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September 2, 2016


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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The tyranny of simple explanations

“The simplest explanation is usually the best one” is the simplest interpretation of Ockam’s Razor. But science and nature can get quite messy and the simple explanation may fall short. Writer Philip Ball says in this article that a simple theory is not a better one, but it might be more useful.
Source: The Atlantic

We’re all different in our DNA. We’re finally starting to understand when those differences matter

Carl Zimmer is a widely known as a science writer and blogger. He had his genome sequenced and discovered he had a gene variant that can cause severe irregular heartbeat rhythms. But he says, the ExAC database saved him from a “lifelong fear of dropping dead” because of the problem.
Source: STAT

Inside genomics pioneer Craig Venter’s latest production

Human Longevity Inc is applying large scale computing and machine learning to tackle the range of illnesses and disorder that hit people as they age. To do it he want to sequence at least one million genomes and collect health histories and the results of related medical test. The company has raised a lot of capital to get the job done and is also focusing on the economics of its approach.
Source: MIT Technology Review

Illumina would like you to sequence more DNA, please

The Illumina Accelerator offers access to sequencing machines, office space, and the all important cash that start-ups need to get off the ground. The start-ups it has taken under its corporate wing cover a wide range of sectors but Illumina hopes the Accelerator will find new applications for the company’s technology.
Source: WIRED

Genetic studies’ lack of diversity may lead to misdiagnoses, researchers say

Science seems to be locked in an ongoing battle with diversity. Among the people doing the research a lack of gender diversity and a lot of gender bias is an ongoing study. So too it seems is the case with research subjects. A Harvard based study has said that gene mutations in black patients have been misclassified as a higher heart-condition risk.
Source: Wall Street Journal

Why scientists are losing the fight to communicate science to the public

Is it anti-science that makes people afraid of GMOs or vaccinations? Or is it more a case of not wanting to be told what’s good for you?
Source: The Guardian

FTC charges academic journal publisher OMICS Group deceived researchers

The Federal Trade Commission has waded into the academic publishing business. Or rather what has been purported to be academic publishing. The FTC complaint alleges that OMICS Group, Inc., along with two affiliated companies do not live up to peer-review claims and that people who are listed as editors, have never agreed to participate.
Source: FTC

Precision medicine and population health: Dealing with the elephant in the room

This is a follow-up post to the JAMA article on the impact of precision medicine on population health. It is written by Muin J. Khoury, Director of the Office of Public Health Genomics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Source: CDC

Canada can lead the world in regenerative medicine — but it won’t happen without strategic investment

Michael May is CEO of CCRM, a Canadian not-for-profit organization which supports the development and commercialization of regenerative medicine technologies, and Peter Zandstra is a professor in the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering and Executive Director of Medicine by Design at the University of Toronto. This Government of Canada blog post looks at how Canada can attract talent and investment to create business opportunities around our existing science.
Source: Canada’s Innovation Agenda

Which emerging technologies are “weapons of mass destruction”?

In a speech to the UN Security Council in late August, UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon talked about the need to find better ways to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Most of the weapons he talked about were the ones we are used to hearing about, however he also singled out a few new emerging technologies including synthetic biology. This appears to be one of the first times that the UN has marked synthetic biology specifically. Back in April, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper pointed to gene-editing as a tool for mass destruction emerging technologies are being watched. The Tech Liberation Front is a site that needs to be read with your fact checking glasses so you should read the full text of the speech as well. This time though the site raises an interesting point. Could this mark another point where the discussion marches on while the science community watches?
Source: Tech Liberation

Research and consent: One unforgettable case

A review by Andre Picard of the book Patient H.M.: The Story of Memory, Madness and Family Secrets. Consent may be the biggest issue in this case but the book raises many more questions.
Source: Globe & Mail

Survey shows broad support for national precision medicine study

In a recent survey designed to measure public attitudes about the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program, a majority of respondents expressed willingness to participate in the nationwide research effort. The findings were published online in PLOS ONE by a team of National Institutes of Health researchers.
Source: PLOS ONE
Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

CRISPR's hopeful monsters: gene-editing storms evo-devo labs

Most summers since 1893, young developmental and evolutionary biologists have flocked to Woods Hole, Massachusetts, to master the tricks of their trade. At the world-famous Marine Biological Laboratory there, students in its annual embryology course dissect sea urchins and comb jellies, and graft cells together from different animals. But for the last three years, the keen apprentices have been learning something new: gene editing.
Source: Nature

Many Americans are wary of using gene editing for human enhancement

Despite these possible benefits, Americans are wary of editing embryos, even if the focus is on using the technology solely to reduce their children’s risk of serious disease, according to a Pew Research Center survey about the broader field of “human enhancement.”
Source: Pew Research Center

Papers & Features Up arrow

Will Precision Medicine Improve Population Health?

Muin J. Khoury, MD, PhD; Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, JAMA (2016) doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12260

The Precision Medicine Initiative in the U.S. has met with everything from enthusiasm to skepticism. This JAMA Viewpoint moves away from benefits to the individual and discusses whether precision medicine is unlikely or likely to improve population health.
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

To Share or Not to Share: Ethical Acquisition and Use of Medical Data

Hollis KF. AMIA Summits on Translational Science Proceedings. (2016) 2016:420-427.

Beyond medical data security, we need to ethically acquire, use and manage data so that all people involved with the data from producer to data manager are recognized and respected. This paper advocates that sharing medical data can be ethically the right choice for everyone in health care if data sharing guidelines are available for people to use, modify and strengthen for specific purposes.
Source: AMIA Summits on Translational Science Proceedings

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.

The Long Tail of Personalized Medicine

Genome Alberta is pleased to be co-sponsoring an event at the University of Calgary Campus in the Senate Room (Room 721) at The Hotel Alma.

Dr. Bob Church
will present his views on the topic of "The Long Trail to Personalized Medicine". Dr. Church is well known to Canada’s Genomics Enterprise. He has been instrumental in developing the genetics industry in Alberta and Canada, both as a researcher and administrator, playing a leading role in the ground-breaking research that has led to better genetic testing, personalized medicine and genetic modification. He started the world’s first livestock embryo transfer company, and was part of the team that developed Canada’s first in vitro fertilization program for humans. In Alberta, Church worked with Premier Peter Lougheed to establish the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research in 1980. He was named to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1993 and to the Order of Canada in 2000.

Please note that we will be posting some of the audio from the event on our website.

When: September 14, 2016, 2:00 PM
Where: University of Calgary, Hotel Alma

Click here for directions to Hotel Alma.

Agricultural Bioscience International Conference 2016

The world's top agricultural bioscience conference is making its first USA appearance in one of the richest agricultural regions of the world — Fargo, North Dakota, USA.

Themed "Better Food. Better World," ABIC 2016 will focus on how public and private research collaborates by using science to solve issues related to the increasing demand for food. Members will hear from university researchers, private sector scientists, independent researchers and others who are applying the practical use of science to impact health and nutrition and make a difference in feeding the world.

When: September 18 - 21, 2016
Where: Fargo, North Dakota, USA

If you are interested, please head to the registration page.

Global Biotechnology Week Breakfast at the Manitoba Legislature

Global Biotechnology weeks is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments and the potential of biotechnology and around the world. This event is sponsored by the Life Sciences Association of Manitoba.

When: September 27, 7:30 - 9:30 am
Where: Golden Boy Room, Manitoba Legislative Building

For more information and to register click here.

Canadian Science Policy Conference

The annual CSPC is back in Ottawa in November and is one of the best opportunities to hear about new developments in science policy in Canada and discuss the current and future state of science with your colleagues. The CSPC has become Canada’s most comprehensive, multi-sectorial and multi-disciplinary annual science policy forum and attracted numerous politicians and hundreds of professionals from industry, academia, the non-profit sector, federal and provincial governments every year.

When: November 8th – 10th
Where: Shaw Centre, Ottawa

For more information go to cspc2016.ca

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