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May 1, 2017

Volume 30 Issue 2


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

Towards a science policy in Alberta - Council of Canadian Academies

The Government of Alberta asked the Council of Canadian Academies to convene an expert workshop to identify key considerations for science policies relevant to “subnational jurisdictions” (aka provinces), and the report came out on April 19th. Overall the report is intended to be used by Canadian provinces and territories to help guide discussions and inform decision-making about science policies. Some familiar names such as Marc LePage, President and CEO of Genome Canada were part of the steering committee and the workshop participants came from government, academia, and industry. One of the promising headlines in the report emphasizes that explicit science policies are needed to support science, enhance government coordination and alignment, increase transparency, and to help leverage federal support.

Go to the Council of Canadian Academies for a summary of the key findings and to download the full report (pdf file).

GAPP Round 9

The Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) funds downstream research and development projects that address opportunities and challenges identified by industry, government, not-for-profits, and other users of genomics knowledge and technologies. There have been 8 rounds of GAPP funding to date and we have now opened up Round 9 for applications. Expressions of Interest must be submitted to your regional Genome Centre by July 7th and Genome Alberta has initiated a support process to help applicants put forward strong proposals.

For complete information on the GAPP Round 9, visit our web page or you can contact Niall Kerrigan.

Canadian doctor Rob Fowler recognized for life-saving treatment in Ebola outbreak

Dr. Rob Fowler has received the Royal College's Teasdale-Corti Humanitarian Award and has received much of the credit for dramatic improvements in the mortality rates from Ebola. He is a consultant with the World Health Organization and was one of the first international doctors to help treat infected patients.

Dr. Fowler talked with Anna Marie Tremonti, Host of The Current on CBC Radio.

Brain Canada funds innovative Alberta-wide research into Alzheimer's

Eric Smith, associate professor in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Calgary has received $1.5 million to work with researchers from the Universities of Alberta and Calgary to develop new techniques to identify Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages. Apart from the funding through the Canada Brain Research Fund, other funding partners are Alberta Innovates and the Alzheimer Society of Alberta & Northwest Territories.

Read more about the research in UToday.

CFIA approves camelina oil for use in Atlantic salmon feed

Farmed salmon and trout have a new addition to their menu after the Canadian Food Inspection Agency approved camelina oil as a feed ingredient. Camelina, or false flax, is an oilseed rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and antioxidants. Genome Atlantic managed a large scale study of camelina and then applied to the CFIA for approval of camelina oil in fish feeds.

“Genome Atlantic and its partners have transformed a tiny seed into a big opportunity”, said the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

You can read more about the approval on the Genome Atlantic website.

U of A Researchers receive federal funding for greener agriculture

Last week Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay announced $3.76 in new funding for research based at the University of Alberta. The funding is for 3 of the 20 new projects across Canada being funded through the Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program. The projects will help farmers decrease greenhouse gas emissions from their operations.

Read more from the University of Alberta Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences.

To see what our friends at the University of Guelph received in the AGGP, click here.

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.

A new approach to Canadian science funding?

The Naylor report or if you want the more official title, Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, came out on April 10th. We featured many stories about the report in our last newsletter but this long needed report is still being analyzed and the lobbying is underway to get the core recommendations off the pages and into practice. We’ll start off this round of analysis with an audio podcast from CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks. Host Bob McDonald talked with Sarah Burch who presented to the review panel and she is cautiously optimistic about the next steps.

The report came out about 2 weeks before the April 22nd March for Science to show support for science and to protest what certainly appears to be an anti-science White House administration. Even though the March started out as a US protest Canadians are picking up on it to and this article from Evidence for Democracy talks about the science review and about the relevance of the March in Canada.

The Canadian Science Policy Centre is posting a series of editorials including Investing in young researchers to strengthen Canada’s future by 2 PhD candidates, and Unified voice vital to Naylor Report action by Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada.

The March for Science

Besides the ongoing discussions around Canada’s review of science, the April 22nd March for Science took over our media monitoring and social media feeds in the days leading up to the March and for days afterwards. It didn’t seem to matter if you were actually a scientist, anyone with some ideas weighed in on whether the March had value and whether politicizing science was a good idea. Does the March risk alienating the public if they see publicly funded scientists engaging in advocacy asks an Assistant Professor in Political Communication at George Mason University? The initial post for the March probably did not include any discussions about such issues and the Washington Post suggests that it started as a throwaway line on Reddit. Arguably though you could say the Donald Trump really got it going with proposed science funding cuts, disappearing data, and the claim that climate change is a hoax.

Support for the March was strong around the world, with events on every continent, and participants from all sectors of science - including a Time Lord. Here’s a map that will give you an idea of where the Marches spread to. The politicization of science continued to be an issue and the Calgary rally (image at left) echoed the sentiment. As soon as people decided to March however, politics was in play, and issues such as Brexit became part of the conversation. Some would argue that it is less of a March for Science and more of a March to be able to do science.

Now that the March is over will it whither away or is there enough momentum to keep it going in a symbolic way? The main website for the March suggests that “now we act” and there is a campaign to send support for science e-mails to Congress.

And finally, what is a protest March without signs? Here are a few of them, complete with dogs and kids who joined in.

Theranos Update

Phew – your GenOmics editors were worried that the Theranos saga had been forgotten. Not so, and some unsealed court filings are presenting a case of “fake demonstrations” and using off-the-shelf commercial technology that the company passed off as its own. The Wall Street Journal has been writing about Theranos for some time and have ensured we have this new story for our Trending section.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Traces of genetic trauma can be tweaked

LISTEN: Trauma can be passed down to offspring due to epigenetic changes in DNA. But positive experiences seem able to correct what appears to be ‘engraved’ in the epigenome.
Source: 60 Second Science

Scientists have observed epigenetic memories being passed down for 14 generations

Our DNA may be the most important piece of genetic information passed down through the generations but changes brought about by the environment are proving to be increasingly important. This study was done with nematodes but it does show that the past does indeed live on.
Source: Science Alert

How diet can change your DNA

The expression “You are what you eat”, has been around a long time but now it is taking on a new and improved meaning according to Nestle and its Research Center in Lusanne. This is a sponsored post in Scientific American that will give you the industry line on epigenetics and diet.
Source: Scientific American

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 tobacco farmer Henrietta Lacks became a medical superstar after her death

Henrietta Lacks lives on in labs, in books, in ethical debates, and now in a new movie. She died from cervical cancers 66 years ago but cells taken from her are still being cultured and used in research around the world. The cells were taken without her knowledge, let alone consent, which has sparked many ethical discussions and some compensation claims. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot was published in 2010, and the movie based on the book will be on HBO this week.
Source: Toronto Star

The new Neanderthals

For years we have seen Neanderthals as “stooped over, hairy, primitive” and probably complete brutes. We even use the term Neanderthal as an insult to others. But we are slowly learning they are more complex than we once thought and may even have had an artistic streak. A new novel called The Last Neanderthal by Canadian Claire Cameron, brings one particular Neanderthal to life as you’ll see (and hear) in this story.
Source: Maclean’s

The value proposition for stem cell therapies

What we can achieve is not always what we can afford when it comes to medicine and health care. Years can be spent on research but if the final clinical therapy is too expensive, what then?
Source: Expression

Science minister mulls forcing universities to attract more female researchers

Canada’s Science Minister Kirsty Duncan has spoken about the need for diversity in science since she was first appointed to the position. She now thinks university aren’t putting enough effort into the gender part of the challenge and she is said to be considering forcing the issue when it comes to the Canada Research Chairs.
Source: Globe & Mail

You might want to also check this Calgary Herald story on the gender pay gap at the University of Calgary.

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!

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, including 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.

Course Faculty
  • Dr. Richard Edlin
  • Dr. Claire Hulme
  • Dr. Christopher McCabe
  • Dr. Michael Paulden

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

Details and registration information.

Metabolomics in Precision Medicine: From Theory to Practice

David Wishart and the Metabolomics Innovation Centre based at the University of Alberta have organized a Symposium on Metabolomics in Precision Medicine, From Theory to Practice.

When: June 8, 2017
: Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto

There is no fee to attend but you must register in advance.

The Metabolomics Innovation Centre is a joint initiative of Genome Canada, Genome Alberta, Genome British Columbia, University of Alberta, and University of Victoria.

Raising Healthy Beef Cattle in a Changing World: The 2017 University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine Beef Cattle Conference.

This conference will bring together beef producers, 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.

  • June 22nd - Clinical Skills Building (7:30am - 12:30pm) Pre Conference Workshops
  • June 22nd - Deerfoot Inn & Casino (1:00pm - 7:00pm)
  • June 23rd - Deerfoot Inn & Casino ( 7:30am - 3:20pm)
Where: Deerfoot Inn & Casino, Calgary

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.

Agriculture Bioscience International Conference

Hosted by the Life Science Association of Manitoba and the Government of Manitoba, this year's ABIC Conference is set up to provide three days of guest speakers, student research presentations, exhibitors and networking opportunities for attendees.

A few of the topics to be presented:
  • Quality versus Quantity and the Implication to Food Security
  • Nutrigenomics / Nutrigenetics – How our DNA will shape our diets in the Future
  • Smart Farms - The Link between Biotechnology and Enhanced Nutrition
When: September 25 - 28, 2017
Where: Delta Winnipeg Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

More details on the program, accommodations and registration can be found here.

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