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January 2, 2017

Volume 29 Issue 1


Welcome to GenOmics!

We cover the latest Genomics news that matters most to Alberta, Canada and the World. The Genome Alberta newsletter for the Omics Generation

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In This Issue
Genomics Enterprise News Up arrow

Over the course of the year this section of our GenOmics newsletter features stories that we think will be relevant to Canada’s ‘omics generation. To mark the start of a New Year we are also taking a broad look back at life science in 2016. Your GenOmics editors are taking some time off, the media landscape is dotted with best-off lists, and we all could use a news break so this edition of the GenOmics newsletter and our companion Genomics in Society Digest is a list of lists with some news scattered throughout.

If you have anything you’d like to see highlighted here, drop a note to info@genomealberta.ca and by all means, share our newsletter with friends and colleagues.

White House issues ambitious Arctic research plan

A Genome Alberta-led research project announced in early December is looking into ways genomics technology can be used to help remediate oil spills in arctic waters. A week later the outgoing U.S. Administration announced a plan for Arctic Research led by the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee of the National Science and Technology Council. The new plan (pdf file) covers a broad number of areas from the climate and marine conditions, to the people and communities of the arctic. The document says the “United States is an Arctic nation” which should easily mean Canada must be prepared to follow suit given our many kilometers of Arctic coastline. A recent spike in Arctic temperatures brings home the need to understand the unique conditions north of 60 degrees and Canada’s Genomics Enterprise hopes to be able to contribute in any way it can.

Research proposals sought for funding in 2017

The American Association of Swine Veterinarians Foundation is seeking research proposals for funding in 2017. Proposals are due January 16, and may request a maximum of $30,000 (US$) per project. Up to $60,000 will be awarded across two or more projects. For more information visit the AASV website.

Study finds people willing to pay more for new biofuels

Second generation biofuels are made from sustainable biological non-food sources as opposed to first generation biofuels which use potential food sources. A new study from Washington State University says that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for these second generation biofuels.

Encouraging Canada’s next generation of innovators

The CBC has partnered with the Canadian Science and Technology Museums Corporation Foundation to create the STEAM Horizon Awards. The new award will offer up to seven Canadian students pursuing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) $25,000 to attend a Canadian University. The CBC will feature some of Canada’s young innovators in stories such as this one and for more information on the award visit STEAMHorizonAwards.

Geek out! The Globe’s 2016 science quiz is here

Yes, time to snap out of the festive stupor and get the grey matter firing again. One of Canada’s best science journalists Ivan Semeniuk has put together a science quiz for you.

Genomics 2016: A year on our blogs - Genome Alberta

Thanks to a range of freelance writers including Gerry Ward, Geoff Geddes, Pam Baker, Don Hill, and Lisa Willemse our blog pages are active, informative, and we hope entertaining. Take a look back at some of our own year end highlights and hear some of our funded researchers reflect on the best in ‘omics over the course of 2016

University of Alberta top 10 stories of 2016

Science is well represented in this list of stories from around the U of A campus.

Longform’s best of 2016

Longform is a web based tool that both collects and recommends articles, publications, and writers. The site covers many categories including science and this is its recommendations for a long science read from all of its article picks over the last year.

Medicine matters: Top 25 read posts of 2016

Medicine Matters is a staff blog written by Pamela Fayerman a journalist with Postmedia. She has been on the health beat for almost 2 decades and in that time has received numerous awards for her work. Ms Fayerman is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the Canadian Science Writers Association. This story in the Vancouver Sun has links to her top picks from the past year of Medicine Matters.

Breakthrough of the year 2016

AAAS Science last issue of 2016 gives you the top breakthroughs and breakdowns for 2016, and a look into 2017. We’ll give you a hint on the breakthrough of the year – Einstein was right.

Top 10 science stories of 2016: Gravitational waves, Zika, Proxima b and more

Gravitational waves was a top pick of many general science lists but biotech is never far behind. Check #7 on this list from Science News where one of the biggest achievements was about being as little as possible: a bacterium with only 473 genes.

Genome Alberta wins major Christmas science competition

The team of Harleen Ghuttora, Anita Ludwar, and Niall Kerrigan took the competition for best decorated door in the Annual battle of the science non-profits. Their GMO reindeer theme was judged the best by an independent peer review panel.

We wish Alberta Watersmart, Cybera, and Mindfuel better luck next year.

And finally. . .

This has little to do with science but it is a humorous and sobering view at the year we are leaving behind as seen by a man who slept through 2016.
WATCH (note: there is a little colourful language buried in among the laughs)

Trending Stories Up arrow

Here is what trended online and in print with our science community over the last 2 weeks. These are not ‘official’ trends but are based on the stories we see most often in our media monitoring reports and our social media reports.

To end the year we have only one trend to offer because it is the one story that is almost impossible to ignore.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey - President-elect Donald Trump - Caricature, CC BY-SA 2.0

Science and President Elect Donald Trump

The stand-out stories for science 2016 are most certainly led by Donald Trump, what he has said, what people think he actually means, and how his administration will use science. As old man time walks away and the 2017 cherub appears, 2017 seems to be swaddled in science uncertainty. Scientific American sees 2017 and the balance of Trump’s term as ‘horrifying’. From his advisors to his Cabinet picks, SciAm may not be hopeful, but Obama’s outgoing Science Advisor tempers that gloomy picture. He is however suitably political given the protocols of transition and we are not likely to see an all out endorsement or condemnation.

A President is always surrounded by advisors in both an official and unofficial capacity and science watchers are paying close attention to those likely to be advising Trump when it comes to evidence based decision making and research funding. Noted science journalist Ed Yong was speculating in The Atlantic in early November and as of this writing in late December we are not much closer to knowing who will be influencing science policy in the US. Anthony Scaramucci is a possible pick from the Trump transition team and like many of those surrounding the incoming administration, seems to lack the credentials and generally wavers in his views. One of the likely appointees to become FDA is Jim O’Neill and both his views and those of the President Elect are causing some stir in the healthcare sector. They have suggested doing away with the FDA’s requirement for phase 2 and 3 trials and favour “progressive approval” of drugs and other medical technologies.

More specifically in the field of genomics, Mendelspod asked a genetic counselor and a genomicist what effect they thought the election might have on the field. In this audio podcast they talk about some of those specifics but also point out that the failure to anticipate the election results may also say something about how we think about ‘big data’. As is usual with a new administration, many top bureaucrats such as NIH head Francis Collins resign from their positions but even many Republicans want Collins to stay on.

Don’t have time to wade through it all? Trump in 30 seconds: Science and medicine in flux might help. Until the January 20th inauguration, a 30 second take on science in 2017 may be about as accurate and as an in-depth evaluation.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey - President-elect Donald Trump - Caricature, CC BY-SA 2.0

Found on Twitter Up arrow

We hit the 2,000 follower mark for @GenomeAlberta by the end of 2016. How about 3,000 for the 3 end of 2017? Help us get there by following @GenomeAlberta and sharing our Tweets.

Here is a small snapshot of what passed through our Twitter stream over the last couple of weeks:

We would like to thank all those who have made our Twitter feeds worth reading in 2016 and look forward to meeting new ‘Tweeps’ in 2017.

@AgMoreThanEver Ag More Than Ever is an industry driven website and campaign promoting Canadian agriculture. https://www.agriculturemorethanever.ca

@canadianbiomass Canadian Biomass magazine covers the biomass, biofuels and bioenergy industry. http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca

@CIRMNews California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is the state’s stem cell agency which funds stem cell research in California https://www.cirm.ca.gov

@nresearchnews One of the accounts for Nature magazine. http://www.nature.com

@ScienceMin The account for the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada Minister of Science. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/science.html

@TELUSHealth Telus Health is a technology provider for the health care industry. https://www.telushealth.co

Genomics in Society Up arrow

To get your latest full version of Genomics in Society news, visit genomealberta.ca/newsletters
You can subscribe to receive your bi-monthly edition direct to your email, cancel a subscription, and view all of our back issues.

Improving decision making about genetic testing in the clinic: An overview of effective knowledge translation interventions

Doctors are able to order genetic tests in a clinical setting and consumers are only a cheek swab and a click away from getting a test done on their own. But how are tests put to use in making healthcare decisions? There are concerns that the availability of tests and the quantity genomic information is outpacing the decision making process in the clinic. One of the paper’s authors is Francois Rousseau a Genome Quebec supported LSARP researcher and co-lead of the GE3LS Network.
Source: PLoSone

In Montreal, a wee opening in the closed world of science research

The philosophy behind Open Science is transparency in methodology, availability of data and results, and good communication to the public. Among the goals of the movement is the accumulation and transferring of knowledge faster, and hopefully have the side effect of maintaining support from funders and the public. In spring of this year, the Montreal Neurological Institute announced that it would support the principles and notion of Open Science and the effort received a big boost in December with a $20 million donation for the launch of the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute at McGill.

You can read more on the Open Science initiative from an article in PLoSBiology by PACEOmics researcher Richard Gold.
Source: Globe & Mail

133 new species described by the California Academy of Sciences in 2016

We’ve been hearing about species disappearing from the earth lately, so even if of there is a little optimism involved it is heartening to know we are identifying new ones. Among the new additions to the list of life are one bee fly, 43 ants, 36 beetles, one sand wasp, four spiders, six plants, 23 fishes, one eel, one shark, seven nudibranchs, five fossil urchins (and one fossil sand dollar), one coral, one skate, one African lizard, and an (alarming) new bird virus.
Source: Science Daily

Events Up arrow

Genome Alberta has an extensive Events Calendar on our website. Visit GenomeAlberta.ca to see all the events, and sign up for our newsletters while you're there!

Precision Medicine World Conference

Recognized as a vital cornerstone for all constituents of the health care and biotechnology community, PMWC provides an exceptional forum for the exchange of information about the latest advances in technology (e.g. DNA sequencing technology), in clinical implementation (e.g. cancer and beyond), research, and in all aspects related to the regulatory and reimbursement sectors.

When: January 23 - 25, 2017
Where: Computer History Museum, Silicon Valley California

Conference details and registration

Festival of Genomics

The Festival of Genomics London brings together academia, biopharma and healthcare to explore the power of the genome in driving R&D and the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE will offer insights into the company’s exceptional genomic data set and its implications for PMI
  • MHRA CEO Ian Hudson’s has insights into the development and regulation of precision medicine and companion diagnostics
  • You’ll get a glimpse into the Qatar Genome Program - a large-scale, high impact project that’s just completed its pilot phase

When: January 31 - February 1, 2017
Where: ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, London England

More information and details on how to register can be found here.

12th Annual Biomarkers Congress 2017

  • Over 250 delegates representing leading biotech companies, global pharma organizations and internationally renowned academic institutions
  • Over 55 presentations, case studies, round-table and panel discussions focused on the key innovations of biomarker research in discovery and development, companion diagnostics, data management, innovative biology, precision medicine and clinical biomarkers
When: February 21 - 22, 2017
Where: Manchester, UK

More information and details on how to register

12th Annual US DOE/Joint Genome Institute Meeting

This meeting will be of interest to researchers working in the areas of energy and environmental genomics and synthetic biology . The program will feature international speakers on a range of topics, such as microbial genomics, fungal genomics, metagenomics, and plant genomics; genome editing, secondary metabolites, pathway engineering, synthetic biology, high-throughput functional genomics, high-performance computing applications, and societal impacts of technological advances.

When: March 20 - 23, 2017
Where: Walnut Creek, California

More information and registration details.

Canadian Global Crops Symposium

As a delegate you will:
  • Have an opportunity to meet with presidents and CEOs of many of Canada’s largest agribusiness corporations
  • Network and build strategic partnerships with grain merchants who represent Canada’s leading commodity exporters
  • Hear discussions on the road ahead in research, policy, trade and where Canadian crops will be in 2030
  • Learn how Canadian grain producers are stepping up investment and productivity through adoption of new technologies to meet world market demand
  • Gain insight into the future diversification and growth of Canada’s crop-based agriculture
When: April 10 - 12, 2017
Where: Hyatt Regency Calgary

More information and registration

Agricultural Institute of Canada - AIC 2017

The Agriculture Institute of Canada, AIC, is presenting a Conference to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in April of 2017. This year's topic will be "Agricultural Innovation in a Changing Environment". Agriculture and the environment are intricately linked within a complex ecosystem, with agriculture both depending on and impacting critical natural resources. Canada’s agriculture sector is an important steward of the environment and has an important role to play in meeting today’s global sustainability and climate-smart goals.

When: April 24 - 26, 2017
Where: Delta Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Further information and details on registration can be found here.

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