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July 18, 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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What is genomics, and how can it help you?

We know, most of the subscribers to our Digest are pretty familiar with the science of genomics. However the recent BIO Conference and Trade Show in San Diego put the science and the technology on the map for a few days and generated some interesting media coverage. This article and the links that are part of it will give you an idea of how genomics is being portrayed to the general public.
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune

Human microbiome studies really are oversold, new study suggests #UCLA #Microbiomania

It isn’t hard to tell what Jonathan Eisen thinks about recent stories linking our emotions and our gut bacteria. He starts of with “No no no no no and no” and finishes by handing out the “"Overselling the Microbiome Award" to UCLA. He’s not blaming the researchers – just the press office.
Source: The Tree of Life blog

WATCH: Investing in health innovation

Right across the street from the MaRS Centre in Toronto is where insulin was first discovered in 1921. The video is certainly a promo piece for the MaRS Centre but in 3 ½ minutes you’ll find it makes some good points about what fosters innovation and helps medical start-ups grow and develop the next big medical breakthrough.
Source: iPolitics

Facts versus feelings isn’t the way to think about communicating science

“Can science make sense of anti-science and post-truthism? More generally, how can we understand what drives people’s beliefs, decisions and behaviors?” You won’t get all the answers here but you will get some ideas to help you communicate your science ideas, facts, and insights.
Source: The Conversation

Canadian clinics begin offering stem-cell treatments experts call unproven, possibly unsafe

Canadians counting on the promise of stem cells to help cure their illness have had to travel outside the country to such places as Mexico, China or Arizona. Now they are finding they have Canadian option. Unfortunately the treatments are no more reliable.
Source: National Post

It's time to inject some sense into the nonsense peddled by the anti-science crowd

We have a responsibility to communicate or science in the clearest terms we can. But when does the responsibility shift from those sending the message to those receiving it. We can’t force science literacy, but we can make the case for why it is important.
Source: The Guardian

New Windsor company aims to personalize cancer treatment

The rate of new cancer cases and cancer mortality are higher in Windsor than the rest of Ontario, so it is perhaps fitting that a new Windsor company wants a major role in personalized cancer treatment. ITOS Oncology will extract DNA from cancer cells and searches for signature genetic mutations. The company is collaborating with the University of Windsor and Windsor Regional Cancer Centre.
Source: Windsor Star

Biopunk: Subverting biopolitics

At the 2017 SXSW event in Austin Texas, there was a joint talk by data scientist and blogger Joerg Blumtritt, Simone Browne an author and Association Professor at the University of Texas, and Heather Dewey-Hagborg,an artist, biohacker and educator. This eclectic panel talked about biopolitics, biopunk, and the future. Their talk is now an article and a video about shaping our biological future.
Source: The New Inquiry

China's genomics company BGI makes stock market debut

China's genomics giant BGI made its initial public offering last Friday on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The Institute was founded in 1991 and now offers its genetic resting and sequencing services around the world. The BGI Genomics is based in Shenzhen, China, with branches and medical laboratories in major cities including Beijing, Tianjin, Wuhan, Shanghai and Guangzhou. BGI Genomics also has offices and laboratories in Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region. It is the first genomics company to be listed on the stock market in China,
Source: China Daily

First gene therapy – ‘a true living drug’ – on the cusp of FDA approval

A Food and Drug Administration panel has unanimously recommended that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer. It is a literal example of personalized medicine as a separate treatment must be created for each patient. Cells from the patient are removed at an approved medical center, frozen, shipped to a Novartis plant for thawing and processing, frozen again and shipped back to the treatment center. The FDA has not officially approved the panel’s recommendation but it is likely to receive the go-ahead. But is it really gene therapy asks Gizmodo.
Source: Calgary Herald and New York Times

Without funding, Canadian climate science is in peril

The 2017 federal budget did not include renewing the funding for the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) program that has been investigating questions that impact the daily lives of Canadians. Paul J. Kushner, is a professor in the Department of Physics, University of Toronto, principal investigator of the Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution Network and vice-president of CMOS. Wayne Richardson is president of CMOS. Martin Taillefer is president of Maritime Way Scientific and past president of CMOS. They have written an editorial that says it is a small investment that has gone a long way in understanding the effects of a changing climate.
Source: Globe & Mail

LISTEN: Working night shifts may trigger cancer by hindering DNA repair

Workers on night shifts face an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and even certain types of cancers. A a new study is showing this seems to be connected to melatonin which helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles - our circadian rhythms.
Source: CBC Quirks & Quarks

David Frost cardiac genetic testing service opens

A new genetic testing service is opening at Belfast City Hospital to identify and support those at risk of heart problems. It is the first service in the UK to benefit from a fund set up in memory of the late broadcaster, David Frost.
Source: BBC

Scientists synthesize smallpox cousin in ominous breakthrough

Alberta scientists are behind a project using commercially available genetic material to piece together the extinct horsepox virus. Horsepox is not known to harm people and is no longer found in nature but the technique used by the University of Alberta team could be used to bring back smallpox. There are good scientific reason behind the research but AAAS Science says it raises the fear of using modern biotechnology as a weapon especially as the project was low cost and used readily available genetic material and technology.
Source: Washington Post

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

Seed company secures CRISPR rights

Needless to say it wasn’t some small or obscure company that managed to obtain a bit slice of the CRISPR pie. DuPont Pioneer has secured the rights to CRISPR-cas technology for all agricultural uses and applications in plants.
Source: ABC News

China produces world's first cloned dog using gene editing

Sinogene, a Beijing-based biotech company is reported to have cloned a dog using gene editing technology. The company said it will promote commercial dog cloning services worldwide by establishing a gene-editing development and research base and a bank for somatic cells and genes.
Source: China Daily

Papers & Features Up arrow

The Microbiological@mind project: a public engagement initiative of Turin University bringing microbiology and health education into primary schools

Scalas, D, Roana, J, et al. (2017) International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, doi.org/10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2017.05.008

This paper suggests that hands-on educational programs in early childhood is of great importance to foster children's interest in science learning and to provide young people with general and specific health-related issues, such as the prudent antibiotic use. You’ll need access full journal access to read the full paper.
Source: International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents

Structural Challenges of Precision Medicine: Currents in Contemporary Bioethics

Rothstein, Mark A, (2017) The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, doi.org/ 10.1177/1073110517720655
The concept of 'personalized medicine' or 'precision medicine' has been discussed in earnest at least since the official launch of the Human Genome Project in 1990. This article focuses on the three characteristics of the clinical application of precision medicine that show how the U.S. health care system is ill-equipped to respond to the formidable challenges of precision medicine.
Source: The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

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.

INVENTING THE FUTURE: Symposium on Synthetic Biology 2.0

In partnership with Ontario Genomics, this one day symposium will provide a forum for research groups from the Southwestern Ontario region to network and discuss shared interests within the area of Synthetic Biology. The symposium format will include short talks and a poster session.

When: Friday, July 28, 2017
Where: Western University, London Ontario

Learn more and register online.

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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