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February 1, 2017

Volume 29 Issue 3


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

Stories that we think will be relevant to Canadian genomics community. 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.

Meet Dr. Karl Tibelius, recipient of the Faculty of Science Honoured Alumni Award 2017

Karl Tibelius Vice-President, Genomics Programs at Genome Canada was honoured on January 26th at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Science Awards event. He started on his science path with an Honours degree in Microbiology at U of M then moved on to earn a PhD at McGill . Karl joined Genome Canada after leadership roles at the Medical Research Council of Canada and its successor, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

LSARP 2017 is off and running

We’ve known for a while what the latest Large Scale Applied Research Project competition theme would be, but as of this week it is now official. 2017 LSARP on Genomics and Precision Health is open for business.

This funding opportunity will be aimed at supporting projects that will demonstrate how genomics-based research can contribute to a more evidence-based approach to health that will improve health outcomes, and/or enhance the cost-effectiveness of the healthcare system.

For more information, forms, and contact information, please visit our website.

Dr. Carrie Bourassa assumes the position of Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health

Dr. Bourassa is Chair of Northern & Indigenous Health at the Health Sciences North Research Institute in Sudbury and for the last 15 years has been professor of Indigenous health studies in the Department of Indigenous Health, Education and Social Work at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina. As Scientific Director of CIHR's Institute of Aboriginal Peoples' Health, Dr. Bourassa will work with the Indigenous health research community and stakeholders to help implement a new 10-point plan to "Build a healthier future for Indigenous Peoples."

See the full media release and learn more about the IAPH.

Genome Québec recruits recognized expert in bioinformatics and genomics

B.F. Francis Ouellette has been appointed Vice President of Scientific Affairs at Genome Quebec. Mr. Ouellette has extensive experience in bioinformatics both in Canada and the United States, and most recently was lead investigator and Associate Director of the Informatics and Biocomputing platform at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto.

You can see more about his experience and new role on the Genome Quebec website.

Autism conference speaker Deepak Chopra brushes off Caulfield’s criticism

Deepak Chopra believes that the power of the human mind can reverse illnesses and something that he calls "quantum healing" can even cure cancer. Chopra will be speaking in Edmonton to the annual Children's Autism Services Conference though the organization pointed out that he will be talking about general “well-being, personal wellness and mindfulness” and not specifically about autism. Timothy Caulfield calls Chopra’s view “pseudoscience”. He is a professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta and has also been a researcher with projects across the Genomics Enterprise. Chopra dismissed the criticism and used Twitter to invite Caulfield to the January 25th presentation.

Alberta Innovates Corp. names new CEO

In a January 19th media release, Alberta Innovates Corp announced Laura Kilcrease as its new CEO. Laura Kilcrease is founder and currently managing director of Triton Ventures, LLC, a venture capital fund investing in spinout and early-stage technology companies. She was born in London, England and has been a permanent resident of the United States since 1984. She received her certification as a Chartered Management Accountant in the U.K. in 1980 and an M.B.A. from The University of Texas at Austin in 1992.

Interim CEO (and Genome Alberta Board observer) Pam Valentine will take on a new role as Executive Vice President Strategic Planning and Initiatives for Alberta Innovates.

Alberta Epigenetic Network Summit call for abstracts

The Genome Alberta supported Alberta Epigenetic Network is hosting it 3rd Annual Summit on March 27 and 28, 2017 in Lethbridge. The two-day summit will have faculty researchers, students, post doctoral fellows and clinicians from the University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge present their research in areas of Human and Animal Health, Livestock, Agriculture, Forestry, Bioinformatics and Intellectual Property and Research commercialization in relevance to Epigenetics (and the broader field of OMICs). The Abstract submission deadline is February 27, 2017. Presentations can be made in oral or poster format. Early stage investigators, students and PDF’s are strongly encouraged to present at the AEN Summit and benefit from the Sequencing workshop.

Science Borealis editorial team manager wanted

Science Borealis is the Canadian Science blogging network co-founded and supported by Genome Alberta. If you are well-organized, able to wrangle a large team and ever-changing schedule, and know a thing or two about #scicomm and running a blog, we want you! This job requires more than average volunteer commitment (5-7 hours / week) so we're offering a small monthly stipend to offset that.

Read the full posting to find out more.

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.

Enjoy the material, and feel free to offer some feedback on the story selection.

National Parks Twitter storm

There were so many Trending stories about President Donald Trump and what seems to be the start of a battle with science and scientists it was hard to choose. This one however might be a good choice if only because whoever is behind it is probably out looking for a job by the time our newsletter is sent out.

During the weekend of January 21st and 22nd, the Department of the Interior got itself on the wrong side of the White House when it posted unflattering Tweets about the inauguration. The account was temporarily suspended as was the account for the National Park Service. The Tweets were removed and Twitter life went back to business as usual – until Tuesday. After President Trump said he would loosen environmental restrictions to boost business and that he would approve the Keystone XL Pipeline (after re-negotiation) the Badlands National Park Twitter account went on a climate change Twitter storm. Tweet after Tweet on climate science such as “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm." or “Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate” started to appear. Most of the posts were re-tweeted as users (including the popular @SarcasticRover account) around the world started to get an idea of what was going on, and eventually the offending Tweets were deleted from the account though they live on in re-tweets. The official account has returned to ‘normal’ but an alternative Twitter account now has 1.27 million followers. It describes itself as “The Unofficial #Resistance team of U.S. National Park Service. Come for rugged scenery, science facts & climate change information. Run by non-gov individuals”.

One Twitter user suggested that someone scheduled posts on the official account, changed the password and the password recovery account information, and has left. Another user summed up what appeared to be the prevailing mood: “Godspeed, Badlands National Park social media manager. May thousands more follow your example.”

Whatever is really happening or why, the employees sending out the rogue Tweets from official accounts could be in for a nasty legal surprise, and it could be a sign that science communications is changing (again).

Scientists map genome of iconic beaver as gift for Canada's 150th birthday

There is something special about a country where mapping the genome of a national icon gets attention across all manner of media. Such was the case with the mapping of the beaver – a ‘gift’ from science for Canada’s 150th birthday.

While we’re making the most of the new sequencing breakthrough up here, you might like to note that not everyone is thrilled with our National symbol. Apparently the beaver is seen as just a plain old rodent in South America where an attempt to kickstart a fur industry has turned the beaver into a Patagonian ecological pest.

Photo credit: Kuba Klopotowski/flickr

Trending Update: Theranos Investor Claims There’s a Conspiracy to Take Down Elizabeth Holmes

This is the latest on the Theranos story which has been in our Trending section several times. Tim Draper is a venture capitalist and one of the early investors in Elizabeth Holmes’ medical testing company. He doesn’t see anything wrong with Theranos and despite the company’s rapidly falling valuation, he is still bullish on the company and supports Ms. Holmes.

Read more on the saga in Vanity Fare.

From the protests in Washington

At the time of this writing it has 5,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ and has been shared 21,500 times

Found on Twitter Up arrow

David Shiffman is a marine biologist and is well known for his promoting science through a variety of communications tools. He’s also popular on Twitter as @WhySharksMatter and blogs extensively about science and science communication. In this blog he draws on some of the facts about social media as well as his own experience using Twitter to talk about marine conservation. Being able to draw on the influence of 29,000 follower (which is considerably larger that the abverage size of a university department) can help you get the message out, and when used properly, can also help correct misinformation.

We should also give a tip of the Twitter hat to Michael Eisen who is launching a bid for the US Senate. He is a geneticist at the University of California and AAA Science has called him one of the top science stars on Twitter. Follow Michael Eisen and of course follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter as well – even if we are not running for office.

Thanks to the following for helping our Twitter feed become an interesting and informative stream.

@alexwitze Alexandra Witze is a correspondent for Nature and an author. https://lakithebook.wordpress.com

@calestous Calestous Juma is a Professor at the Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs and author of Innovation and Its Enemies. http://www.belfercenter.org/publication/innovation-and-its-enemies-why-people-resist-new-technologies

@CIRMnews The California institute for Regenerative Medicine is the state’s official stem cell agency. https://www.cirm.ca.gov/

@EpiExperts New England Biolabs account to share news and informaton about epigenetics.

@r2rnow Research to Reality is an initiative to bring attention to Canadian scientists engaged in innovative research. http://research2reality.com

@scicurious Bethany Berkshire is a Washington DC based scientist, writer, and blogger and says Scicurious is a “peek behind the science curtain”. https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/scicurious

@StanfordMed One of the accounts for the Stanford School of Medicine. http://med.stanford.edu

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.

21st Century science overload

An estimated 2.5 million scientific papers are published around the world every year. That brings a whole new meaning to the notion of information overload. Is it because of a publish or perish mentality and could this explosion of information compromise science quality? Science writer and Science Borealis Editorial Manager Sarah Boon looks into the problem.
Source: Canadian Science Publishing

Whither peer review at CIHR

Matthew Herders thinks there are many problems with the peer review system at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, but in this article zeroes in on three specific issues. He sees an urgent need for the CIHR to reform its funding programs as well as its peer review or there is a risk that important research will be left “undone”.
Source: Impact Ethics

Are you ready to explore your baby's genome?

Newborns are given a heel prick and a few drops of blood are collected to send off for testing to see if the infant may have one of as many as 20 serious conditions. As sequencing technology becomes faster and less expensive, why not do an entire genome sequence? That’s what a consortium called Newborn Sequencing In Genomic medicine and public Health in the U.S. is studying.
Source: Media Release

Gene-edited animals face US regulatory crackdown

2 days before the Obama Administration packed up and left the White House, draft rules on gene editing in animals were released. University of California animal geneticist Alison van Eenennaam, called the draft FDA proposals “insane”. But before anyone gets too excited or upset one thing worth remembering – the incoming administration could change it all quickly and without consultation.
Source: Nature

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!

Alberta Regional Food Systems Forum 2017

The theme of this year's forum is Cultivating Connections, with the focus being to:
  • Forge new working relationships among diverse food system players
  • Increase effective collaboration for innovations in food production, processing, and distribution
  • Develop systems-based solutions resulting in economically vibrant, ecologically sound, and socially just, food systems that increase access to healthy food for all
The keynote speaker will be Wayne Roberts, a Canadian food policy analyst, author, writer, former manager of the Toronto Food Policy Council, and winner of the Canadian Environment Award.

When: February 3 - 5, 2017
Where: Edmonton, Alberta - Various venues over 3 days

Click here for detailed info and registration

Tools for Adapting to Climate Change

This presentation is part of the Bringing Home Genomics series presented by Genome BC. Learn how cutting edge genomic tools are being used to detect and combat the threat of climate change in our environment.

When: February 23, 2017, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Where: The Exploration Place, 333 Becott Place, Prince George, BC

The presentation is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

More details and registration can be found here.

Canadian Professional Grant Development Workshop

This two-day workshop will provide the attendee with an understanding of the grant proposal process, including the preparation of a comprehensive proposal document.

Instructor: Dr. Maria Esformes, who has lectured and taught for the Grant Training Center for eight years.

When: February 23-24, 2017
Where: University of Calgary (Main Campus), Dining Centre, Legacy Suite, 169 University Gate, NW, Calgary, Alberta

More information and details on how to register

Life Science Ontario Annual Awards Dinner

One of the individuals being recognized at this year's dinner is Alison Symington, the recipient of the LSO Volunteer Award. Alison was the Vice President, Research and Corporate Development at Ontario Genomics and is now consulting for a variety of organizations, including Genome Alberta.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award - Mickey Milner, Past President & CEO, HTX
  • Community Service Award - Rafi Hofstein, President & CEO, MaRS Innovation
  • LSO Volunteer Award - Alison Symington, Principal, Life Science Strategic Consulting
  • Life Sciences Leadership Award - Russell Williams, VP Government Relations and Public Policy, Canadian Diabetes Association
When: Wednesday, March 1st, 2017
Where: Liberty Grand, Exhibition Place, 25 British Columbia Road, Toronto, Ontario

Click here for further information and to purchase a table or ticket for the Gala

Tools for Environmental & Agricultural Challenges

This presentation is part of the Bringing Home Genomics series presented by Genome British Columbia. The topic presented will be "Putting Genomics to Work: Tools for Environmental & Agricultural Challenges".

A discussion about the application of genomics in vital areas of life including the food we eat and our natural environment, will be led by Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa – Chief Scientific Officer & VP Sector Development, Genome BC and Dr. David Charest – Director, Sector Development, Genome BC.

When: Thursday, March 9, 2017, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Where: College of the Rockies, Lecture Theatre 250, 2700 College Way, Cranbrook, BC

Registration is free but required.

Stem Cell Summit 2017

Stem Cell Summit 2017, presented by GTCbio,  includes two back-to-back conferences including a joint plenary session on Where do We Stand with Stem Cell Therapy in Diabetes?

The first event is the 14th Stem Cell Research & Regenerative Medicine Conference followed by the 6th Stem Cell Product Development & Commercialization Conference.

When: April 5 - 7, 2017
Where: Hyatt Regency, 1 Ave De Lafayette, Boston, Massachusetts

More information and registration link

Genomics and Society - Expanding the ELSI Universe

The 4th ELSI Congress is the latest in a series of major conferences for researchers and others interested in the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research.
Topics for keynote and plenary sessions include:
  • The Evolution and Future of ELSI Research
  • Synthesizing the Human Genome
  • Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of the Precision Medicine Initiative
  • Genome Sequencing Enters the Clinic
  • Genes, Ancestry and Identity
When: June 5 - 7, 2017
Where: Farmington, Connecticut

More information and registration link

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