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June 1, 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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WATCH: The genome engineering revolution: CRISPR and SynBio

The was lots of discussion about gene editing at the 2017 Genomics Forum hosted by Genome BC on May 25th. There were sessions on genome engineering as it applies to human health, agri-food and natural resources, and a session on the social and ethical aspects of the technology. The sessions were recorded and the videos are available on YouTube.
Source: Genome BC

More expertise needed in understanding genetic testing

Genetic testing has become more common and costs are dropping, but results are difficult to interpret. Genetic counsellors can help patients understand the results of a genetic test, but they can also help doctors understand what the results mean in a clinical practice. That is one of the conclusions that can be drawn from a study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and four other U.S. medical centers.
Source: Oncology Times

Science celebrities: Where are the women?

When it comes to broadcasting, men still rule science programming on TV, but there are signs that is changing.
Source: The Scientist

WATCH: Creating a safe home for stem cells

No this isn’t about growing stem cells in a dish – it is all about finding a way to help stem cells thrive inside the body after implantation. Professor Molly Shoichet, a Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering at the University of Toronto, is working on a way to improve this important step in regenerative medicine.
Source: Research2Reality

Mice with 3D-printed ovaries successfully give birth

Artificial 3D-printed ovaries implanted in mice are a long way from being ready for human trials, but it does offer hope in the future for cancer patients and infertile women. The ovarian bioprosthesis made it possible for the infertile mice to give birth. A Brave New World or a whole new one?
Source: Smithsonian Magazine

Who owns your genetic data after a home DNA test?

A consumer protection attorney says he has a few issues with the Terms and Condition agreement consumers sign with Ancestry DNA. There is no suggestion that anything wrong has or will happen, but the breadth of the conditions open a very wide door.
Source: Slate

WATCH: Stem cells, inked - osteoarthritis and cartilage engineering

This is the latest video in the Stem Cells, Inked series produced by the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Sarah Lepage at the Ontario Veterinary College (Thomas Koch lab) explains the similarities between horse and human when it comes to studying and engineering new cartilage to repair osteoarthritis in the knee.
Source: Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing fog

Genetic tests are being sold as a way to bring you personalized beer and wine recommendations, find the perfect date, and customize your diet and exercise regime. There is no science to back up the products but many companies are making money by ignoring the facts. Tim Caulfield from the University of Alberta confesses he may have a gene that makes him inclined to like movies with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, but that is no more reliable than many other genetic testing products on the market.
Source: Policy Options

Ultra-tough antibiotic to fight superbugs

Though full of click-worthy copy about wiping out threatening superbugs with ultra tough antibiotics, the challenges are real. This latest antibiotic has yet to be tested, but the research is important and it has promise.
Source: BBC

WATCH: Illumina CEO: When you invest in health research you actually create jobs

Francis deSouza, the CEO of Illumina was on CNBC to talk about the future of genome sequencing, growth, and government science funding. He acknowledge the importance of consumer genetic testing but views health research as the important driver for his industry. He calls it a trifecta because it improves health outcomes, lowers health costs, and creates jobs.
Source: CNBC

Belief in health bullshit is a global problem; a big study points to solutions

The title of this story comes with a double meaning. There is the misinformation, myths, and outlandish claims that come with the slang expression, and then there is an example in the feature article about the healing power of cow dung. The battle against some of these health misconceptions is best won if it starts with a little science and health literacy. As early as grade school is a good time to start according to a study in Lancet.
Source: Health News Review

People don’t trust scientific research when companies are involved

Does the public care who paying the bills for science research? Spoiler alert – yes they do.
In areas such as climate change, nutrition, GMOs, or the environment, it seems perception counts. That could pose a problem for research partnerships that involve public and private money and collaboration.
Source: The Conservation

WATCH: Helping make regenerative medicine a reality

This video is the most recent in a series of Research Excellence videos posted by the University of Alberta. It focuses mainly on the Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing facility at the U of A. Several researchers who are working on cell therapy strategies to treat diseases, talk about the importance of the equipment and expertise that are part of the facility.
Source: University of Alberta

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

CRISPR and the future of human evolution

Joe Hanson has a PhD in biology and says he wants to “tell the world about the awesomeness of ALL THE SCIENCE”. He gets the job done through blog posts and videos like this one produced with the help of PBS Digital Studios.
Source: It’s Okay To Be Smart

CRISPR creator Jennifer Doudna on the promises - and pitfalls - of easy genetic modification

A Crack in Creation by Jennifer Doudna takes you through the past, present, and future of the genomics technology she has created and nurtured. In the new book she urges innovators to slow down and think before they look for new ways to apply the technology.
Source: Wired

Public survey and call for evidence on genome editing

The UK based Nuffield Council on Bioethics is an independent organisation that examines ethical questions about the future of biology and medicine. Gene editing technology is arguably the tool that can fundamentally change some aspects of human biology. The Nuffield Council has developed a survey that the organization says requires no special knowledge to complete and will help broaden the discussion to include as many people as possible. There is also a new call for evidence to gather more detailed information from organizations and individuals.
Source: Nuffield Council

USDA should establish a science-based regulatory system to address genetically engineered and gene-edited crops

This article is the second one in a series that offer multiple perspectives on gene editing. Gregory Jaffe, Director of the Project on Biotechnology, Center for Science in the Public Interest. He says regulation should be based more on the potential risks to agriculture or the environment and less on how the product was made.
Source: CRIS Bits

Papers & Features Up arrow

Toward Public Bioethics?

Kaebnick, G., The Hastings Center Report (2017) DOI: 10.1002/hast.696

This issue of the Hastings Center Report (May-June 2017) features a couple of interesting takes on the governance challenges of emerging technologies. The essays, mostly from participants at the final meetings of the Obama-era U.S. national bioethics commission, offer a look back at four decades of debate about the ethical issues raised by emerging technologies.
Source: The Hastings Center Report

Unexpected mutations after CRISPR–Cas9 editing in vivo

Schaefer, KA, et al. Nature Methods (2017) doi:10.1038/nmeth.4293

In examining the entire genome from the CRISPR-treated mice, they found that the tool had successfully corrected the specific gene they were targeting, but it also potentially caused a great deal of other genetic changes. Most significantly, all of these identified mutations were not picked up by the general computer algorithms most researchers use to look at the off-target effects of CRISPR-editing. There were no obvious or immediately deleterious effects in the animals from these unexpected mutations, but it is unknown what longer term effects the altered genes could have.
Source: Nature Methods

Purdah and the gagging of science

Editorial, The Lancet (2017) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)31432-0

Purdah is a controlled period restricting public-facing activity, intended to prevent influence on election outcomes (currently enforced from April 22 to June 8). Using purdah to control science communication is an abuse of its intended purpose, and is not part of the original code. The guidance prevents dissemination and commentary on all NIHR-funded research covering public health, social care, health-system finance and workforce, and “any other areas where there is a risk of political interpretation”.
Source: The Lancet

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.

Genomics and Society: Expanding the ELSI Universe

This 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. With keynote speakers, plenary panels, workshops, and a wide range of paper, panel, and poster presentations, the Congress will provide an opportunity for scholars to reflect on current research and to envision future directions for ELSI research.

When: June 5-7, 2017
Where: Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine campus, UConn Health, Farmington, Connecticut

More information and registration available on the conference website.

Personalized Medicine Summit

The 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit 2017 follows on from the highly successful first summit in 2015, which resulted in a consensus advisory document, the Roadmap for Bringing Personalized Medicine to British Columbians.

The deliverable of the summit meeting will be an updated edition of the 2015 roadmap publication to assist government, the public and healthcare providers to implement personalized precision medicine to result in more efficient and effective healthcare.

When: June 11-13, 2017
Where: Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Register now for the 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit

Additional summit information, including program & accommodations

Agriculture Bioscience International Conference

Hosted by the Life Science Association of Manitoba and the Government of Manitoba, this year's ABIC Conference is set up to provide three days of guest speakers, student research presentations, exhibitors and networking opportunities for attendees.

A few of the topics to be presented:
  • Quality versus Quantity and the Implication to Food Security
  • Nutrigenomics / Nutrigenetics – How our DNA will shape our diets in the Future
  • Smart Farms - The Link between Biotechnology and Enhanced Nutrition
When: September 25 - 28, 2017
Where: Delta Winnipeg Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

More details on the program, accommodations and registration can be found here.

American Society of Human Genetics Annual Meeting

The 67th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics is the largest human genetics meeting and exposition in the world. This year’s meeting is expected to attract over 6,500 scientific attendees, plus almost 250 exhibiting companies. The meeting provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of cutting-edge science in all areas of human genetics.

When: October 17 - 21, 2017
Where: Orange County Convention Center, Orlando Florida

More info & registration is available at the meeting website.

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