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November 15, 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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A lack of trust, not of science, behind vaccine resistance

Labelling people anti-science when they oppose vaccinations or GMOs is not helpful and not always accurate.
Source: Toronto Star

You might be interested in this related audio podcast: Just five minutes on the Internet can sow seeds of doubt about vaccines

Watson for oncology isn't an AI that fights cancer, it's an unproven mechanical turk that represents the guesses of a small group of doctors

Cory Doctorow is a Canadian science fiction author, blogger, and journalist who writes extensively about technology and science. He says that the IBM Watson technology being used for oncology is not quite as smart as you might think.
Source: Boing Boing

Genomics and precision medicine: How can emerging technologies address population health disparities? Join the conversation

Wylie Burke writes about how ‘omic technologies and big data can help address health problems based more on social and environmental factors. Much of the article is based on a webinar that examined the relationship between genomics, precision medicine, and health disparities.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

How the genomics health revolution is failing ethnic minorities

Current databases of genomics data do not reflect the same ethnic diversity of the population of Canada. Data largely derived from people of European descent will have serious consequences when applied to Indigenous or African American populations.
Source: The Conversation

Finally, Ottawa's shrine to Canadian invention looks the part

After a three-year closure and $80-million makeover, the Canada Science and Technology Museum will re-open this week.
Source: Globe & Mail

Survey showing health benefits from non-GMO diet? ‘The misinformation was staggering’

According to the Genetic Literacy Project: “Other than his time as a professional swing dance instructor, Jeffrey Smith has been a political activist, marketing and business development director, and issues activist/author oriented around ventures linked to the multi-billion dollar Maharishi Institute religion and has no other reported science education background or other credentials.” Nevertheless he is swaying anti-GMO-related opinion.
Source: Genetic Literacy Project

A new era in the interpretation of human genomic variation

There is a pressing need for data sharing to help in human genomic variant interpretation.
Source: Nature Genetics in Medicine

How we can (finally) put an end to ‘manels’

Diversity is an important part of Canadian culture, so why isn't it a part of our panels ask Imogen Coe, Dean of the Faculty of Science at Ryerson University.
Source: Globe & Mail

Meet the human guinea pig who hacked his own DNA

Biohacker Josiah Zayner says that “this is the first time in history that we are no longer slaves to our genetics”. To prove his point he used CRISPR to biohack the muscle cells in his forearm. Anyone can go online and buy CRISPR kits from his company, The Odin.
Source: Quirks & Quarks (20 minute audio podcast)

The not-so sexy side of genomics

Genomics is firmly established in some sectors of agriculture, with dairy being a good example. Traditional genetic improvement using pedigrees and performance records has allowed milk production to triple in the past decades. By using genomics, or the study of the DNA of individual animals, an impressive rate of progress is appearing and now includes several more important traits.
Source: Canadian Cattlemen

Crop research partnership maps two lentil genomes

Research that was part of the $7.9 million Genome Canada funded “Application of Genomics to Innovation in the Lentil Economy” has resulted in the sequencing of two wild lentil genomes. The project is led by University of Saskatchewan scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg. The information will help to identify beneficial traits and integrate them into the genome of the domesticated lentil to develop lentil varieties with improved vigor, resilience and productivity.
Source: Grain News
Feature: Gene Editing News Up arrow

How to optimize human biology

Combining artificial intelligence with genomics technology could create significant advances in clinical settings and in research. With those advances comes strategic, security and societal implications that need to be addressed says Eleonor Pauwels in her report How to Optimize Human Biology: Where Genome Editing and Artificial Intelligence Collide, for the Wilson Center.
Source: World Economic Forum

Gene editing with TALEN

When we talk about gene editing CRISPR Cas9 comes to mind but it isn’t the only took available. In this 30 minutes audio podcast, host Kevin Folta talks with Dan Voytas, a Professor at the University of Minnesota, and CSO of Calyxt Corporation about TALEN.
Source: Talking Biotech

Alexander says gene editing technology, when used properly, has the potential to transform human health

The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on the use of CRISPR technology. Here are the opening remarks from the Chairman, Lamar Alexander. Witnesses included Dr. Matthew Porteus, associate professor of Pediatrics at Stanford University; Katrine Bosley, chief executive officer and president of Editas Medicine; and Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics at John Hopkins School of Public Health.
(Editors’ note: If you had a chance to listen to the livestream of the hearing you would be surprised by the bipartisan and open nature of the discussion compared to what we usually witness from other committee hearings. A recording of the session will be available for a limited time)
Source: Lamar Alexander

CRISPR-carrying nanoparticles edit the genome

Nanoparticles that allow for CRISPR genome-editing in animals have been developed by researchers. Using a new nanoparticle-based, nonviral delivery technique, the researchers were able to cut out a disease-causing gene in about 80 percent of liver cells, and permanently lower cholesterol in mice.
Source: Science Daily

Papers & Features Up arrow

Politicization of science: how climate change skeptics use experts and scientific evidence in their online communication

Schmid-Petri, H. Climatic Change (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2112-z

This study, using the discussion about climate change in the USA as an example, analyzes the research question of how climate change skeptics use experts and scientific evidence in their online communication. Two different strategies are distinguished: legitimation and criticism. The study conducts a quantitative content analysis of online documents to answer the research question. The results show that the deduced strategies are an important part of the communication of climate change skeptics, who more commonly use the criticism strategy than the legitimation strategy.
Source: Climatic Change

Genomic diagnostics within a medically underserved population: efficacy and implications

Strauss, KA, et al. Genetics in Medicine (2017) doi:10.1038/gim.2017.76

Whole-exome sequencing (WES) and chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) have revolutionized investigation of rare genetic disorders and intellectual disability, but important diagnostic and service gaps remain. The pretest probability of a genetic lesion is high for individuals who move through contemporary diagnostic algorithms to arrive at CMA or WES, yet many remain undiagnosed at the culmination of the process. Moreover, the cost and complexity of these methods limit access for people who are poor, uninsured, or otherwise medically underserved.
Source: Genetics in Medicine

Public trust and ‘ethics review’ as a commodity: the case of Genomics England Limited and the UK’s 100,000 genomes project

Samuel, G.N. & Farsides, B. Med Health Care and Philos (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11019-017-9810-1

The UK Chief Medical Officer’s 2016 Annual Report, Generation Genome, focused on a vision to fully integrate genomics into all aspects of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). This process of integration, which has now already begun, raises a wide range of social and ethical concerns, many of which were discussed in the final Chapter of the report. This paper explores how the UK’s 100,000 Genomes Project (100 kGP)—the catalyst for Generation Genome, and for bringing genomics into the NHS—is negotiating these ethical concerns.
Source: Medicine, Health Care and Policy

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.

AEN Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Workshop

The Alberta Epigenetics Network, in partnership with Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is organizing a workshop at the University of Calgary to provide researchers and industry partners a platform to share current knowledge & trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the areas of computational biology, bioinformatics, and Artificial Intelligence.

When: November 24th
Where: University of Calgary, PF-126

Registration is free but you must register by November 10th.

4th Annual Canadian Conference on Epigenetics: Mechanisms of Disease

This symposium is intended to bring together a critical mass of epigenetics researchers, along with key international leaders in the field, to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogue on recent advancements in the field of epigenomics with a focus on the impact of epigenetic mechanisms in human disease. There will be several sessions over the course of the three days including presentations by key international and Canadian speakers.

When: November 26 - 29, 2017
Where: Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler, BC

Details and registration available online

DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

Any and all researchers and students pursuing frontier energy and environmental genomics research are welcome! Also, all current JGI Community Science Program (CSP) users, as well as investigators considering an application for future CSP calls.

Running parallel with the Meeting, the JGI will be hosting the first ever Viral EcoGenomics and Applications (VEGA) Symposium – Big data approaches to help characterize earth’s Virome. The goals of the one and a half day symposium are to bring together a “viral ecogenomics” community, i.e. experts of viral/phage genetics, structure, ecology, evolution, and (meta)genomics, to foster discussions centered on how to best capture and characterize uncultivated viruses, understand the role of viruses in natural ecosystems, and functionally explore viral genetic diversity.

When: March 13 - 16, 2018
Where: Hilton San Francisco in Union Square

For more information or to register, please visit the meeting website.

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