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April 3, 2017

Volume 29 Issue 6


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

Ontario investing in 75 research projects

Just as the last edition of our newsletter was hitting the internet, the Government of Ontario announced the recipients of Ontario Research Fund grants. $77 million was awarded across 75 projects covering a broad range of research around the province. Included in the announcement was co-funding for Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program and the Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition.

First ever “Made in Canada” wasps grown at Great Lakes Forestry Centre

Parasitic wasps that target and attack the emerald ash borer are being raised by the Canadian Forest Service to help nature deal with the pest. The first batch of these “Made in Canada” wasps began to emerge earlier this month and the goal is to rear at least 12,000 wasps this year according to Sault Online.

DNA test at BC community pharmacies comes one step closer

“Genomics for Precision Drug Therapy in the Community Pharmacy”, is a first of its kind project in North America. Now entering its second phase, it is co-funded by Genome BC and the BC Pharmacy Association, with research led by a team at the University of British Columbia’s Sequencing and Bioinformatics Consortium.

The first phase of the project focused on whether pharmacists, no matter if they were in urban or rural communities, could be the conduit to providing PGx testing. In the second phase, which begins this spring, community pharmacists in a number of communities across BC will focus on recruiting patients taking certain medications.

Read the complete media release on our website.

2 Canadians win Gairdner Awards for contributions to medical science

The Gairdner awards go to scientists and researchers who have made some of the world’s most significant medical discoveries. 84 of the Gairdner winners have gone on to win Nobel prizes so the competition is steep and prestigious. Dr. Antoine Hakim, a professor emeritus of neurology at the University of Ottawa, and Dr. Lewis Kay, a senior scientist in molecular medicine at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, are among seven international recipients of the 2017 awards. They will be honoured at the official ceremony in October.

Read more in the Metro News and Globe & Mail

From our blog pages

And be sure to visit our new GenOmics News feed for a dynamic listing of news based on our media monitoring.

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.

Doctors say unproven stem cell treatment blinded 3 women

Researchers have been studying the possible use of stem cells to treat some vision problems (such as this one) but there are no conclusive studies and no approved treatment. Nevertheless there are clinics offering unproven stem cell therapies, with patients paying the price when it all goes wrong . Though stories of ‘strip mall’ stem cell therapy are not new, the recent story that went out across the wire services about 3 women left blinded by stem cell treatment set of a new wave of Tweets, blogs, and mainstream media comment. The BBC was one of the outlets that started to look into the practice and they found another patient who seemed to have been left worse off after treatment than when he first went into a clinic. This 27 minute audio podcast follows his story from when he went in with high hopes thinking he was part of a clinical study. To help counter unscrupulous practices charities such as the Macular Society in the U.S. is warning people about “off-the-charts dangerous” procedures.

Critics of such unproven treatments are also paying a price as companies take to the courts alleging libel or slander.

Budget 2017 falls flat with Canadian scientists

The innovation budget as it was being called in the months leading up to budget day on March 22nd did not get good reviews from Canada’s science community. Nature magazine says it puts a freeze on the main funding pipeline for basic research in the country. In particular there was no money set aside for Canada’s tri-councils of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. There was no new money made available for Genome Canada. While this is disappointing to Canada’s Genomics Enterprise there were some bright spots for the science and technology community.
  • Budget committed $6 million in new funding in 2018-2019 for the Stem Cell Network
  • The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research will receive $35 million over five years to support its international collaborative research networks.
  • The budget proposes to invest up to $950 million over five years starting 2017-2018,( $800million drawn from budget 2016 and $150 million of new money) to be provided on a competitive basis in support of a small number of business-led innovation “superclusters” that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth. The areas of focus will be : advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital technology, health/bio-sciences and clean resources, as well as infrastructure and transportation
  • $2 million is set aside to fund the new post and office of chief government science adviser
Maybe because of some of the bone chilling cold weather that has been rolling through Ottawa, AAAS science also seized on the frozen research stream in their post-budget piece. Given the drastic cuts to science funding made by President Trump in his budget proposal it was inevitable that the comparison was made and The Scientist looks to be the first to get on it.

The complete 280-page budget document is available online (pdf file) so you can go through it and focus on your own areas of interest.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Unnatural selection: Babies in the genetic technology age

Bonnie Rochman is the author of The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have and is featured in this article from the Globe and Mail. She looks at some of the new ethical and societal challenges that are becoming part of reproductive technology. She points out that epigenetics comes into play in our genetic makeup and most people don’t understand some of the subtleties when they decide to embark on genetic tests for themselves and their babies.

Researchers build epigenetics network in veterinary and animal sciences

Researchers from around Alberta recently gathered at a University of Calgary-hosted one-day symposium on epigenetics in veterinary and animal sciences. Genome Alberta was well represented by Board Chair Andrew Stephens, CEO David Bailey, Chief Scientific Officer Gijs van Rooijen, and Raja Singh, Director of our Alberta Epigenetics Network.

Thanks for the University of Calgary for letting us share the picture and for posting more about the event.

Understanding the epigenetics of heroin addiction

Opiate addiction is a big problem that takes a socio-economic toll and unfortunately a significant toll in human lives. We are all too familiar with the outcomes but we don’t know enough about what is happening at the molecular level or what epigenetic changes are happening in the brain. You will need a subscription to read all the details in Biological Psychiatry, but you can find an overview from the Front Line of Genomics.

Combatting epigenetic effects from outdoor air pollution

Interesting pilot study that may have some people reaching for their Vitamin B supplement. The study was led by scientists at Columbia University and included several Toronto-based researchers. The work was funded in part by Environment Canada and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the U.S. which is where you will find this article. The paper covering the work was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Annual Epigenetics Summit

The 2017 AEN Annual Summit held in Lethbridge on March 2th & 28th brought together researchers, clinicians and industry leaders from universities in Alberta and experts in the field from other parts of Canada, US and Europe. Spread over 11 sessions, a moderated panel discussion and poster sessions, the meeting had over 80 attendees, 34 lectures and 20 posters focussing on human and animal health, deep learning and agriculture. Attendees reviewed new developments and challenges in basic and clinical research (epigenetics and OMICS generally), precision medicine and research translation.

Keynote lectures included Igor Pogribny, Director FDA for Toxicology and Epigenetics, Ivan Ozerov, Director Aging and Deep Learning, Insilico Medicine, John Hopkins University, Martin Hurst, Director CEEHRC, UBC, Vancouver and Jim Davie from Manitoba. Insilico Medicine, which had won the best company award at 2015 Personalized Medicine World Conference, presented on the use of artificial intelligence in OMICS and to predict your biological age while MolecularYou, a digital health company, presented on using genetic information to develop personalized health action plans that your physician can use for health and wellness. The conference was followed by a three-day sequencing and bioinformatics workshop.

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.

Why talk to a reporter? Especially about something difficult and personal

Mercies in Disguise: A Story of Hope, a Family’s Genetic Destiny, and the Science That Rescued Them is a long title for a book that is pretty specific about its focus. The Baxley family in the U.S. has had to deal with the effect of GSS (Gerstmann–Sträussler–Scheinker syndrome ), a fatal neurological disease. This article isn’t about the disease or even really about the book. It is about the writer’s experience in getting the family to talk about themselves and the often painful details of what the disease has meant to them.
Source: NY Times

Educating for a sustainable future: Why ethical and safe practices are critical to teaching STEM subjects

By the time budding young scientists hit their post graduate research phase of their careers they have been exposed to at least some ethical issues and research oversight committees. This article suggests that they should be getting some ethical insight starting much earlier in their schooling. Can science teachers find the time to keep up with new science, develop new teaching material, and still inject a healthy dose of ethical and societal thought?
Source: Wonderville

Largest genetic study to date reveals broad spectrum of autism

With a strong Canadian contingent of researchers, an international team has analyzed over 5,000 complete genomes from families affected by autism. They identified a number of new genetic variations linked to an increased risk of the disorder.
Source: Huffington Post

How crop monocultures are threatening our food supply

With climate change comes a change in the insects and diseases that can devastate crops. As we move to a less diverse selection of crops for our global food supply, that might mean a single crop failure would lead to major problems.
Source: Maclean’s

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!

Cardiovascular Research Day 2017

This is a full-day event featuring trainee posters and presentations as well as research talks.

The annual E.R. Smith Lecture will be delivered by Dr. Milica Radisic, Professor & Canada Research Chair, Functional Cardiovascular Tissue Engineering from the University of Toronto.

When: April 6, 2016
Where: University of Calgary, Libin Lecture Theatre, Health Science Centre, Calgary, Alberta

Registration is open for general admission, as well as trainee abstract submission.

Panel discussion on the "March for Science"

This event has been organized by the Canadian Science Policy Centre and will feature guest speakers:
  • Paul Dufour
  • Kristin Baetz
  • Katie Gibbs
  • Kathryn O'Hara
When: April 18, 2017 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM (EDT)
Where: Desmarais Hall, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario

Tickets are free, but you must register as seating is limited.

Introduction to Cost Effectiveness Modeling

This is a five day course designed to equip individuals who have a basic understanding of cost effectiveness analysis, with the skills required to build two types of decision analytic cost effectiveness models; decision trees and Markov models.

Course participants will get hands-on experience, under the guidance of recognized experts in cost effectiveness analyses.

Course Faculty
  • Dr. Richard Edlin
  • Dr. Claire Hulme
  • Dr. Christopher McCabe
  • Dr. Michael Paulden
Note that Dr. Chris McCabe is a health economist and Principal Investigator on the Genome Alberta funded PACEOMICS project, as well as the recently established Precision Medicine Policy Network.

When: May 29 - June 2, 2017
Where: Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Alberta, Edmonton

Details and registration information

5th Annual PAG Conference, Seoul, South Korea

The organizers of the Plant and Animal Genome Conference have planned a short version of PAG to be held in South Korea in 2017.

With an expanding global population, climate changes, and plant and animal genome research specifically occurring in Asia Pacific, the PAG organizers think the time is ripe for another version of the event.

When: May 29 - 31, 2017
Where: Conrad Seoul Hotel, Seoul, South Korea

Conference and registration information
Early Registration rates have been extended to April 7th, 2017

The 2017 University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM) Beef Cattle Conference.

The theme for the conference, Raising Healthy Beef Cattle in a Changing World, will bring together not just beef producers, but also researchers, veterinarians and other key players in the beef industry. The focus will be on the challenges and solutions of managing cattle without the use of antibiotics.

When: June 22 - 23, 2017
Where: Deerfoot Inn & Casino

Listen to experts discuss current issues and present creative solutions and network with people from all facets of the beef industry.

For further information, you can view the conference website and registration website.

Forest Health and Productivity

Forest Health and Productivity in Changing Environments is the theme of this year's joint meeting of the Canadian Forest Genetics Association and WFGA.

The hosting organizations represent academics, researchers, tree breeders, seed biologists, students, and forestry practitioners involved in genetics and tree breeding in Canada and western North America. This biennial conference series provides a forum for sharing research results, technology transfer, and broadening the scope of their activities to cater for emerging economic and environmental challenges.

When: June 26 - 29, 2017
Where: Centennial Center for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Alberta, Edmonton.

Registration Details

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