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April 1, 2019

Volume 38 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

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.

Federal budget investment in Genome Canada

The Federal budget tabled last month contained good news for Genome Canada, genomics research, and for researchers in Canada. For the first time in its history, Genome Canada received a five-year funding commitment with $100.5M over that period for operations and launching competitions. The $20M average annual commitment will provide Genome Canada with a predicable baseline for operations and to fund key activities. Of particular significance to our Canadian Genomics Enterprise is the creation of the Strategic Science Fund as a key piece in a new framework for allocating federal funds to third-party organizations such as Genome Canada. Genome Canada will work with ISED and the government in the development and application of this new fund in conjunction with other sources to continue to develop ongoing competitions and research partnerships.

New agriculture technology integration program

Olds College has received formal approval for its new Agriculture Technology Integration Post-Diploma Certificate. Designed for students who already hold a diploma or degree, the course work will provide an understanding of how related technologies and components interact to provide accurate information and real-time monitoring and controls to the agriculture producer. The first intake of students is expected in September of 2020.

Read more on the Olds College website and listen to this short report from Call of the Land.

Budget support for Genome Quebec

On March 22ndm Quebec’s Finance Minister Eric Girard announced $7.5 million would be made available to support Génome Québec’s operations, along with the funding of research platforms and the joint financing of genomics research activities.

Daniel Coderre, President and CEO of Génome Québec, was pleased at this show of continued support for Génome Québec. “By including genomics in its vision for a modern, ambitious Québec, the Coalition Avenir Québec government is recognizing the potential of this disruptive technology to enhance the competitiveness of our corporations and universities and its ability to provide solutions in areas such as health, the environment, agri-food and forestry.”

Congratulations to Dr. Bartha Knoppers, recipient of 2019 Friesen Prize

Source: McGill NewsroomDr. Bartha Knoppers has been awarded the 2019 Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research. The prestigious award recognizes outstanding contributions to leadership in health research

She is a long-standing recipient of Genome Canada support for her innovative work at the intersection of genomics research and its ethical, legal and social implications. Her career in genomics research has spanned the fields of law, medicine and policymaking, and established her as a prominent scholar in GE3LS (genomics and its ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social aspects). A professor of Medicine in the Department of Human Genetics at McGIll University, Dr. Knoppers served on the Board of Genome Canada from 2000-2006 and has spearheaded several critically important initiatives in genomics both nationally and internationally. She is a globally-recognized leader in her field and has contributed foundational work to genomics and beyond.
Photo source: McGill Newsroom

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.

The Inventor

What started out as a quick update on Theranos and a new documentary quickly turned into a trending story for us because the film and its main subject dominated our corner of the media world over the last couple of weeks.

Think back to those long heady days of 2014 when Fortune magazine published a profile of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of the (then) up and coming blood testing start-up, Theranos. The company was valued in the billions and the profile referred to its “amazing feats” and “audacious” plans. However the facts caught up with Ms. Holmes, the company and its technology turned out to be a dud, and she was eventually charged with fraud.

A new documentary is out and though the reviews for the documentary are mixed (try The Guardian or this NPR podcast), it does make you wonder about Americans and their “fascination with fraudsters” and the “capitalist fairy tale” that was Elizabeth Holmes. Her blue eyes that seemingly never blinked, blonde hair, and a deep voice that many have tagged as part of her carefully managed façade which managed to overpower the facts. In the documentary, Roger Parloff who wrote the Fortune profile mentioned above, appears on the verge of tears as he describes how thoroughly he was taken in by Holmes and the mystique. The image Holmes projected including her Steve Jobs style turtleneck often takes over the story, but The New Republic moves beyond that to look at the surrounding culture that led to the meteoric rise, and eventual burn-out of Theranos.

Mashable decided the documentary wasn’t quite enough and offers 5 bizarre facts about Elizabeth Holmes 'The Inventor' left out. Want to get behind the scenes of the documentary? This 35-minute podcast from Recode is spent with the documentary’s director Alex Gibney who at one point refers to Ms. Holmes as the “writer, director, and producer of her own story”. As an experienced documentary producer you would think Gibney had seen it all but this story from Business Insider says that he was still shocked by how closely Elizabeth Holmes stuck to her story even as it was collapsing around her.

When it comes to Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos, Vanity Fair thinks it is an obsession without end and they could well be right because even Rolling Stone magazine joined in on the conversation with a reading list for the Theranos obsessed.

Enjoy your Theranos fix!


Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Can the legacy of trauma be passed down the generations?

US Researchers have studied the health records of nearly 4,600 children whose fathers had been PoWs during the Civil War. They compared those results to more than 15,300 children of veterans of the war who had not been captured. They found that sons and grandsons of the prisoners suffered higher rates of mortality than the wider population. The BBC article then goes on past the recent Civil War study and provides a good perspective on epigenetic changes.

The epigenetics revolution

Edith Heard is the new director general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, an intergovernmental research organisation based in Germany and which includes 29 participating countries. The French National Center for Scientific Research did an interview with Ms. Heard for its website where they talked about epigenetics in general, her widely recognised work in the area, and about what she sees ahead for the EMBL.

From our blog pages:

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.

Battling vaccine myths

The evidence is abundant and the facts are clear, yet many parents are hesitant to have their children vaccinated. The Agenda hosted by Steve Paikin on TVO tackles the question of ‘why’ with a panel which offers some excellent insight and ideas. The 31minute episode features Tim Caulfield, University of Alberta Professor and author of The Vaccination Picture, Natasha Crowcroft from Public Health Ontario, and Dan Flanders of Kindercare Pediatrics.
Source: TVO

The CEO of Silicon Valley's favorite meal-replacement startup shares why he thinks the tide is shifting on genetic engineering

Solyent is a meal replacement shake that will pop up as an ad if you have been doing any searching for similar products. It is produced by a Silicon Valley start-up and comes with a unique label. Unique at least in the current consumer climate that tends to avoid all things genetically modified. Solyent makes a point of noting that is contains six ingredients “"Produced with genetic engineering”.
Source: Business Insider

Eight questions with GE3LS researchers

Genome Canada is often seen as a world leader when it comes to its commitment in the field of genomics in society. GE3LS or Genomics, Ethical, Environmental, Economic, Legal, and Social aspects is an integral component of many of the research competitions administered by Genome Canada and the Genome Centres. It is a unique area of study and throughout March, Genome Canada has been featuring some of the GE3LS research that are part of Canada Genomics Enterprise. The researchers are asked a series of 8 questions so you can get to know about them and their work.

You can find the Q & A on Genome Canada’s blog. At the time of this newsletter we have heard from Dalhousie’s Matthew Schnurr, Shannon Hagerman at the University of British Columbia, and Vardit Ravitsky from the University of Montreal.

While your GenOmics editors heartily endorse Blondie’s "Heart of Glass" for Vardit Ravitsky’s music choice, we ultimately have to side with Matthew Schnurr and Toto’s "Out of Africa" as the ‘go to’ karaoke song!

Canada budget overlooks basic research

“What a difference a year makes.”, says science journalist Brian Owens.
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!

Second Annual Canadian Metabolomics Conference

The conference will highlight work by leading researchers, including new technologies and approaches for metabolomics research, and applications in various fields. There will be networking opportunities and a poster session designed for trainees to present their work. The Alberta Epigenetics Network will be offering trainee travel awards. Conference organizers will be highlighting the metabolomics science that is being done in Canada and abroad, and foster Canada’s leadership role in the global research community.

When: May 1-2, 2019
Where: Coast Canmore Hotel & Conference Centre, Canmore Alberta

More information and registration available at the conference website and consider attending the Alberta Epigenetics Summit at the same venue after the Metabolomics event.

The Cultural Politics of DNA

Podcasts, true crime shows, family history documentaries and police procedurals all attest to a cultural obsession with, and a faith in, the potential of DNA to reveal some kind of truth.

This seminar will explore the cultural politics of DNA. What is behind the current fascination with DNA testing, and more generally, what does it say about truth, race and identity in the current era?

Guest Speakers:
  • Kim TallBear, PhD
  • Jackie Stacey, PhD
  • M. Susan Lindee, PhD
Presented in partnership with UCalgary Alumni. The Alumni Engagement Partnership Fund has generously provided support that allows a live stream of the morning panels for this event.

WHEN: May 3, 2019, 9:30 AM – 3:30 PM MDT

Register online

Alberta Epigenetics Network Annual Summit

Alberta Epigenetics Network is holding its final Annual Summit meeting.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.

When: May 3-5, 2019
Where: Coast Hotel & Conference Center, Canmore

Free registration now open

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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