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March 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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ICYMI: Parliament passes genetic discrimination bill

It wasn’t quite the slam dunk many thought it would be but Parliament finally passed Bill S-201 by a vote of 222 to 60. Many Liberal backbencher chose not to toe the party line and voted in favour of the bill which will not become law until it receives Royal Assent. That is usually a formality but as you’ll see in this story from AAAS Science that too may become tangled in procedure. While Canada’s politicians were voting in favour of stopping possible genetic discrimination, the U.S. Congress was considering a bill that could start to unravel that country’s genetic non-discrimination act.
Read more: CBC, Huffington Post, Globe & Mail

10 things about human evolution (genetics) you should know

The writer’s ‘abstract’ is to the point – “Stuff people should know, but many don’t”. Razib Khan then goes on to offer ten tidbits of information that you can share and pass on.
Source: Gene Expression

Gene found to cause sudden death in young people

Researchers from McMaster University were part of an international team which identified a gene which could lead to sudden death in young people and athletes.
Source: Science News

House Republicans would let employers demand workers’ genetic test results

While Canada’s parliament was voting in favour of Bill S-201 which would stop discrimination based on genetic test results, a bill before Congress in the U.S. could start to unravel that country’s Genetic Non-discrimination Act.
Source: StatNews

LISTEN: Scientists stored an Amazon gift card on some DNA

We’re not sure how you’ll be able to redeem your card, but the experiment showed that information can be stored in biological systems. The team also stored a 50 second movie, a photograph, a computer operating system, a computer virus, and a scientific research paper.
Source: CBC Quirks & Quarks

Genomics literacy critical to San Diego and nation

Don’t let the headline fool you because this is less about San Diego and more about the rest of the headline about the genomics part of science literacy. Did you know the word first appeared in a textbook in 1920?
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

Stream of surprises from the Atlantic cod genome

The story of “Calvin the Cod”, kicks off this story about the sequencing of the cod genome. It ends up with a peek into the evolution of cod and how some of the new information can be applied to fisheries management.
Source: Science Daily

Tuberculosis: Soil bacteria compound may yield potent new drug

According to the World Health Organization, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death around the world. The disease has become increasingly resistant to the drugs use to treat it but an international consortium which included Canada, have found a compound in soil bacteria which may open the way for new treatments.
Source: Medical News Today

'Butterfly Boy' steels himself for second stem-cell transplant

He went through nausea, fever and exhaustion after his first stem cell transplant but that almost seems minor compared to the rare and deadly disease he is battling. But 16 year old Jonathan Pitre is preparing himself to go through the transplant procedure all over again.
Source: Ottawa Citizen

What's your polygenic score?

This article by Dalton Conley a Professor of Sociology at Princeton University looks into genetically influenced behaviour that is not altered (or altered very little) by social factors. It can be a touchy subject but Prof Conley says there are a growing number of social scientists who want to calculate a unique number that represents an individual\s genetic potential for certain trait. It isn’t about buidlng superhuman or giving up the idea of controlling our own fate but it is about the interplay between our old friends, nature and nurture.
Source: Scientific American

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

First results of CRISPR gene editing of normal embryos released

Work done in China to correct genetic mutations in some cells is the first study to describe using CRIPR in viable human embryos. It was described as a small study and difficult to draw strong conclusions but was described as “encouraging”. You might want to follow up by reading some analysis on the Knoepfler lab stem cell blog.
Source: New Scientist

WATCH: The promise and perils of DNA editing

TED Talk by Eleonore Pauwels, Director of Biology Collectives, Senior Program Associate and Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington DC.
Source: Wilson Centre

And to close our Gene Editing News feature, another company has rushed into the genetic testing game. This time it is a life insurance company that wants to use DNA methylation to predict when you'll die.

Papers & Features Up arrow

Biodesulphurization of Gasoline by Rhodococcus erythropolis Supported on Polyvinyl alcohol

Fatahi, A. and Sadeghi, S. (2017), Letters in Applied Microbiology. doi:10.1111/lam.12729

The quick and easy title for this paper could be ‘using bacteria to assist in the biodesulfurization of gasoline. Though the next moves of the U.S. EPA under President Trump may shift the landscape a bit, the world is generally trying to move towards zero-sulfur fuel but removing sulfur is a challenge. Biodesulfurization is one of the possible alternatives to current technology.
Source: Letters in Applied Microbiology

Choosing not to undergo predictive genetic testing for hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes: expanding our understanding of decliners and declining

Keogh, L.A., Niven, H., Rutstein, A. et al. (2017) Journal of Behavioral Medicine. doi:10.1007/s10865-016-9820-0

If personalised medicine is key to the future of healthcare, why do people turn down the opportunity to take a genetic test that could reveal their susceptibility to certain disease. Trust, fear, and knowledge all come into play.
Source: Journal of Behavioral 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.

Funding Innovation in the Life Sciences

The Greater Montreal chapter of Women In Bio will host a half-day conference. The event will bring together life science entrepreneurs and potential investors to discuss the challenges and opportunities in funding innovation in the life sciences. There will be a panel discussion made up of investors to discuss a range of funding options. An entrepreneur showcase session will highlight Québec success stories, with CEOs sharing their experiences and offering advice.

When: March 22, 2017, 8:00 am - 12 pm
Where: The Neomed Institute, Montreal, Quebec

Registration information available here.

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.

Cracking the Genetic Code for Better Health

Advances in genomics – the study of genes and their functions – are allowing researchers and physicians to customize health care and treat individuals according to their genetic makeup.
Dr. Francois Bernier, an expert in rare diseases, will explain how genetic sequencing, can give physicians more tools to understand what their patients need and to provide more personalized and precise care.

When: April 4, 2017, 12:00 - 1:00 PM MST
Where: Online

Register here for the webinar

Precision Medicine in Child Health

The 17th Annual Precision Medicine Research Symposium will feature two major outside speakers and several speakers from the University of Calgary.

In addition there will be Poster Sessions and a Reception. Check out the Poster (.pdf file) for more detail.

When: April 19, 2017
Where: Alberta Children's Hospital Calgary, Alberta

Register here

Alberta's Annual Technology Celebration

AccelerateAB is the province’s annual flagship event and this year, it will be held in Calgary. Produced by The A100 and local community partners, the event brings together entrepreneurs, investors, key leaders, and supporters from across the province.

In addition, there will be a half-day round-table mentorship program that will provide startups with the opportunity to receive validation and support from some of Alberta’s most influential entrepreneurs.

When: April 19, 2017
Where: BMO Centre, Stampede Park, Calgary, Alberta

Check out AccelerateAB for more information

2017 AGRI Tech Venture Forum

The AGRI Tech Venture Forum is expanding its reach from previous years to bring together more investors and new companies in the ag tech area to search for new and innovative ways to monetize the sector. Industry experts will be available to analyze and discuss the changing landscape of emerging technologies within various areas of the ag tech arena. Whether you are an entrepreneur, corporate executive, investor, or government official, the AGRI Tech Venture Forum will provide you with an opportunity to connect with others in the industry.

When: May 11-12, 2017
Where: Toronto Marriott, Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel, Toronto, Ontario

Registration and agenda information

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