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February 1, 2018


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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Monkey clones

Top of the list for genomics in society stories must certainly be the monkey clone created by Chinese scientists. Here is a range of stories from the mainstream media that you might be interested in:
  • Monkey clones created with Dolly-the-sheep technique - CBC
  • Monkey cloning: opportunity or dilemma? – The Times
  • Scientists successfully clone monkeys; are humans up next? – Washington Post
  • Cloning success good for neuroscience – China Daily
  • Your letters: Cloning monkeys for research is alarming – Toronto Star
  • Monkeys and kittens and horses, oh my! A look at cloned mammals throughout history - CBC

WATCH: At Davos, industry leaders discuss the promise and pitfalls of precision medicine

Precision medicine is brimming with potential. Sometimes that’s about all we hear about – potential – but is real progress being made. At the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland last week there was a panel discussion on precision medicine today and what will move it ahead. This one hour video features a high-profile panel moderated by Linda Pizzuti Henry, the managing director of Boston Globe Media Partners.
Source: STAT

LISTEN: The promise of precision medicine

Another look at the state of precision medicine comes to us from Health News. This 16 minutes podcast features 5 experts in their field. Eric Topol (Scripps Research Institute), Mike Joyner (Mayo Clinic), Tim Caulfield (University of Alberta), Richard Harris (National Public Radio), and Tania Bubela (Simon Fraser University) were asked to talk about what’s hope and what’s hype.
Source: Health News Review

Science suffers from harassment

A leading organization has said that sexual harassment is scientific misconduct. Where are the other voices?
Source: Scientific American

Tyson joins Bill Gates, Cargill to invest in lab-meat producer

Memphis Meats Inc is on an investment roll. The company produces cultured meat and has recently received new investment from Tyson Foods Inc, Bill Gates, and Cargill Inc. Cultured meat is produced without raising livestock or poultry and some investment watchers think it is a food trend to keep an eye on in 2018.
Source: Bloomberg

LISTEN: DNA barcoding reveals widespread seafood fraud in Metro Vancouver

The seafood supply chain is long and complicated and open to errors or fraud. DNA barcoding makes the task of traceability a little easier. This story includes a 7 minute audio interview.
Source: CBC

'Professors eat their own young': how competition can stifle good science

Scientists may love the work they do, but bills still need to be paid at home and at the lab. Competition is fierce for grants and many researchers are always on the lookout for the next grant to get a step ahead of competing researchers. Is this the ideal climate to be working towards common goals?
Source: The Guardian

Arno Motulsky, a founder of medical genetics, dies at 94

A former refugee from Nazi Germany, and the founder of pharmacogenetics Dr. Arno Motulsky died at his home Seattle at the age of 94. Dr. Motulsky was an author of more than 400 scientific articles and co-author of a leading textbook, “Human Genetics: Problems and Approaches”.
Source: New York Times

'There's a 50% chance I've a fatal disease. Do I find out?'

When Jackie Harrison was 12 her mother died of Huntington’s disease. Jackie’s grandfather and her uncle also died of the disease, and now her younger brother has been diagnosed with the disease. You’ll have to read the story to find out if she decides to be tested for the inherited condition.
Source: BBC

Is "Junk DNA" what makes humans unique?

Some of the biggest differences between humans and chimps lie in the DNA that resides outside of genes.
Source: Scientific American

Request a woman scientist

Trying to get a better gender mix for an upcoming conference panel? A reporter looking for a new voice in an interview? This new platform offers a multidisciplinary network of vetted women in science to help you get started.
Source: 500 Women Scientists

500 Hundred Women in Science also made a splash this week with this op-ed piece in Scientific American. “Bill Nye Does Not Speak for Us and He Does Not Speak for Science” Keep an eye on the @500womensci Twitter feed as well because the group is experiencing a mix of support and criticism for the piece about Bill Nye being one of the Republican invitees to the State of the Union Address.

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Is Crispr-Cas9 gene-editing therapy morphing into a 'Sputnik 2.0' race?

At least 86 cancer and HIV patients in China have had their cells genetically engineered with Crispr-Cas9 technology since 2015. The Chinese acknowledge that this is because of different regulatory environments. Will a CRISPR competition result in a better product?
Source: China Daily

A CRISPR future: Five ways gene editing will transform our world

With great power comes great responsibility is an old adage that can be applied to a brand new technology. CRISPR’s great power is to alter DNA and the great responsibility that comes with it is to use it wisely. Here are 5 examples of hoe CRSIPR can be put to use and what the hurdles are in making it a reality.
Source: Futurism

NIH to launch genome editing research program

The National Institutes of Health is launching an effort aimed at removing barriers that slow the adoption of genome editing for treating patients. The Somatic Cell Genome Editing program plans to award researchers approximately $190 million over six years beginning this year, pending availability of funds. Given the politics south of the border, that “pending availability of funds” may prove to be an important caveat but in the meantime check out the media release on the NIH website.

Papers & Features Up arrow

Cloning of macaque monkeys by somatic cell nuclear transfer

Zhen Liu, et al. Cell (2018) ,DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.01.020

Generation of genetically uniform non-human primates may help to establish animal models for primate biology and biomedical research. In this study, we have successfully cloned cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT).
Source: Cell

'Saving Africa: The GMO cold war and the battle for Africa'

Onsando Osiemo, Journal of World Trade (2018) Issue 1, pp. 143–162

Africa poses a conundrum. On the one hand, it has the largest percentage of undeveloped arable land in the world and deploys the largest percentage of labour in agricultural production. Yet, on the other hand, its agricultural productivity is about one third of the world’s average; it is a net food importer; and it suffers from the highest level of hunger in the world. Proponents of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops have opened a new front of the GMO cold war in Africa by crusading for the adoption of GMO in Africa as a solution to increasing its agricultural production and alleviating hunger. Opponents of GMO crops have responded by vociferously opposing the adoption of GMO in Africa. Africa is torn between these opposing forces.
Source: Journal of World Trade

How might the genetics profession better utilize social media

Moore, R.A., Matthews, A.L. & Cohen, L. Journal of Genetic Counseling (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10897-018-0215-y

Social media is a common method of communication in people’s personal lives and professional settings. Gallagher et al. (2016) recommended, “it is time for genetic counselors to embrace social media as a means of communicating with patients or other healthcare professionals.” Full members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) in the USA and Canada and genetics patients in Cleveland, OH, were surveyed to determine interest in using social media for patient-provider interactions.
Source: Journal of Genetic Counseling

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.

Gender Equality in STEM

Gender Equality in STEM: In Conversation with Women Leaders in Science from the UK and Canada
  • Dr. Imogen Coe, Dean, Faculty of Science, Ryerson University
  • Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University
  • Moderated by: Her Excellency Janice Charette, High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom
Featuring #DistractinglySexist and #DistractinglyHonest, two photo exhibits by Eden Hennessey, PhD Candidate, Wilfrid Laurier University.

When: February 8, 2018, 6 - 8:30pm
Where: Canada House, London, UK.

Registration is available at the event website.

Prairie University Biology Symposium

The conference agenda is designed to offer significant opportunities for discussion and networking for students. Establish connections with colleagues from academia and elsewhere that will lead towards future goals. All biological sciences disciplines are welcome and encouraged to participate, whether via poster or oral presentation.

Speakers include Dr. David Suzuki and Dr. Anthony Russell, among others.

When: February 22-24, 2018
Where: University of Calgary

Click to connect to the conference website for registration & schedule details.

DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

Any and all researchers and students pursuing frontier energy and environmental genomics research are welcome! Also, all current JGI Community Science Program (CSP) users, as well as investigators considering an application for future CSP calls.

Running parallel with the Meeting, the JGI will be hosting the first ever Viral EcoGenomics and Applications (VEGA) Symposium – Big data approaches to help characterize earth’s Virome. The goals of the one and a half day symposium are to bring together a “viral ecogenomics” community, i.e. experts of viral/phage genetics, structure, ecology, evolution, and (meta)genomics, to foster discussions centered on how to best capture and characterize uncultivated viruses, understand the role of viruses in natural ecosystems, and functionally explore viral genetic diversity.

When: March 13 - 16, 2018
Where: Hilton San Francisco in Union Square

For more information or to register, please visit the meeting website.

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