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November 2, 2018


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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Digging deeper into the responsible application of genomics research

Genome BC has announced new project funding through its Societal Issues Competition. The projects announced in this second round of funding will examine societal issues related to agrifood and natural resources. The initial round of funding in 2017 focused on societal issues related to human health.

The sordid story of the once-popular eugenics movement

This is a story which previewed “The Eugenics Crusade,” documentary which ran on PBS stations on October 16th . It is about a group of American scientists and reformers in the early 1900’s who thought it was possible and desirable to have the “perfect” white, able-bodied, and Christian baby.
Source: Washington Post and CNN

Canada’s top 50 research universities

University of Calgary and University of Alberta made it into the top 10 in the latest Re$earch Infosource list of research universities. See the complete list and the various rankings and scorecards on the Re$earch Infosource website.
Source: Re$earch Infosource

Millions of Americans could be identified using consumer genetic databases—even if they've never taken a DNA test

7 million Americans have taken a direct-to-consumer DNA test and with that data in hand even those who have not uploaded any genetic information can be linked to those who have.
Source: Time

Invasion of the ‘frankenbees’: the danger of building a better bee

The ban on neonics which is considered to be harmful to bees has not done enough on its own to stabilize the world’s bee population. The latest plan to increase the numbers of the planet’s pollinators is to develop a more resilient strain of honeybee. Right now the work is only on the lab bench, but traditional beekeepers have already given them a name that you might recognize: Frankenbees.
Source: The Guardian

WATCH: Why is this African village letting mosquitoes in?

Genetically engineered mosquitos have been released into a village in Africa as part of an effort to curb the spread of malaria. It is part of the preparation for an eventual release of engineered mosquitos which will spread infertility throughout the mosquito population.
Source: BBC

NIH selects first scholars in pioneering program to enhance diversity within in-house research program

Thirteen researchers have been selected for the inaugural class of the National Institutes of Health’s Distinguished Scholars Program. The NIH-wide pilot program is designed to build diversity within the NIH Intramural Research Program, comprised of NIH scientists, by facilitating hiring and career progression of tenure-track investigators who have demonstrated a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusion in the biomedical research workforce. The pilot program will fund three cohorts of up to 15 scholars each.
Source: NIH Media Release

DNA tests could help docs detect infectious diseases faster

As DNA testing becomes faster and less expensive they are replacing many lab tests. To become more widely used however more data sets are needed to identify the bugs that make people sick. The science and results also need to be more absolute
Source: Wired

He promised to restore damaged hearts. Harvard says his lab fabricated research

The good news: new heart cells can be grown to repair damage from heart attacks and heart failure.
The bad news: A decade of research studies appear to have ben falsified or fabricated.
Source: New York Times

European parliament approves curbs on use of antibiotics on farm animals

Last week the European Parliament passed a law to limit preventative use of antibiotics on groups of animals, open the door for regulators to designate certain medicines for human use only and and encourage new research and protections for new drugs. The new rules will have consequences outside the EU as it also imposes restrictions on imports. The new rules come into effect in 2022.
Source: The Guardian

New test rapidly identifies antibiotic-resistant superbugs

A new test called DETECT has been developed at the University of California, Berkeley. Researchers say it can diagnose patients with antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria in a matter of minutes.
Source: PhysOrg (includes a 3 ½ minute video) or the original paper in ChemBioChem

Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

The first genome surgeons

“… the magic CRISPR system,” is not science fiction anymore but has become another tool in a new field of medicine. This article suggests genome surgery with high aspirations that are well within reach. This article revolves around a young woman with a rare genetic condition. Her cells are part of a study and she is closely involved in following the progress of the research team.
Source: The Medium

Scientists have birthed a litter of disease-resistant genetically modified piglets

Transmissible Gastroenteritis Virus, or TGEV, is a fatal disease which affects the intestines of young pigs. Researchers at the University of Missouri have announced they have produced a litter of pigs that are resistant to the disease. But will the modified pigs ever make it to market?
Source: New Food Economy and the original paper in Transgenic Research

Papers & Features Up arrow

Stem Cells, Genome Editing, and the Path to Translational Medicine

Soldner, F., et al. Cell (2018) doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2018.09.010

“The derivation of human embryonic stem cells and the stunning discovery that somatic cells can be reprogrammed into human induced pluripotent stem cells holds the promise to revolutionize biomedical research and regenerative medicine. In this Review, we focus on disorders of the central nervous system and explore how advances in human pluripotent stem cells coincide with evolutions in genome engineering and genomic technologies to provide realistic opportunities to tackle some of the most devastating complex disorders.”
Source: Cell

Medical crowdfunding for scientifically unsupported or potentially dangerous treatments

Vox F, et al. JAMA. (2018) doi:10.1001/jama.2018.10264

“Medical crowdfunding involves using social media platforms to appeal for help in paying for medical care. The largest medical crowdfunding platform, GoFundMe, reported that all campaigns raised $3 billion by 2016, an increase from $1 billion in 2015.1 Although medical crowdfunding campaigns can fill insurance gaps, they can also raise money for scientifically unsupported, ineffective, or potentially dangerous treatments.” This paper quantifies crowdfunding activity for 5 such treatments.
Source: JAMA Network and MinnPost

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.

Canadian Science Policy Conference 2018

The Canadian Science Policy Conference serves as an inclusive, non-partisan and national forum uniting stakeholders, strengthening dialogue, and enabling action with respect to current and emerging issues in national science, technology, and innovation policy.

The 10th Science Policy Conference, CSPC 2018, motto is Building Bridges Between Science, Policy, and Society. During the Conference, the 700+ participants and 200+ speakers will explore the motto through five different themes.
  • Science and Policy
  • Science and Society
  • Science, Innovation, and Economic Development
  • Science and International Affairs
  • Science and The Next Generation

When: November 7 - 9, 2018
Where: Delta Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario

For registration and more information, visit the CPSC website.

Workshop on science writing in an age of reconciliation

In conjunction with Curiosity Collider and the Genome Alberta sponsored Science Borealis blogging network, the Science Writers & Communicators of Canada are presenting a workshop on what science writers can learn from indigenous community members about better representation and relationships. The workshop will cover ways journalists and communicators can start meaningful conversations and explore unconscious bias to frame their writing in a time of reconciliation.

: November 17, 2018
Where: Victoria, BC

Deadline for registration is November 15th. More details are available on the Science Borealis website.

Health Economics Educational Workshop - Calgary

The Institute of Health Economics is offering an educational workshop - provided without charge to Alberta companies - to support both early and late stage organizations in developing an understanding of when, where, and how health economics can be used to strengthen product and business planning, and satisfy requirements of purchasers of technology.

Early stage organizations will benefit by understanding how economic evaluation can determine the ‘innovation headroom’ available and the commercial viability of their technology.  Later stage organizations will benefit by understanding how economic analysis serves to robustly document the value proposition of their technology to health systems.

A case-based approach will be used to highlight how those that pay for products make purchase decisions (in Alberta and other major global markets), and how health economics can be used to improve commercialization success for both early and later stage companies.

When: Friday, November 23, 2018, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Where: University of Calgary, Health Sciences Building, Room 01509, Calgary

Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Course details available here.

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