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October 2, 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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World hunger is on the rise – Biotech can help

World hunger is complex, and there is no silver bullet, however biotech is a critical tool in meeting the challenge. As the FAO notes, “In order to produce food in a sustainable way for an additional 2 billion people by 2050, a business-as-usual approach will not be sufficient.”
Source: BiotechNow

Food evolution: Search for the truth

New Zealand does not allow genetically modified crops. However that doesn’t mean that farmers are not interested in exploring the use of such crops. NZ farmer Craige Mackenzie watched the documentary Food Evolution and shared his thoughts.
Source: Global Farmer Network

Leather, grown in a lab without cows

A company called Modern Meadow says it can fabricate leather. Using yeast to produce collagen, purifying it, pressing it into sheets, and tanning it, it is about as close to leather as you can get without having a cow at the start of the process.
Source: The Atlantic

In search of young medical geneticists

With the rise of doctor ordered genetic tests and the even more rapid growth in direct-to-consumer genetic testing, there is a need for more genetic testing for people working in a clinical setting. Medical genetics residencies and fellowships receive far fewer applications than other fields. Turning genetics into a popular field to pursue instead of a a niche specialty is a challenge we need to overcome.
Source: Boston Children’s Hospital blog

I am a genetic counselor

From the National Society of Genetic Counselors this 4 ½ minute video is a tribute to the evolving role of genetic counselors.
Source: YouTube

A dose of ‘wait-and-see’ reduces unnecessary antibiotic use

Reading a doctor’s handwriting on the prescription pad is not easy but you’ll really do a double take if you see “we will wait and see”. Australians are among the highest consumers of antibiotics but a University of Queensland study has shown that waiting to have an antibiotic prescription filled will reduce unnecessary use.
Source: Health Canal

Antibiotics may make you an easier target for resistant infections

The World Health Organization released a new report last week about the slow pace of new antibiotic development and the fast pace of antibiotic resistance. Antibacterial agents in clinical development – an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis paints a bleak picture despite efforts by public health agencies to tackle the progresss of AMR.
Source: Huffington Post

A science communicator and a science journalist walk into a bar…

The Canadian Science Writers’ Association was formed in 1970 and was almost exclusively an organization for science journalists. The media and journalistic landscape has changed considerably since then and the CSWA recently engaged in some introspection and consultation and has become Science Writers and Communicators of Canada. This blog post by Sarah Boon (who was also instrumental in the formation of Science Borealis) says that so far at least, the futures for science writers, communicators, and journalists is looking good.
Source : Watershed Moments

The genomic revolution reaches the city crime lab

DNA has been used in forensics for 25 years but the technology has made huge leaps in that time. A computer generated ‘mug shot’ based on DNA found at a crime has now been used to help make an arrest.
Source: The Atlantic

The world's ageing population

The world's population will get increasingly older over the next decades. In 1955, less than 10 percent of the population was over the age of 60. In 2100, this number will have risen to over 20 percent. The change in demographics will have major consequences for things like healthcare, pensions and politics.
Source: Al Jazeera

At New Scientist Live, arms and oil companies are buying credibility from science

New Scientist Live is a festival of ideas taking place at ExCeL London in the UK. New Scientist is the world’s biggest science weekly and it has organized a series of similar events over the last several years. This year’s show will feature five immersive zones covering Humans, Engineering, Technology, Earth and Cosmos, plus a main stage and VIP area. Shell will be sponsoring the Earth Zone and BAE Systems, the Engineering Zone. Chris Garrard, a campaigner and member of the Art Not Oil coalition says that is crossing an ethical line.
Source: The Guardian

DNA supports an early evolution of our species

If you are feeling a little old and weary today it could be that our species is really a lot older than we thought. Perhaps as much as 100,000 years older according to a new study of DNA from African fossils.
Source: Metro News

Virginia Tech professor charged with fraud in grant funding

Yiheng Percival Zhang, a professor in the department of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech has been arrested by federal authorities. He is accused of defrauding the university and the federal government in a case that involves more than $1 million in grant funding.
Source: The Virginian Pilot

Three goodbyes in three days: Why these parents watched their children die at home

3 children, 3 deaths in the same week from the same cause. No, not a crime novel. Instead it is a gut-wrenching story of a rare genetic disease in a Utah family.
Source: Chicago Tribune
Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

The epigenome editors: How tools such as CRISPR offer new details about epigenetics

When neuroscientist Eric Nestler began his career 30 years ago, researchers were just coming to appreciate that addiction seems to indelibly alter the brain. Intense cravings persist even after an individual stops using drugs because, researchers realized, the cellular and molecular changes in the brain endure.
Source: Nature

Gene editing using CRISPR: Why the excitement?

The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) is only 5 years old, yet it has galvanized biomedical research and raised important ethical questions. What is it, how does it work, and how could it change medical practice? You’ll get some answers in the preview but you’ll need full access to get the rest.
Source: JAMA

Papers & Features Up arrow

The challenges of the expanded availability of genomic information: an agenda-setting paper

Borry, P., Bentzen, H.B., Budin-Ljøsne, I. et al. J Community Genet (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12687-017-0331-7

In a 1-day agenda-setting meeting organized by the COST Action IS1303 “Citizen’s Health through public-private Initiatives: Public health, Market and Ethical perspectives,” participants discussed the main challenges associated with the expanded availability of genomic information, with a specific focus on public-private partnerships, and provided an outline from which to discuss in detail the identified challenges. This paper summarizes the points raised at this meeting in five main parts and highlights the key cross-cutting themes.
Source: Journal of Community Genetics

A CRISPR reimagining: new twists and turns of CRISPR beyond the genome-engineering revolution

Plummer, R. J., Guo, Y. and Peng, Y., Journal of Cellular Biochemistry (2017) doi:10.1002/jcb.26406

In this prospect article, we summarize a few exciting "off-label" applications of CRISPR including manipulating DNA sequences, visualizing chromosomal loci in living cells, and modulating transcription and chromatin structures. These novel applications will likely elevate CRISPR tools into yet another level of sophistication and diversity, leading to many more exciting cell biological discoveries.
Source: Journal of Cellular Biochemistry

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.

Precision Medicine and Health Disparities

You are invited  to a special CDC-NIH collaborative one-hour online webinar that explores the intersection of genomics, precision medicine and health disparities.

Webinar speakers will explore the appropriate impact of genomics and precision medicine in understanding and addressing health disparities in the U.S. and around the world.
After the two 20-minute keynote presentations, another 20 minutes will be devoted to a discussion and questions and answers session with webinar participants.

When: October 11, 2017, 3:00 - 4:00pm EST
Where: Online

Registration is free, but required. Click here to register.

More information available on the CDC Website

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.

11th International Gender Summit

The Gender Summits are a series of interconnected, action-based events held across the globe since 2011. They follow the theme of “Quality Research and Innovation through Equality.” Their aim is to make gender equality in research and innovation the norm and to embed gender equality as a primary dimension of quality.

The agenda promises stimulating discussions on themes like the benefits of pluralism, Canada and its commitments to supporting diversity, diversity in an international context, diversity and leadership, perspectives from academia, society and grassroots approaches, and many more.

Members from industry, academia, research organizations, businesses, education, and other groups interested in gender equality issues are invited to follow the discussions and participate in the dialogue emerging from the Gender Summit North America 2017.

When: November 6 - 8, 2017
Where: Le Centre Sheraton Montreal Hotel, Montreal, Quebec

For more information, visit the GS11 website

SPARK 2017

Registration is now open for SPARK 2017, a clean technology/bioindustrial conference being co-hosted this fall by Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates. The event will provide an opportunity for innovators and researchers to connect with others in their field, and with purchasers, funders, innovation advisers, and industry groups and associations.

SPARK 2017 is expected to attract 400 or more attendees from the oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, clean technology and bioindustrial sectors. Conference sessions will cover a range of topics, including how Alberta is advancing technology through policy and regulation, how other jurisdictions have succeeded in advancing this area, innovators who have successfully accessed funding and what they learned, what the market is demanding today, and next-gen products and technologies.

When: November 6 - 8, 2017
Where: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton

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