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April 3, 2018

Volume 34 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

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’s Brain Gain – Round 2

At a ceremony in Ottawa on March 29th , the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, revealed the list of 24 Canada 150 Research Chairs selected through a program designed to attract some of the world’s top research talent. These international researchers hail from countries such as Australia, Austria, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and South Africa. The announcement follows a similar event held in December 2017 where the Minister introduced the first four Canada 150 Research Chairs.

You can see the full list of new Chair in the Canada 150 news release and check this article by Ivan Semeniuk in the Globe & Mail.

Canada SynBio 2018

On March 6, Ontario Genomics hosted Canada SynBio 2018, a national conference focused on engineering biology. Over 275 people attended the MaRS Discovery District auditorium for the event which included a video address by Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor.

A summary of the event is available on the Ontario Genomics website.

Canadian Agricultural Partnership

A new Canadian Agricultural Partnership was announced last week to focus on on increasing trade, expanding markets and supporting innovative and sustainable growth in the sector.

Canada’s federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and Oneil Carlier, Alberta's Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, announced that over the next five years the Canadian government and the Alberta government plan to invest $406 million to support strategic programs and activities under the Partnership. The new program is a successor to Growing Forward 2.

Funding opportunity: Research Catalyst Network to expedite collaboration between basic and clinician scientists in functional studies of novel rare disease genes

Genome Canada has partnered with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to support a national network funding opportunity. The goal is to help maintain Canada’s leadership in enabling clinical geneticists who are identifying rare disease gene mutations to collaborate with model organism researchers with expertise in the cognate gene’s function, and to develop the capacity to study genes for which no suitable models can be identified in Canada with other countries with similar networks.

Full details are available on the Genome Canada website.

Genome Alberta to attend International Environmental AMR Forum

David Bailey will represent the Genomics Enterprise at an invitation-only Forum on International Environmental AMR. The event is being hosted in Vancouver by the United Kingdom Science and innovation Network and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust.

New pheromone insight may help predict mountain pine beetle outbreaks

Researchers at the University of British Columbia have shed new light on how mountain pine beetles produce an important pheromone called trans-verbenol. The beetles have been spreading into new habitats, migrating east from B.C. into Alberta, and from lodgepole pine to different species like the jack pine and the new could aid in efforts to better predict outbreaks.

You can read more about the research in UBC News or go to PNAS to see the paper published online earlier this month.


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.

Genetic Testing


It was an inconsistent couple of weeks with no clear story trending across our social media feeds and our general media monitoring. One broad subject however did come up across several stories and in different contexts.

The recent approval by the FDA in the United States to allow 23andMe to include results for the BRCA breast cancer gene in their testing reports may have kicked off some of the interest so we’ll start with a phone-in program on CBC radio in Alberta. “Would you use a personal genetic testing kit to check your cancer risk” was the question and Francois Bernier from University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine and Brian Goldman, an emergency room physician and CBC columnist were on hand to answer. Brian Goldman had already posted a blog on the possible pitfalls of consumer breast cancer gene testing so the stage was set.

Another story that prompted genetic testing to come up across our news feeds involved George Alagiah, a BBC news presenter who has stage-four bowel cancer. He has been open about his diagnosis and called for screening in England to be offered from the age of 50. The £200 test is not covered by the NHS in England (it is in Scotland) until the age of 60 but the media stories have been pointing out that the cost of treatment is far greater than the costs of testing.

The very nature of genetic testing means the results can be open to interpretation and when it comes to the direct-to-consumer tests that come without a genetic counsellor or medical professional there are many who are concerned about outcomes. Can consumers be truly able understand the test results and how they will handle the potentially sensitive and worrisome information? Even when it comes to medically ordered testing, pressure is mounting to make gene-guided prescriptions a regular part of publicly funded medicine as you’ll see in this in-depth story from Carolyn Abraham at the Globe & Mail.

Though not the same as many of the genetic testing stories we’ve covered so far, another one making up our news feed since the last newsletter involved a St. John's company turning to the courts to speed up the application process for its genome project. Sequence Bio announced in 2016 that the company was launching the 100K Genome Project to explore the genetic makeup of residents in Newfoundland & Labrador. We talked to company representatives at the time but the project has since been bogged down in the approval process and Sequence Bio is now going to the Supreme Court to try to move things along.

We’ll finish with a genetic testing story that has been mentioned in a previous newsletter but it has now bubbled up into the mainstream media monitoring for the week to earn a new story mention. We’ll give it a #fail:
Screening prospective roommates, by DNA.


Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Mouse moms’ behavior affects pups’ genome structures

Some mouse mothers groom, lick, and nurse their babies more than others. In a study published in Science on March 23rd researchers demonstrated that this natural variation in maternal behavior is linked to the structure of pups’ genomes.
Source: The Scientist

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

Researchers use non-GMO to modify alfalfa

Agriculture Canada researchers are working to develop alfalfa and sainfoin (a forage legume) with higher yields, better resistance to drought and floods, and higher leaf lipid content, which could reduce methane. They want to accomplish the modifications using gene editing techniques and not transgenic or GMO techology.
Source: Western Producer

What are the environmental and human health impacts of GM corn?

Stuart Smyth is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and holds the Industry Research Chair in Agri-Food Innovation at the University of Saskatchewan. In this article he says that while many organizations have baselessly claimed that GMOs cause cancer, evidence now clearly shows that in the case of GM corn, it reduces toxins that potentially cause some types of cancer.
Source: SAIFood

Farm Babe: GMO labeling: An opportunity for consumer education or … ?

The USDA is requiring QR codes on labels of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients so consumers can know and choose what to buy based on the information from these codes. The Farm Babe says this is nonsense.
Source: AgDaily

Brewing hoppy beer without the hops

Synthetic biology has been put to work to get yeast to produce the flavour of hops. Researchers added genes from mint and basil and used the yeast to brew a beer that tasters said had notes of 'fruit-loops' and 'orange blossom,' with no off flavors. “Fruit-loops” – your Digest editor will have to think twice before ordering that one on tap.
Source: Science Daily


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!

#realmx2018 - Realities in Medicine Conference

Canada’s first scientific conference in AR/VR/MR brings together healthcare professionals, medical educators, and clinical researchers to connect with developers and the virtual, augmented, and mixed reality industry to look at current uses, evidence and best practices for the development and use of virtual, augmented reality for patient care, medical education, and research.

When: April 7 - 8, 2018
Where: The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning – Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario

Visit the conference website for information and registration.

The Food Edge Summit

Food Edge brings together the food industry’s largest brands, alongside dynamic startups and disruptive leaders. Featuring two days of inspiring speakers, innovation workshops, and fireside chats, attendees will explore the trends, strategies and capabilities to leverage an edge in the marketplace — everything from sustainable sourcing and recipe innovation to product design, customer experience, and social media.

Topics include:
  • The future of snacking
  • Rise of small brands and redefining growth
  • Blockchain for food
  • Is the future of food plant-based?
  • Human behavior and purchasing
  • International food marketing

When: May 1 - 2, 2018
Where: Innovation and Design building, Boston

Learn more and register at the Food Edge website

Precision Medicine and Population Health Webinar

Common diseases are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. In addition to finding rare genetic diseases with high individual and family risk, recent advances in genomics have enhanced our understanding of multiple genetic variants for these diseases. The contribution of multiple genes to most common diseases can be captured under the rubric of polygenic inheritance, in which additive effects of numerous genes create a normal distribution of disease risk in the population that can be quantified using additive genetic risk scores.

There has been a recent surge in scientific interest and publications in using genetic risk scores to stratify people by level of risk and explore using this information in prediction, screening and control of common diseases. Using cancer and heart disease as potential applications, this webinar will explore recent findings, scientific opportunities and challenges in using genetic risk scores in the prevention and control of common diseases.

Presenters Sekar Kathiresan, M.D. and Cecile Janssens, Ph.D. will review current experiences; and evidentiary, economic, data sharing and infrastructure, and outcome data requirements needed to implement and measure success of genome sequencing in improving health, followed by discussion and Q&As with an emphasis on how the presented information should inform an implementation science agenda in genomic medicine.

When: Wednesday May 9, 2018, 3:00 – 4:00 pm ET
Where: Online and NCI Shady Grove Campus Room 2W030

Registration is required to participate - More information available here.

Mini Med School

Mini-Medical School is designed for members of the general public who are interested in learning more about chronic diseases and topics such as Allergies, Concussions, Vaccines, Immune Deficiencies, Precision Medicine, the Microbiome, Women's Issues, and Environmental Exposures.You won’t graduate with a medical degree after attending the Mini-Medical School series but you will gain more insight to healthy living and chronic diseases.

This month’s topic is Liver Disease and will be presented by Dr. Samuel Lee and Dr. Craig Jenne

When: May 7, 2018, 6:30 - 8:45pm
Where: Libin Theatre at the Foothills Campus, Cumming School of Medicine with the University of Calgary.

There is no cost to attend a lecture but online registration is required.

To listen to past lectures, click here.

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.


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