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March 2, 2018

Volume 33 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.

Canadian Genomics Cloud launched to provide widespread access to genomics infrastructure for Canada

A national consortium of industry and academic collaborators have launched the Canadian Genomics Cloud, an integrated software platform to manage, analyze and share genome sequence and clinical data. This public cloud computing platform will give every scientist in the country complete access to award-winning technology empowering precision medicine and other applications in genomics research.

More details are available on the Genomics Cloud website.

Genome Canada congratulates Philip Hieter on receiving 2018 George W. Beadle Award for outstanding contributions to the genetics research community

Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are pleased to congratulate Dr. Philip Hieter on recently being awarded the 2018 George W. Beadle Award by the Genetics Society of America, for his outstanding contributions to the genetics research community.

Dr. Hieter is Professor of Medical Genetics in the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. He also is a co-leader of the Canadian Rare Disease Models and Mechanisms Network, funded by CHIR, in partnership with Genome Canada, and is an initiative that builds on Canada’s proven leadership in rare disease gene discovery through national engagement.

From our blog pages:

WATCH: Saving Science with Sciencepiration

We don’t usually include spoofs and comedy in our newsletter but every once in a while something comes along worth sharing. From the Australian Tonightly Show with Tom Ballard, “people are paying less attention to scientists, and more attention to skeptics, celebrities, and wellness bloggers”.
Source: Tonightly Show

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.

Basic science get a major boost in research-friendly budget

The 2018 Federal Budget was tabled on Tuesday and we’ll start with the basics. The main budget document is on the Government of Canada website and if you focus on pages 81-100 you’ll find the details on science, research, and development funding. In his speech Finance Minister Morneau said “Budget 2018 represents the single largest investment in investigator-led fundamental research in Canadian history” so you’ll need a cheat sheet version:
  • Overall $3.8 billion allocated to research and development, with $500 million going to basic research by 2023.
  • Significant new and ongoing funding for the granting councils , the Canada Foundation for Innovation/CFI ($763m), and for indirect costs ($232m). These investments were in line with the recommendations of the Naylor report.
  • More than $500 million over 5 years set aside for a national Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy which will deliver advanced computing and big data resources for research. This initiative is still in development but it is interesting to note that the example used so illustrate this challenge is the use advanced genomics tools to analyse sequencing data for cancer and dementia.
  • New funding for the Canada Research Chairs program to support early-career researchers and women nominees.
  • Funding for government science departments, including resources to renew facilities in Agcan, NRCan, Fisheries and Oceans etc.
  • Renewal funding of $9m for the Council of Canadian Academies.
The Globe & Mail has a quick graphic snapshot of the budget and is also where we’ll start pointing you at the analysis with this story from Ivan Semeniuk . iPolitics called it a “massive commitment” and this story includes a short video pointing out some of the science highlights. The Toronto Star keyed a little more on budget measures being taken to ““modernize” ways to support researchers and follows the overall media view that science was a big winner. Maclean’s looked at the overall budget theme around “innovation” and while noting the money being spent, wondered equally about the strategy that goes with that spending. Like most secondary institutions Universities Canada issued a press release which made sure not to make any missteps and praised the budget’s new investments. Specialty publications will give you more focused perspective like this piece in Western Producer.

Outside Canada, it seems that the budget is also turning heads with The Times Higher Education and Nature both excited to see how science was treated. The Times headline said the budget brings a multibillion-dollar boost for research and Nature said Canadian science wins billions in new budget.

There is no shortage of analysis and comment in all corners of the internet but we’ll leave you with the statement from Genome Canada on Federal Budget 2018.

GOOP Update

Attendees at a recent Goop wellness conference were told that death wasn’t real. The Goop website even says that “Life does not end in the way that many of us have been conditioned to believe," and that this "hopefully eliminates some of the fear that the end can bring.”

This article suggests that Goop, and other similar wellness programs, are really a form of “terror management”. That being our own mortality. Your GenOmics editors don’t mind poking fun at Goop, but this article brings some perspective on why the company’s seeming outlandish claims and products attract so much attention.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Graduate student opportunities and post-doctoral fellowship in cancer epigenomics

The University of British Columbia is looking for students who are interested in pursing a PhD in the Epigenomics Laboratory, and for a postdoctoral fellow interested in furthering the understanding of epigenetic dysfunction in human disease.

More information is available on the website for Hirst Lab – Michael Smith Laboratories.

In-utero famine

In a new study, researchers from the Netherlands and the US used array-based DNA methylation profiling to look at interactions between weight, blood metabolic features, and in utero famine exposure in hundreds of individuals who were or were not exposed to prenatal famine. Their results have shown methylation changes in and around genes involved in everything from energy metabolism to pancreatic cell function and lipid metabolism. Prenatal adversity such as exposure to famine in utero can leave long term marks on an individual's genome into adulthood, new research suggests, leading to shifts in DNA methylation that can be detected in adulthood.

This study confirms earlier studies around exposure of mothers to prenatal famine during World War II - Dutch Hunger Winter Families Study – had shown that individuals born to mothers who were pregnant during a famine in western Netherlands were more prone to adult conditions ranging from schizophrenia to obesity or type 2 diabetes. These disease associations were later found to be due to epigenetic changes that afflicted the fetus in utero. The famine event is thought to have affected more than 2,400 individuals who were born to underfed mothers-to-be between February 1945 and March 1946.

Unique biomarkers + machine learning tool developed

Researchers have developed specific biomarkers through discovery of genome-wide DNA methylation signatures epigenetic signatures (epi-signatures) that can be useful in diagnosing / testing for several pediatric developmental syndromes at once and can help classify variants of unknown significance for several neurodevelopmental Mendelian disorders. In a study published in Cell, the team examined peripheral blood samples from a large cohort covering 14 Mendelian disorders with mutations in genes encoding proteins of the epigenetic machinery. Overlapping DNA methylation signatures were found associated with many of these conditions, however the degree of overlap among these epi-signatures was minimal, suggesting that the downstream changes are unique to every syndrome. The group combined the epi-signatures to develop a machine learning tool that can concurrently screen for multiple syndromes with high sensitivity and specificity, with the ability to generate accurate predictions for subjects presenting with the overlapping clinical and molecular features associated with the disruption of the epigenetic machinery.

AEN Summit

Alberta Epigenetics Network invites you to join colleagues from across Alberta and beyond to share current knowledge, trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the area of Epigenetics and related 'omics areas. The Summit will be held in Edmonton, March 25-27. More information is available in the Events section at the end of the newsletter or click to register.

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.

How the microbiome challenges our concept of self

Can microbiome research challenge the three biological explanations of the individual self - the immune system, the brain, and the genome? If we are not individual, discrete entities but instead are the outcome of ever-changing interactions with microorganisms, there may be a bigger conversation to be had.
Source: PLOS Biology

Using DNA to create a person’s likeness

Calgary’s Police Service released a picture of a woman which was created using only her DNA. It stems from the case of a deceased newborn found in a parking lot in Calgary on Christmas Eve. A U.S. company crafted a picture of the child's mother using DNA evidence. A Calgary researcher says we don't know enough about genetic variants to make a useful determination of facial features or shape. Or we don’t have enough information yet but researchers are getting closer.
Source: Futurity

The top 5 Canadian CEOs who elevate their companies

Biotechnology Focus says these are “CEOs who have delivered in the past and are with companies where they have a chance of delivering in the future. They aren’t necessarily leading the biggest companies, but rather, they qualify because they are the best leaders.”
Source: Biotechnology Focus

How companies scour our digital lives for clues to our health

Your digital footprint could hold clues to your physical and mental health or so claims the theory behind an emerging field, digital phenotyping, that is trying to assess people’s well-being based on their interactions with digital devices.
Source: New York Times

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!

2018 Alberta Epigenetics Network Summit

Join the Alberta Epigenetics Network (AEN)  to share current knowledge & trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the area of Epigenetics and OMICS:
  • Biomedical research
  • Bioinformatics and bomputational biology
  • Microbiome, agriculture, livestock, veterinary medicine and environment
  • Knowledge translation

When: March 25 - 27, 2018
Where: Lister Conference Centre, 11613-87 Avenue NW, Edmonton

Click here to register.

To submit an abstract, click for more information.

For more information on the summit, please contact Dr. Michael Hendzel (Professor University of Alberta) or Dr. Raja B. Singh (Director, AEN)

Impact of Science 2018

The AESIS Network brings together experts such as R&D evaluators, university managers, research councils, policy makers, funders, and other stakeholders of impact. The goal of this conference is sharing, evaluating and discussing best practices around the world on:
  • Policy strategies for societal impact
  • Creating (long-term) alliances between stakeholders
  • Regional, national and international instruments for evaluating and achieving impact
  • Current issues on i.e. public engagement, evidence-based policy, interdisciplinary approaches and harmonising definitions and assumptions.
When: June 14 - 15, 2018
Where: Fairmont Château Laurier, Ottawa, Ontario

For program & registration information, please visit the conference website.

14th Annual Conference of the Metabolomics Society

The 14th Annual Conference of the Metabolomics Society will be held in Seattle, Washington, USA on June 24-28, 2018. The Society’s annual conference consistently features the latest developments and applications in the field of metabolomics. Next June, we converge on Seattle, a world-class metropolis set within the beautiful and natural surroundings of the Pacific Northwest. Further details will be released regularly at metabolomics2018.org.
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