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February 2, 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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Gates Foundation research can’t be published in top journals

Bill Gates’ global health charity has a policy of open access for all of its research. That is at odds with many of the top tier science research journals so some of the research cannot be published. This Nature News story looks into the gap.
Source: Nature

I'm fasting for science: Will it help tame my multiple sclerosis?

Brandie Jefferson has MS and says she is “eating and instagramming for science. #ramen”. An entertaining and dip into the microbiome.
Source: National Public Radio

Where science and nonsense collide

An Argentinian cabinet Minister said that “critical thinking has done too much damage to our country”, and that’s just the tip of the nonsense part of this story about science in Argentina. After a decade of strong science progress that latest budget for the country cut science and technology funding by 30%. This is all taking place in an atmosphere were “Investigators should be evaluated by the number of jobs they create and not by the number of papers they publish”.
Source: Nature

Cultural differences may leave their mark on DNA

A UC San Francisco-led study has identified signatures of ethnicity in the genome that appear to reflect an ethnic group’s shared culture and environment, rather than its common genetic ancestry.
Source: University of California

21st Century science overload

An estimated 2.5 million scientific papers are published around the world every year. That brings a whole new meaning to the notion of information overload. Is it because of a publish or perish mentality and could this explosion of information compromise science quality? Science writer and Science Borealis Editorial Manager Sarah Boon looks into the problem.
Source: Canadian Science Publishing

President Obama honors federally-funded early-career scientists

As he prepared to leave the job as President of the United States, Barack Obama named 102 scientists and researchers as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. See the full list on the White House website.
Source: Whitehouse.gov

Closing the 17-year gap between scientific evidence and patient care

Daniel Niven is, an intensive care physician and assistant professor in the departments of critical care medicine and community health sciences at Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. He suggests some ways to shorten the gap between new research findings and when new practices make it into patient care.
Source: University Affairs

Could UK get post-Brexit access to EU research?

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said she wants her country’s science and research initiatives to continue to collaborate with its European partners. If the UK goes with the ‘hard’ Brexit as it has indicated over the last few weeks, her desire for the continued flow of research dollars may not be shared by the European Union.
Source: Times Higher Education

The public is finally coming round to GM crops

Instead of genetically modifying a plant to be more resistant to pests and pesticides, a new variety of wheat waiting for approval is modified to increase yield. The GMO has had its enzymes ‘tuned up’ to make photosynthesis more efficient and potentially increase yields by up to 40%. The researcher in charge of the project thinks the public is becoming more supportive and expects the government to approve the trial.
Source: iNews

The stem-cell revolution is coming – slowly

Shinya Yamanaka won a Nobel Prize in 2012 for reprogramming mature cells into induced pluripotent stem cells. In this interview he covers a range of stem cell topics from where we are in stem cell technology to the gap between that technology and the ethical issues.
Source: NY Times

Whither peer review at CIHR

Matthew Herders thinks there are many problems with the peer review system at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, but in this article zeroes in on three specific issues. He sees an urgent need for the CIHR to reform its funding programs as well as its peer review or there is a risk that important research will be left “undone”.
Source: Impact Ethics

NIH Director Francis Collins to stay in his post for now

In the U.S. top political appointees generally resign their posts when a new White House administration is coming into place and that includes the head of the National Institutes of Health. For the moment however, Francis Collins has been asked to stay in his role.
Source: Washington Post

What did Neanderthals leave to modern humans?

Europeans and Asians all have a bit of DNA donated by their Neanderthal ancestors – up to 5 per cent. The influences are subtle but can affect the immune system or whether people can get hooked on nicotine.
Source: NY Times

Are you ready to explore your baby's genome?

Newborns are given a heel prick and a few drops of blood are collected to be send off for testing to see if the infant may have one of as many as 20 serious conditions. As sequencing technology becomes faster and less expensive, why not do an entire genome sequence? That’s what a consortium called Newborn Sequencing In Genomic medicine and public Health in the U.S. is studying.
Source: Media Release

Organs of one species grown inside an animal of another

One day it could be possible to grow a human organ inside a pig, then transplant the organ into someone needing the organ. At least that’s what could be in the offing based on a study by researchers who grew a mouse pancreas in rats, then transplanted the organ into another mouse.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Do we need an international body to regulate genetic engineering?

Organisms that have been genetically modified in some manner are not always going to respect border, barriers, and fences. An engineered mosquito is not going to stop at a border crossing, and seeds can be carried on the wind for miles. Regulations around stem cell treatments and genetic testing vary across jurisdictions and have given rise to medical tourism. So how is in charge? Or should anyone be in charge?
Source: Gizmodo

FDA mulls tighter regulation of gene-edited animals

The regulator has suggested that it treat every edit of an animal’s genome like a new drug, but some scientists think it could slow progress. (see the next story)
Source: MIT Technology Review

Gene-edited animals face US regulatory crackdown

2 days before the Obama Administration packed up and left the White House, draft rules on gene editing in animals were released. University of California animal geneticist Alison van Eenennaam, called the draft FDA proposals “insane”. But before anyone gets too excited or upset one thing worth remembering – the incoming administration could change it all quickly and without consultation.
Source: Nature

Find and replace: DNA editing tool shows gene therapy promise

For the moment, Francis Collins has been asked to stay on a Director of the NIH and he continues to talk about NIH research. In this post he talks about a team of NIH researchers who say gene editing tools can correct a mutation which triggers a form of chronic granulomatous disease.
Source: NIH Director’s Blog

Papers & Features Up arrow

Cancer risk information sharing: The experience of individuals receiving genetic counseling for BRCA1/2 mutations.

Chopra I, et al. J Health Commun. (2017) PMID 28112991

Knowing that the risk of certain types of cancer runs in a family is a unique and for many, a frightening situation. Genetic counseling can play an important role in communicating the risk and explaining the results.
Source: Journal of Health Communication

Whole genome sequencing in children; ethics, choice and deliberation

Newson, A J Med Ethics (2017) doi:10.1136/medethics-2016-103943

Approproately implementing novel technologies involves critically considering how and when to use them. The technology of next-generation DNA sequencing and its application in whole genome sequencing (WGS) is a key example of where this 'how and when' problem arises.
Source: Journal of Medical Ethics

Human gene editing: revisiting Canadian policy

Knoppers, BM et al, npj Regenerative Medicine (2017) DOI 10.1038/s41536-017-0007-2

We maintain that current Canadian policy and regulatory instruments appropriately address somatic cell research, including the gene editing of such cells. However, in light of new discoveries and capabilities, and evolving societal perceptions, a reconsideration of policies for germ line editing is warranted.
Source: npj Regenerative Medicine

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.

Tools for Adapting to Climate Change

This presentation is part of the Bringing Home Genomics series presented by Genome BC. Learn how cutting edge genomic tools are being used to detect and combat the threat of climate change in our environment.

When: February 23, 2017, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Where: The Exploration Place, 333 Becott Place, Prince George, BC

The presentation is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

More details and registration 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.

Alberta Epigenetics Network Summit 2017

AEN Annual Summit provides researchers and industry partners a platform to share current knowledge & trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the area of Epigenetics with colleagues from Alberta & across the country.   

The summit participants will share knowledge in areas of:
  • Biomedical Research: Topics include Precision/Personalized medicine, Cancer biology, Inflammatory diseases, Infectious diseases, Cardiovascular and Neuro biology, Molecular genetics, Developmental Biology and Aging – both Basic and Clinical (this would also include clinical trials data presentation)
  • Agriculture and Environment: Topics include Forestry, Plants, Livestock, Environmental toxicology
  • Bioinformatics and Technology Commercialization: Topics include Computational biology, Diagnostic assays, Biomarkers, Knowledge Translation including intellectual property protection and commercialization of Genomics/Epigenetics technologies.
An added feature will be the ‘Young Investigators Session' with oral & poster presentations in the areas listed above. AEN Summit is open to all researchers, irrespective of their field of study, from human and animal health, plants, livestock and forestry.  Abstracts Deadline: Monday, February 27, 2017

When: March 27-28, 2017
Where: The Coast Lethbridge Hotel, Lethbridge, Alberta

For more information and registration details 

Genome Alberta is pleased to be a major supporter of the Alberta Epigenetic Network and we encourage you to visit the AEN for 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.

Genomics and Society - Expanding the ELSI Universe

The 4th ELSI Congress is the latest in a series of major conferences for researchers and others interested in the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research.
Topics for keynote and plenary sessions include:
  • The Evolution and Future of ELSI Research
  • Synthesizing the Human Genome
  • Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of the Precision Medicine Initiative
  • Genome Sequencing Enters the Clinic
  • Genes, Ancestry and Identity
When: June 5 - 7, 2017
Where: Farmington, Connecticut

More information and registration link

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