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January 17, 2017


Welcome to the Genomics in Society Digest

Genomics in Society: Genomics and its related Ethical, Economic, Environmental, Legal and Social aspects.
This news digest is published by Genomics in Society at Genome Alberta. Feel free to forward to your colleagues.

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Top UK geneticist faces new inquiry over claims of research misconduct

Prof. David Latchman, a prominent geneticist and master of Birkbeck, University of London, was cleared of alleged research misconduct charges in 2015. New claims research wrongdoing has surfaced and he will be investigated again.
Source: The Guardian

B.C. woman advocates for genetic testing after sister nearly dies of adverse drug reaction

After almost losing her sister to an adverse drug reaction, a B.C. woman is advocating for a policy that would add a genetic test for drug allergies along with the battery of other tests that babies receive already.
Source: Global News

More than ever, scientists need to engage with the public: the stakes are high and they may be for keeps

What may very well be the most interesting thing about this article is that it originally lurked behind a paywall. The author is supported by a Discovery Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada and the thrust of the article is that scientists are “failing miserably” at communicating their work. For a mere $35.00 a day you could read all about it. Social media pounced on the irony immediately with comments such as “…the stakes are high….” “Not as high as the paywall apparently”. It wasn’t long before EMBO press made it open access.
Source: EMBO press

Unmuzzled government scientists are ready to talk

“Gag orders”, “shushing” , “waiting for permission”. Whatever forms it took or how you might want to describe it, federal scientists feel they can now talk about the work they do. Hear from a couple of scientists about their new communications works.
Source: Maclean’s

Texas researchers create an obesity genome registry to tackle a weighty problem

One in three Texas adults is considered obese. A group of San Antonio researchers are creating a data bank of family histories and DNA samples from volunteers to create an obesity genome registry. It is a joint effort by the Texas Biomedical Research Institute and TOPS, a nonprofit weight-loss support program.
Source: Houston Public Media

2017 list of 'predatory' science journals published, hundreds claim to be Canadian

Canada has many solid scientific achievements to be proud of but in the usual list of end of the year roundups, we have one achievement we would rather not be known for. University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall produces an annual list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers. This year hundreds of new entries carry a Canadian name.
Source: Ottawa Citizen

First GMO apple slices to go on sale in Midwest

Grab-and-go punch bags of Arctic brand Golden Delicious Apples will be in stores in the U.S. next month. The Arctic apple was developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits in B.C. and these will be the first sliced and packaged product to go on sale.
Source: Capital Press

How “non-GMO” claims can mislead consumers

While it might not be incorrect to claim that there are no GM tomatoes in their tomato products, Hunt’s nevertheless managed to make people mad. Why? Well there are no GM tomatoes on the market anywhere and the non-GMO claim implies otherwise. Hunt’s countered by saying its product meets the ‘Non-GMO Project Verification’ standards. Read the next story to learn a little bit about that label.
Source: BIOtechNOW

How to fight misleading GMO labelling (in Canada)

A seemingly simple and official looking logo is not only misleading to consumers, but in Canada it is illegal.
Source: dietwald’s blog

Journalism under attack

This first person story from freelance journalist and adjunct professor of journalism, Keith Kloor, offers some insight into the trials and tribulations of covering science topics such GMOs and vaccines. As we have likely heard before, having the facts on your side doesn’t stop the insults and character attacks.
Source: Issues in Science & Technology

Talking biotech: Marketing expert Jay Baer’s tips on communicating with your critic

Jay Baer is president of Convince and Convert, a digital marketing and customer relations consulting firm. In this Talking Biotech podcast with host Kevin Folta, he has some ideas about how to take some of the basic of marketing communications and applying them to the conversation around GMO.
Source: Talking Biotech

Qatar leading 'ambitious' genome project in Gulf

The Qatar Genomics Programme was launched in September of 2015 and to date has sequenced the genomes of 3,000 Qatari nationals. One of the main goals of the QGP pilot phase is the establishment of the Qatari reference genome map. The pilot phase is ending this year after another 3,000 genomes have been sequenced.
Source: Gulf Times

Our top five from 2016

We still have a few ‘best of’ lists kicking around and these are the top 5 areas of interest from the blog pages of the direct-to-consumer genetics testing company, 23andMe. Gene editing once again makes their list and not surprisingly – Donald Trump makes has a spot.
Source: 23andMe

LISTEN: Electronic health records may help customize medical treatments

Computerized health records are not a 21st century invention, but the amount and types of information being stored is something new, as is the interest from patients to access their own data. In many types of records and jurisdictions, genetic information is still the missing piece but as more is added and records become more inclusive, the challenge is in making the most of what is available.
Source: NPR

Be wary what you research: You might get sued

Authors of a paper which said that the public should be wary of supplements containing BPMEA were sued by one of the pharmaceutical companies which used the chemical. The suit was not successful but the authors are concerned that the lawsuit was less about the facts, and more about putting a scare into authors writing critical papers
Source: Bioethics Net

An open letter to the biopharma industry: Gender diversity

The Gender Diversity in BioPharma Open Letter, is signed by 100+ marks a year of discussion and deliberation convened by the Biopharma Executive Council and MassBio. Its intent is to provide guiding principles and best practices to improve gender diversity throughout the biopharma industry.
Source: Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

Were women foolish to follow Angelina Jolie into BRCA cancer gene testing?

A deeper look at the “Angelina effect”, following Angelina Jolie’s BRCA test and double mastectomy in 2013.
Source: StatNews

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

These foods aren’t genetically modified but they are ‘edited’

How long the regulations will allow a genetically edited food product to go unlabelled while requiring genetically modified products to be labelled accordingly remains to be seen, but for the moment the way is clear for a new generation of products to appear in supermarkets. As long as no ‘foreign’ genes are added, the U.S. is giving these CRISPR created products the go-ahead.
Source: NY Times

5 Big mysteries about CRISPR's origins

Where did it come from? How do organisms use it without self-destructing? And what else can it do?
Source: Scientific American

Who owns CRISPR?

As CRISPR establishes a firm foothold as the gene editing technique of choice, the patent lawyers are braced for what may shape up to be science’s bloodiest commercial battle. Dermot Martin gets into the mired battle ground to give us an update
Source: Laboratory News

Papers & Features Up arrow

Realizing the full potential of precision medicine in health and health care

Dzau, VJ, Ginsburg, GS, (2016) JAMA 2016;316(16):1659-1660. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14117

Precision medicine has a great deal of potential to change healthcare by tailoring treatments to individual patients and diseases. Significant challenges still exist to implementing precision medicine so it remains a much talked about and largely unrealized potential.
Source: JAMA

Towards precision medicine in the clinic: From biomarker discovery to novel therapeutics

Collins, DC, Sundar R, et al. (2016) Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tips.2016.10.012

Large-scale data-sharing and collaborative networks using next-generation sequencing platforms promise to take us further into the cancer ‘ome’ than ever before, with the goal of achieving successful precision medicine.
Source: Trends in Pharmacological Sciences

Events Up arrow

Visit Genome Alberta's extensive Events Calendar on our website at GenomeAlberta.ca. Connect With Us to sign up for our newsletters and see the Calendar of Events.

Precision Medicine World Conference

Recognized as a vital cornerstone for all constituents of the health care and biotechnology community, PMWC provides an exceptional forum for the exchange of information about the latest advances in technology (e.g. DNA sequencing technology), in clinical implementation (e.g. cancer and beyond), research, and in all aspects related to the regulatory and reimbursement sectors.

When: January 23-25, 2017
Where: Computer History Museum, Silicon Valley California

Conference details and registration

Festival of Genomics

The Festival of Genomics London brings together academia, biopharma and healthcare to explore the power of the genome in driving R&D and the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE will offer insights into the company’s exceptional genomic data set and its implications for PMI
  • MHRA CEO Ian Hudson’s has insights into the development and regulation of precision medicine and companion diagnostics
  • You’ll get a glimpse into the Qatar Genome Program - a large-scale, high impact project that’s just completed its pilot phase
When: January 31 and February 1, 2017
Where: ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, London England

More information and details on how to register can be found here.

12th Annual US DOE/Joint Genome Institute Meeting

This meeting will be of interest to researchers working in the areas of energy and environmental genomics and synthetic biology . The program will feature international speakers on a range of topics, such as microbial genomics, fungal genomics, metagenomics, and plant genomics; genome editing, secondary metabolites, pathway engineering, synthetic biology, high-throughput functional genomics, high-performance computing applications, and societal impacts of technological advances.

When: March 20 - 23, 2017
Where: Walnut Creek, California

More information and registration details.

Agricultural Institute of Canada - AIC 2017

The Agriculture Institute of Canada, AIC, is presenting a Conference to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in April of 2017. This year's topic will be "Agricultural Innovation in a Changing Environment". Agriculture and the environment are intricately linked within a complex ecosystem, with agriculture both depending on and impacting critical natural resources. Canada’s agriculture sector is an important steward of the environment and has an important role to play in meeting today’s global sustainability and climate-smart goals.

When: April 24 - 26, 2017
Where: Delta Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Further information and details on registration can be found here.

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