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March 1, 2017

Volume 29 Issue 5


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

Microbially Influenced Corrosion is underway

The team from the Microbially Influenced Corrosion project project met in Calgary last week for an official kickoff and to go over their project goals and milestones, and of course to get to know each other. The project was one of the successful LSARP applications announced by the federal government in December, and one of the 4 projects Genome Alberta secured in the competition. It is led by Lisa Gieg (University of Calgary) John Wolodko (University of Alberta), and Faisal Khan (Memorial University).

Honeybee, soil research projects get $1.4 million from NSERC

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) awarded Strategic Partnership Grants to University of Guelph researchers Prof. Rod Merrill and Prof. Claudia Wagner-Riddle. Prof Merril will be working on ways to treat deadly diseases in honeybees and Prof Wagner-Riddle will use her grant to help improve soil quality.

For more information and the complete list of grantee visit the NSERC website.

WATCH: Screening toxins focus of U of S research

One of the LSARP projects announced in December was the EcoToxChip: A toxicogenomics tool for chemical prioritization and environmental management led by Genome Quebec and Genome Prairie. The research hopes to develop an efficient and cost effective rapid screening tool for toxic chemicals.

CTV visited the University of Saskatchewan and talked to some of the research team.

Designer forests: Scientists hope to tune up Canada's trees to thrive in changing climate

The CoAdapTree: Healthy trees for future climates is a Genome BC led project announced in December of 2016 which also involves Genome Alberta and Genome Quebec. As the climate changes, trees and forest ecosystems have to adapt and entire forest systems can become stressed and are susceptible to weather events, pests, and disease. The ultimate goal of the project, valued at $5.8 million, is to develop better reforestation strategies for economically important tree species such as Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine, as well as western larch and jack pine.

You can read the full media release on our website.

Calgary man first in the world to receive experimental gene therapy

In an experimental treatment for Fabry Disease, researchers manipulated stem cells taken from Darren Bidulka then transplanted them back into his body. He will be monitored for the next 5 years so see how successful the treatment proves to be. The work was led by Dr. Aneal Khan, medical geneticist for Alberta Health Services. Dr Khan’s approach first made the news back in 2013 when he was trying the procedure on mice.

You can read the story in Metro News and watch this CTV video

From our Science Borealis Blog:

Science and society: 1867 vs 2017

As Canada celebrates its 150th birthday, spend a moment and think about how science has progressed in our country. Our Science in Society co-editors Robert Gooding-Townsend and Katrina Wong offer these thoughts.

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.

Gene editing for disease – not designer babies

No question that the trending story in science over the last couple of weeks has been a report on gene editing released by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Medicine. There was a public briefing by the National Academies of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine and the video of the event is available online.

The report outlines recommendations for global researchers involved in clinical trials using genome-editing technology. The CBC says that the report is a softening of the guidelines for DNA editing of human eggs, sperm, embryos, and quotes Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society as saying it "constitutes a green light for proceeding with efforts to modify the human germline". The Genetic Literacy Project did not quite see it as a green light in this article and instead view it more as advice to “proceed with caution”. Not surprisingly, the NY Times and The Guardian got out some of the first mainstream media stories and brought a wide range of opinions to bear on the debate. The next day Bioethics.net had a blog opinion piece which notes that the report put the U.S. on an equal footing in the “Research Arms-Race”

Much like GMOs, the subject of gene editing is going to bring out some highly polarized views, many of which carry a lot of popular sway like this piece which has made the rounds on sites such as Infowars and Charisma News and which sees the technology as the tip of a humanity altering iceberg. A more balanced view appeared on other sites which pointed out that yes, there are ethical concerns but gene editing should not be totally rejected.

The question of how far we should in using gene editing technology on humans is not an easy one to answer and this latest report is likely only one of many more to come from all over the world. But what was it like to be involved in compiling the report and recommendations? MIT News takes you behind the scene with this feature.

New antibiotics needed to fight priority pathogens

There are 12 bad dudes out there in the form of pathogens that are a major threat to human health. The World Health Organization released the list of 12 families of bacteria which is says are “priority pathogens” that are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Simply put these bacteria are getting tougher and arsenal of novel antibiotics is not able to deal with the threat. In fact McMaster University researcher Lori Burrows told CTV that we are reaching “the point where we have no useful antibiotics left.” CTV posted a written story and a couple of videos that offer a good introduction to situation.

The WHO hopes that posting the list and working to raise awareness will prompt governments around the world and in particular the G20 to take action said Nicola Magrini, a WHO scientist. Médecins Sans Frontières echoed that call to action and said words and meetings are not enough.

Of particular concern are those bacteria that pose a heightened threat in hospitals and nursing homes. Also on the WHO list are bacteria which lead to salmonella, e. coli, and gonorrhea and developing new antibiotics to treat these disease is not an easy task says STAT News. The German Center for Infection Research was involved in the work to compile the list and posted an interview with one of the researchers.

The list and the ensuing publicity has made it deep into established media such as the Globe & Mail, CNN, NY Times, and even Popular Mechanics. Whether that will translate into action on the part of government and the pharmaceutical industry is another question but perhaps as children are identified as high risk the urgency may finally be seen. 

Found on Twitter Up arrow

Twitter has become a good source of information and distribution tool for us and it will continue to be a tool we use every day, but this is our last Found on Twitter feature. The 140 character micro-blogging tool has become a mainstream source of news even for scientists, science writers and bloggers, and sci-tech publications.

Easily indentified, partisan communites have sprung up across Twitter covering hot button topics such as vaccinations, GMOs, and climate change and they have significant influence on overall public, media, and political opinion. However anti-GMO communities seem to be winning the information battle on Twitter and they are doing it through a broad reach and diverse audience. If you want to see that change, click away from this feature, load up your Twitter dashboard and get engaged in the conversation.

And we’ll remind you one more time - be sure to follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter. See you there.  

Thanks to the following for our final sampling of what we found on Twitter:

@BOMlab Birmingham Open Media brings together art, technology and science. www.bom.org.uk

@CDCgov The official account for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. www.cdc.gov

@EricTopol Eric Topol is a physcian-scientists, author, and Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute. www.stsiweb.org

@IAmBiotech One of the accounts for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization www.facebook.com/IAmBiotech

@McMasterIIDR The Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, located at McMaster University. mcmasteriidr.ca

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.

LISTEN: New UBC research suggests stronger connection between addiction and genetics

As Canada's national opioid crisis continues, scientists at the University of British Columbia are trying to figure out why some people may be more susceptible to addiction at a genetic level.
Source: CBC Radio – The Current

The invisible clean-up crew: Engineering microbial cultures to destroy pollutants

Digging up the soil to get rid of contamination is costly and not always effective, especially after the contaminates have made it into the groundwater. Who you going to call? Try the bacterial team of contamination busters being developed by Elizabeth Edwards who is harnessing genomics, microbiology and engineering to clean up contaminated industrial sites.
Source: University of Toronto

Deciding what beef research and innovation to fund

Pooling resources and co-ordinating funding decisions can increase the odds that more good beef research projects will go ahead says Reynold Bergen. He is the science director of the Beef Cattle Research Council.
Source: Canadian Cattlemen

New gene sequencing software could aid in early detection, treatment of cancer

A research team from the United States and Canada has developed and successfully tested new computational software that determines whether a human DNA sample includes an epigenetic add-on linked to cancer and other adverse health conditions.
Source: Bioscience Technology

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!

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: 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.

ACMG Annual Clinical Genetics Meeting

The program will provide genetics professionals with the opportunity to learn how genetics and genomics are being integrated into medical or clinical practice. The Committee has developed a scientific program that will present the latest developments and research in clinical genetics and genomics. This annual meeting brings together medical and clinical geneticists, laboratory personnel, genetic researchers and educators as well as medical practitioners who provide services for patients with, or at risk for, genetically influenced health problems.

When: March 21 - 25, 2017
Where: Phoenix Convention Centre, Phoenix, Arizona

For more information and registration details, click here.

Alberta Epigenetics Network Summit 2017

AEN Annual Summit provides researchers and industry partners a platform to share current knowledge & trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the area of Epigenetics with colleagues from Alberta & across the country.

The summit participants will share knowledge in areas of:
  • Biomedical Research
  • Biology and Aging
  • Agriculture and Environment
  • Bioinformatics and Technology Commercialization
An added feature will be the ‘Young Investigators Session' with oral & poster presentations in the areas listed above. AEN Summit is open to all researchers, irrespective of their field of study, from human and animal health, plants, livestock and forestry.

Abstracts Deadline: Monday, February 27, 2017

When: March 27-28, 2017
Where: The Coast Lethbridge Hotel, Lethbridge, Alberta

Click for more information and registration details

Genome Alberta is pleased to be a major supporter of the Alberta Epigenetic Network and we encourage you to visit the AEN for more information and registration details.

Cracking the Genetic Code for Better Health

Advances in genomics – the study of genes and their functions – are allowing researchers and physicians to customize health care and treat individuals according to their genetic makeup.
Dr. Francois Bernier, an expert in rare diseases, will explain how genetic sequencing, can give physicians more tools to understand what their patients need and to provide more personalized and precise care.

When: April 4, 2017, 12:00 - 1:00 PM MST
Where: Online

Register here for the webinar

Stem Cell Summit 2017 presented by GTCbio

Stem Cell Summit 2017 includes two back-to-back conferences including joint plenary session
  • Conference 1: 14th Stem Cell Research & Regenerative Medicine
  • Joint: Plenary Session Where do We Stand with Stem Cell Therapy in Diabetes?
  • Conference 2: 6th Stem Cell Product Development & Commercialization
When: April 5 -7, 2017
Where: Hyatt Regency, Boston, Massachusetts

More information and registration link

Precision Medicine in Child Health

The 17th Annual Precision Medicine Research Symposium will feature two major outside speakers and several speakers from the University of Calgary.

In addition there will be Poster Sessions and a Reception. Check out the Poster (.pdf file) for more detail.

When: April 19, 2017
Where: Alberta Children's Hospital Calgary, Alberta

Register here

MPB Ecology Research Forum Mountain Pine Beetle

On Day 1 of this year’s Research Forum, participants will be offered an eastern viewpoint of Alberta’s pine beetle infestation and potential outcomes should the beetle population continue to grow and spread. Participants will hear about current research and how it offers support to those involved in the management and control of the beetle. Several scientists will present their hypotheses about the future of the pine beetle and the possible negative outcomes going forward if we do not accept their predictions.

On Day 2, participants will explore the effectiveness of the applicable science; and this topic will be followed by discussions led by practitioners, legislative land managers, and community leaders, the intent of which is to broaden the discussion regarding the pine beetle and the breadth of its impact.

When: April 25 - 26, 2017
Where: University of Alberta, Maple Leaf Room, Lister Centre, Edmonton, Alberta

Information and Registration

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