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March 1, 2019

Volume 37 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

We feature 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.

Canada Synbio pitch finalists

Six SynBio start-ups have been selected to pitch for cash prizes at the 2nd Annual Canada SynBio conference coming up in March.

Genome Alberta success in BCB Competition

In early February Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport (pictured at the Guelph event) was at the University of Guelph to announce the results of three Genome Canada competitions in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Disruptive Innovation in Genomics, and Round 10 of the Genomic Applications Partnership Program.

Genome Alberta was awarded one project in the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology competition. You can read the media release with additional details and links on the Genome Canada website.

We featured project leads Dr. Paul Stothard, a Professor at the University of Alberta, and Dr. Gary Van Domselaar, Chief of Bioinformatics at the National Microbiology Lab in a couple of our podcasts after the announcement. From big data comes big information focuses on the new $940,00 project and this podcast offers some additional insight into the lives of the 2 researchers.

Invest NS announces support for Genome Atlantic

The Invest Nova Scotia Fund will help entrepreneurs and researchers across the province use genomics to innovate and solve problems through a $325,000 investment in Genome Atlantic. Over the next 3 years Genome Atlantic will work to advance 25 DNA projects and will also focus on initiatives that drive growth in key sectors, like oceans, aquaculture and fisheries, agri-food, forestry, oil and gas and sustainable energy.

New Genome Canada funding competition for Genomics in Society Interdisciplinary Research

The Genomics in Society Interdisciplinary Research Teams (GiSIRT) program aims to bring researchers from different disciplines together to investigate factors affecting the advancement, adoption, evaluation and governance of genomics research and address issues at the intersection of genomics and society.

This Request for Applications supports proposals under the following three streams with the goal of funding at least one team in each stream:

  • Stream 1: proposals mainly impacting the human health sector
  • Stream 2: proposals mainly impacting the agriculture/agri-food and/or aquaculture/fisheries sectors
  • Stream 3: proposals mainly impacting the natural resource (forestry, energy, mining) and/or environment sectors

More information and links to forms and guidelines are available under the Funding tab on our website

Life Science Innovation Hub gets boost from Opportunity Calgary

8.5 million dollars from the Opportunity Calgary Investment Fund could help create as many as 3,100 jobs over the next 20 years. The Life Sciences Innovation Hub is in the University of Calgary Research Park in what was the Shell Technology Centre. There was a soft launch of the LSIH last week and we were pleased to see one of our funded researchers, Ian Lewis, give the keynote remarks.

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.

Feel free to offer some feedback on the story selection, and follow us on Twitter to keep current with buzzing science conversations.

Vaccination is part of the social contract. Somehow, we’ve lost sight of that

Judging by the number of stories crossing our media monitoring and social media feeds the author behind that headline in the Globe and Mail may well be right.

The number one culprit for the breaking of that social contract and the subsequent rise in measles rates, may well be vaccine scepticism which the World Health Organization cites as one of the 10 biggest threats to public health. However there are other factors other than scepticism and this 25-minute feature from Al Jazeera’s Inside Story program, looks at what is contributing to the worldwide measles problem. At the current rate of vaccinations for a number of diseases, the WHO estimates 2 to 3 million deaths are prevented annually each year, and that number could grow by another million and a half if coverage rates were increased. There are regional variations in vaccinations rates and another story from Al Jazeera looks into those differences.

Apart from that broken social contract is it a basic right for a child to be protected from disease? In this text and 20 minute audio podcast from CBC Radio’s The Current, one health expert argues it is.

Here in Alberta a confirmed case of measles prompted an alert for the Edmonton airport and town of Leduc. Such alerts are prompted by the relative ease that measles can be spread. It has been described as being “exquisitely contagious”, can linger in the air for 2 hours after an infected person has sneezed or coughed, and that person could be infectious up to four days before they have any visible rash. In Washington State it has been described as something that could take off “like a wildfire”. Any disease which gets those kind of headlines is going to concern people and as the National Post put it, “anti-vaxxers aren’t just killing their own kids — they're putting others in danger, too”. As measles in particular grabs the vaccination spotlight those who oppose vaccination are facing a “backlash as measles cases surge”, according to the Washington Post. Mandatory vaccinations may sound like a good idea, but there are very practical hurdles to deal with as Andre Picard pointed out in the Globe and Mail earlier this week. (sorry you will need Globe access for this one).

Mandatory or not, those opposed to vaccinations will continue to ignore the science but there does appear to be some stories that can make a difference.

Try this one from CBC – “For God's sake, vaccinate your children': Measles survivor still feels the effects after 69 years”. You’ll find that in general the comments section shows that many people support vaccinations – it may be all about how we tell the story if we want to change people’s minds.

(There are some suspect links in those comments, so your Trending Editor advises read, but don’t click)


Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

AEN Summit

The Alberta Epigenetics Network will organize its final Annual Summit meeting from May 3-5, 2019 at the Coast Hotel & Conference Center in Canmore. The event is free to attend for Clinicians, Researchers, staff and trainees from Universities of Calgary, Alberta and Lethbridge, AHS and SCNs. The program features over 30 High-impact lectures from Alberta researchers, out-of-province OMICS experts and world leaders and trainees in areas of Epigenomics, Genomics, Metabolomics, Transcriptomics, Artificial Intelligence, Bioinformatics and Social legal implications of OMICS.

AEN is organizing a Nanopore sequencing workshop in conjunction with the Summit to help Alberta researchers develop expertise in this emerging area of third-gen sequencing.

Registration information coming soon.

Ribosomal DNA can predict an animal’s age

“DNA methylation status in a variety of tissues can accurately reveal the age of an animal, but previously discovered epigenetic clocks often aren’t evolutionarily conserved. In a study published today (February 14) in Genome Research, researchers describe a new clock, composed of methylation sites in ribosomal DNA. This timekeeper is found in species as diverse as mice, dogs, and humans, and reveals both chronological and biological age.”
Source: The Scientist

Breast cancer risk elevated if epigenetic clock runs fast

The is a correlation between age and the risk of cancer but chronologic age may not be the age that needs to be studied. Better to look at biologic age sand see how the body is working.
Source: Genetic and Engineering News and Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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 monthly edition direct to your email, cancel a subscription, and view all of our back issues.

Can big science be too big?

Spoiler alert – yes it can, says a new study published in Nature. "Small research teams ‘disrupt’ science more radically than large ones" applied a new citation-based index to arrive at that conclusion. How big can it be sometimes? Well the New York Times put its tongue in cheek and said bigger than the roster of the New England Patriots, but you get the idea. Going on to be more serious though, it said that smaller research teams are more likely to generate innovative solutions to problems.

How long is something novel?

Canada regulates new plant varieties based on novelty. But after 25 years is something like a herbicide tolerant canola really still novel? Stuart Smyth explore when regulatory oversight is no longer needed.
Source: SAIFood

We don't know what a fifth of our genes do – and won’t find out soon

There are definitely many more genomics discoveries to be made, but we seem to have stalled in our pace of discovery says a team at the University of Cambridge. Some of the roadblock is because funders are hesitant to spend money on research that does not promise tangible results.
Source: New Scientist and Open Biology

No one is safeguarding your DNA

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing for health and ancestry purposes has increased significantly in popularity as the costs drop. People are encouraged to post their test results to find long lost relatives and once posted, limiting who can see those results is difficult. You pay the fees, get the results and without giving it much more thought, make the information available to insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and law enforcement. Rules, regulations, and common sense are lagging behind the technology.
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek

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 Epigenetics Network Veterinary Symposium 2019

Alberta Epigenetics Network is pleased to support the University of Calgary, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine organize the Veterinary Medicine Symposium. The event will feature keynote presentations from Drs. Claudia Klein (University of Calgary), Leluo Guan (University of Alberta) and Eli Sallem from INRA, France.

Over the years, AEN has provided training support through grants to trainees in Veterinary Medicine to enhance the learning experience of graduate students in Epigenomics and OMICS in general. The recipients of these AEN grants will present their work at the symposium.

The symposium will focus on the ‘OMICS of reproductive animal biology’ and is free to attend but registration is required.

Genomics in an era of shifting ecological baseline

Climate change is affecting British Columbia in many ways. In recent years we have seen intense fire activity and massive insect outbreaks. It is imperative that we document our current ecological baselines so that we can better recognize, manage, and respond to change.
Dr. Dezene Huber’s research program has been using genomics to better understand the huge mountain pine beetle outbreak in the interior and is applying the same tools to the burgeoning spruce beetle infestation. He has also started to use genomics tools to monitor and catalog insect biodiversity in forests, streams to help with species conservation and to monitor, protect, and improve ecosystem services.
The talk will be followed by a moderated question and answer period open to everyone in attendance.

When: March 12, 2019
Where: College of the Rockies, Cranbrook, BC

Visit the website for more information and free registration

14th Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment

The DOE Joint Genome Institute Annual Genomics of Energy & Environment User Meeting provides current and prospective users of JGI resources an opportunity to learn about the full spectrum of the JGI’s capabilities as well as to hear from a diverse selection of researchers who are applying the latest omics strategies to advance innovative science.

The User Meeting is a productive forum for developing large-scale interdisciplinary initiatives, establishing collaborative partnerships and exploring new career opportunities. The JGI Annual Meeting will be preceded by a series of workshops and the “NeLLi 2019 Symposium: From New Lineages of Life to New Functions.”

When: April 2-5, 2019
Where: Hilton Union Square, San Francisco, CA

Canadian Human and Statistical Genetics Meeting

The 8th Annual Canadian Human and Statistical Genetics Meeting is held in in conjunction with the Canadian GE3LS* and Health Services and Policy Research Conference. The event is sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Genetics.

When: June 16-19, 2019
Where: Fairmont le Château Montebello, Quebec.

Registration is now open

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