful co-lead for funding that will have an immediate impact on treatment for children with arthritis. Deborah Marshall and Marv Fritzler from the U of C are also part of the national team. Deborah is involved in the ethical aspects of the project’s research while Marv is working to develop effective early biomarker discovery and diagnosis.
Some of the successful Calgary LSARP researchers
Some of the successful Calgary-based researchers in the 2017 LSARP and 2016 Genomics Technology competitions and representatives from the funders are shown here. From left to right: Susanne Benseler, David Bailey (Genome Alberta), Cindy Bell (Genome Canada), Rachel Syme (CIHR), (then) Minister Kent Hehr, Ian Lewis, Jennifer Reid, Deirdre Church, Francois Bernier, Ed McCauley (U of C).

Researchers in Calgary showed how they can are able to hold their own on the national science stage but Edmonton-based researchers had a strong impact in the same competition. Tim Caulfield from the University of Alberta is a co-lead on an international research team that will apply precision medicine techniques to improve kidney transplant success. More than 70 scientists and clinicians from 22 universities in Canada, the US, the UK, and the EU will use genomics to reduce the risk of rejection after a kidney transplant.

David Wishart and the University of Alberta-based Metabolomics Innovation Centre received $11.7 million to expand in order to meet a tripling in metabolomics activities expected in Canada over the next 5 years. The Centre was launched in 2011 and has quickly become the country's national metabolomics lab with 7 nodes in 4 Canadian universities.

These projects were all part of an announcement yesterday (January 23rd) at the University of Calgary by Kent Hehr who was Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities (pictured at left) on behalf of federal Minister of Science, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan.

After the announcement Kent Hehr was given a tour of Ian Lewis' lab and did a Facebook Live event:

Alberta researchers prominent in new genomics and precision health investment

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