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February 16, 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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It isn't Health Canada's job to put a positive spin on GMOs

Last year a report commissioned by Health Canada found that about 61 per cent of the people surveyed had a negative view of the term "genetic modification" and only 26 per cent of respondents said they would be comfortable eating GMO foods. While industry and researchers work to put out more information about GMOs, what role should Health Canada play? This article suggests that Health Canada should not be in the GMO promotion game.
Source: Huffington Post

Canadian Science Policy Conference call for submissions

The CSPC 2017 call for panel proposals is now open for proposals that revolve around any of CSPC 2017 themes. The conference will be held in Ottawa November 1st to the 3rd. Deadline for proposal is Friday, April 7th. Visit the CSPC website for complete details and submission criteria.
Source: Canadian Science Policy Centre

The Guardian view on education: it’s not all in the genes

The role that genetics play in determining our successes and failures is often over played or misunderstood. This editorial from the Guardian says social and environmental conditions play a much stronger role.
Source: The Guardian

LISTEN: Stem cell clinics

Emma Frow is an assistant professor with a joint appointment in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, and the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University. In this podcast from the School for the Future of Innovation she joins the hosts to talk about unregulated stem cell clinics.
Source: Future Out Loud

Opinion: Biotech regulations must be based on facts, not fears

The current U.S. Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology came into effect 30 years ago – long before much of the ‘omics technology we use today. This article says it is time for some regulation restructuring with some attention paid to the products of biotechnology, not on the processes.
Source: Agri-Pulse

What if we cured fentanyl addiction through genetics?

Many experts say there is no basis to a U.S. company claim, but Proove is expanding into Canada. The genetic testing company says its test can show the predisposition to opioid addiction and that it can help in decision making for dealing with drug addiction.
Source: CBC

PMC analysis: Personalized medicines top 20 percent of FDA approvals for third straight year

The report lists the six personalized medicines FDA approved in 2016 and underlines that nearly one of every four drugs the agency approved from 2014 to 2016 is a personalized medicine.
Source: Personalized Medicine Coalition

One Harvard lab, six Iranian scientists, and some tea

You can’t go wrong with Ed Yong’s stories in The Atlantic and this one is no exception. It tells the personal stories of some of the scientists feeling the effects of the travel ban in the U.S. You should also read a similar story from CBC - Trump travel ban has Iranian scientists looking for new places to do research.
Source: The Atlantic

The quinoa genome could help scientists get it out of the health food aisle

The article goes on to say it could be the start of “bringing the super grain to the masses”. Oprah Winfrey loves quinoa but is there really a mass shortage around the world that needs urgent attention. Maybe but this isn’t just about increasing the supply of quinoa. The research identified a gene that may contribute to the bitter taste and that could have broader application. The work could also help farmers in countries where there is little money available for research into improving crop genetics.
Source: Popular Science

How the anti-vaxxers are winning

The anti-vaccination movement has bee gaining ground over the last few years and the new White House Administration may have given it a even bigger boost. The result could be a major measles outbreak in the United States and look out Texas – you could be first. The number of nonmedical exemptions for school vaccinations has brought the state close the threshold that would precipitate and outbreak.
Source: New York Times

'Riskiest ideas' win $50 million from Chan Zuckerberg Biohub

Mark Zuckerberg’s biomedical research initiative has begun to distribute grant money starting with 47 investigators receiving up to $1.5 million (USd). The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub says it will be complimenting major granting agencies such as the NIH and taking on some of the more risky research ideas.
Source: Nature

Researchers develop genetic tool to improve arsenic studies

Certain kinds of bacteria are able to transform naturally occurring arsenic into a more toxic form that can get into groundwater more easily. Environmental engineers are working on ways to making it easier to identify the bacterial species. As an aside you might want to know just how much arsenic is turning up in rice or your favourite rice drink.
Source: Phys.Org

First gene drive in mammals could aid vast New Zealand eradication plan

Rodents that were originally introduced to oceanic island by shipwrecks or sailors have become a problem for native seabirds. New Zealand is on a campaign to get rid of rats, possums, and weasels that are not native and threaten bird populations. Australian and Texas research teams think gene-drives may be the answers. A gene drive gets around some genetic rules and ‘drives’ certain genes or genetic traits through a population. The research is still in very early stages but be the latest step in “synthetic conservation”.
Source: MIT Technology Review

Multiple sclerosis, inflammatory diseases linked to 27 high-protein gene regions

Scientists from the Research Center of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Finland have identified DNA regions associated with higher levels of circulating cytokines which play a role in inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project

Forensic DNA profiling might be about to take a big leap forward. Are we ready?

Cigarette smoking, cocaine use, environmental pollution, and the season you were born in can leave an epigenetic mark on our DNA. As technology improves and we can infer more from epigenetic patterns more detailed profiles of criminal suspects may soon be possible. Is the legal system ready?
Source: The Guardian

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Is human enhancement the next revolution?

It isn’t really a question of whether we can enhance ourselves and our performance – that moment has already passed – it is now a question of how far we want to go. CRISPR has opened the door and many people are ready to embrace the possibilities the technology offers while others will blame it for what lies ahead.
Source: Pew Trust

Overcoming hurdles in CRISPR gene editing to improve treatment

CRISPR/Cas9 holds promise for new treatment of such genetic diseases as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and hemophilia. But to work well, it must be delivered across the cell membrane and into its nucleus. A research team has designed a delivery system using nanoparticles to assist CRISPR/Cas9 across the membrane and avoid entrapment by cellular machinery.
Source: Science Daily

CRISPR-Cas9: How the quest for better cheese revolutionized biological research

This is the story of CRISPR-Cas9 from our Science Borealis blog pages. It begins with the age-old battle between viruses and cellular life.
Source: Science Borealis

Papers & Features Up arrow

The Case of Dr. Oz: Ethics, evidence, and does professional self-regulation work?

TIlburt, J., et al. AMA Journal of Ethics. (2017), doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2017.19.02.msoc1-1702.

A growing number of people seem to trust celebrity doctors such as Dr. Oz more than they do their own doctor. What can the profession do to bring patients back to their family doctor?
Source: AMA Journal of Ethics

Communication: Science censorship is a global issue

Ritchie, E. et al. Nature (2017) doi:10.1038/542165b

President Donald Trump issued an order on 23 January to effectively gag US government scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture from communicating with the media and the public. Regrettably, suppression of public scientific information is already the norm, or is being attempted, in many countries. We fear that such gagging orders could encourage senior bureaucrats to use funding as a tool with which to rein in academic freedoms.
Source: Nature

Personalized medicine in the paediatric population: the balance between pharmacogenetics progress and bioethics.

Schiavone S, et al, Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. (2017) doi: 10.2174/1389201018666170207130236.

Personalized medicine (PM) is becoming increasingly important in contemporary clinical and research scenarios. In the context of PM, pharmacogenomics and pharmacogenetics are aimed at the genetic personalization of drug response...Although children might potentially benefit from such research, many ethical concerns arise at the intersection of the spheres of drug development and genetic testing.
Source: Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology

“They Just Want to Know” - Genetic health professionals' beliefs about why parents want to know their child's carrier status

Vears, D.F., Delany, C., Massie, J. et al. J Genet Counsel (2017). doi:10.1007/s10897-017-0070-2

In the context of a child being diagnosed with a genetic condition, reports from both parents and health professionals suggest many genetic health professionals are reluctant to provide carrier testing for unaffected siblings, despite the lack of evidence of harm. We propose that genetic health professionals’ understandings of why parents want to have their children tested may contribute to their reluctance to test.
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.

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.

Tools for Environmental & Agricultural Challenges

This presentation is part of the Bringing Home Genomics series presented by Genome British Columbia. The topic presented will be "Putting Genomics to Work: Tools for Environmental & Agricultural Challenges".

A discussion about the application of genomics in vital areas of life including the food we eat and our natural environment, will be led by Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa – Chief Scientific Officer & VP Sector Development, Genome BC and Dr. David Charest – Director, Sector Development, Genome BC.

When: Thursday March 9, 2017, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Where: College of the Rockies, Lecture Theatre 250, 2700 College Way, Cranbrook, BC

Registration is free but required.

CRISPR: Opportunities and Challenges Webinar

CRISPR is a genome-editing technique that provides a simple yet versatile method for making targeted changes to the genome of living cells.

In this CRISPR webinar, experts and researchers will review CRISPR's opportunities and challenges with a view to touching upon challenges such as reducing off-target effects, as well as new advances set to overcome some of the current limitations.

This is a an opportunity to not only learn from experts about how this disruptive technology is changing gene editing but also to ask your personal questions about CRISPR.

When: Tuesday March 14, 2017, 1:00 AM – 12:00 PM CDT
Where: Online

Register on Eventbrite

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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