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May 1, 2019

Volume 38 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

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.

Kenney names 20 ministers, three associates to first UCP cabinet

Just as we were getting ready to hit send on our GenOmics Newsletter, the cabinet appointments for the new UCP government in Alberta were being made.
Here is a CBC story with all the information you need to help you discuss it around the water cooler!

University of Calgary celebrates installation of Dr. Ed McCauley as president and vice-chancellor

Last November the University of Calgary announced that former Genome Alberta Board member Ed McCauley would be the University’s ninth president and vice-chancellor. He assumed the role effective January 1st and then on April 8th the official ceremony was held at the U of C where he took the Oath of Office from Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor. You can watch a 4 ½ minute highlight video and read more on UToday.

RES-FOR Masters Student wins Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award

The RES-FOR project (short for resilient forests) is co-led by Genome Alberta and Genome BC and was funded as an LSARP project in 2016. Shuo Wang is a Masters student who was supervised by RES-FOR co-applicant, Dr. Henry An and co-supervised by RES-FOR lead, Dr. Barb Thomas. We would like to congratulate her for receiving the Western Agricultural Economics Association Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for her thesis, "Productivity and Technology Adoption in the Alberta Forest Sector". The award recognizes outstanding research by graduate students. Her work earner her a Master of Science in Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Genome Alberta at Childhood Arthritis and Beyond 2019

Genome Alberta’s President and CEO David Bailey (pictured at left) gave a presentation at the April conference hosted by the UCAN project. UCAN CURE: Precision Decisions for Childhood Arthritis is a joint project between Ontario Genomics and Genome Alberta and is aiming to improve the health and quality of life for children with arthritis. It is a 2017 LSARP project running through to 2022 and is lead by Rae Yeung at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children and Susan Benseler from the Alberta Hospital Research Institute in Calgary.

Read more about the project and about the related UCAN CAN-DU Canada-Netherlands Personalized Medicine Network in Childhood Arthritis and Rheumatic Diseases. You can find a copy of David Bailey’s presentation (pdf file) on our website. Also in attendance at the meeting was Matt Bryman, Director of Programs for Genome Alberta.

And the winners are …..

Alberta’s Science fair season has come to an end and the top winners now have their sights set on the Canada wide competition in New Brunswick this month. We sponsor all the Science Fairs in Alberta and offer plaques and cash prizes in specific categories.

Visit our website to see a complete list of winners and a slide show featuring many of the winning entrants.

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.

Hacking Darwin

Our trending story this week is not here for the usual reasons. Hacking Darwin: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity is certainly timely, which ensured that it would not go unnoticed, but a well-planned PR effort has put it at top of the page across our media and social media monitoring. For bonus points, its author Jamie Metzl does not seem to be media-shy – a lesson for all would be science writers.

If you go no further than The Economist, you will get a good overall take on the book. There is a 21-minute audio podcast featuring Mr. Metzl, and an article with an interview, and an excerpt from the section on the history of eugenics. Another excellent interview about the genetic revolution is from Christiane Amanpour’s CNN program which is repurposed for PBS and as an audio podcast. The April 24th program is available as an Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, TuneIn Radio, and many other sources. We have not managed to find the single audio segment, but you can fast forward to about the 40-minute mark and listen to Hari Sreenivasan’s interview with Jamie Metzl. The video segment from Amanpour & Company is not available in all regions but you can try this link to see the interview as it was broadcast.

The Quartz website used the dramatic headline "The designer baby debate could start a war" to run an excerpt from the book. The excerpt may very well be summed up in a couple of sentences, “Is it so outlandish to believe that countries in the future might resort to military force to prevent other countries from altering the shared genetic code of humanity? Many countries have been invaded for far less.” The Genetic Literacy Project’s "Biotech Facts and Fallacies" podcast does not shy away either with talk of genetically engineered soldiers and the end of sex (even though that is not quite what Metzl has suggested).

The New York Times let the author speak for himself in an Opinion piece that came out before the public release of the book. He projects into the future and talks about the straight up ethical issues of doing what some people may see as simply doing the right thing for their children.

The final read we are going to suggest comes from The Atlantic Council, a non-partisan policy think tank. Apart from viewing Hacking Darwin as a must read it points out that the e-book is available free of charge to parliamentarians anywhere in the world.


Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Mice inherit cancer susceptibility via epigenetic changes in sperm

Mouse fathers whose sperm lacks the gene Kdm6a pass down altered methylation patterns to male offspring, along with a better chance of developing tumors and dying. Read more in The Scientist or see the study in eLife.

From our blog pages:

As the Alberta Epigenetics Network heads towards its planned wind up date, we have been moving some of the blog posts from the AEN website to our main genomics blog. Here are a few that have made the move so far:

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.

Genetic breakthrough on tropical grass could help develop climate-friendly cattle farms

The discovery of genes responsible for asexual reproduction in a tropical grass may reduce negative impacts of cattle farming. The grass captures carbon, reduces gas emissions from soils, restores degraded land, and improves cattle health and productivity.
Source: CIAT

Sickly sweet or just right? How genes control your taste for sugar

Genetics can have an influence on our perception of sweetness. What is too sweet for you may be just right for your friends. Maybe the success of your local donut shop depends on the genetics of its customers!
Source: The Conversation

Attempt to create virus-resistant crop could be dangerous: U of A researchers

An effort to develop virus resistant cassava plants had unexpected consequences. The use of CRISPR technology ended up encouraging the plant to resist intervention.
Source: Calgary Herald and Genome Biology

DNA search angels: the Facebook 'detectives' who help reunite families

Direct-to-consumer DNA test transformed how genetics could be applied to tracing your family tree, and the internet has made searching for relatives easier. Now technology has created a new career for some people. DNA sleuths who will help you use all the high and low tech tools available to create your family tree.
Source: The Guardian

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!

PRION 2019

PRION 2019 brings together researchers, clinicians, policy-makers and industry members from around the world to discuss emerging concepts in prion diseases and dementias with prion-like pathobiology such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, tauopathies and ALS.

Synthetic Biology for Bioindustrial and Biomedical Applications

This one day workshop and networking event is hosted by the University of Alberta at the TELUS Centre for Professional Development in Edmonton on Friday May 24th. Discover synthetic biology and its future potential for applications in Alberta.

WHEN: Friday May 24th, 2019, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
WHERE: University of Alberta TELUS Centre for Professional Development, 111th St 87th Ave, Edmonton

Free registration on the workshop website. RSVP by Friday, May 17th, 2019.
Lunch, and coffee/snacks will be provided


Inventure$ 2019 is a network full of big ideas. This must-attend “unconference” for creative minds connects entrepreneurs and start-ups with venture capitalists, angel investors, service providers, and thought leaders to discover and share the latest in innovation—all with the Canadian Rockies at your doorstep.

One of the keynote speaker is Temple Grandin, animal science professor at Colorado State University, livestock industry consultant in the area of animal behavior, and an advocate for people with autism.

Genome Alberta will once again be on hand with a special evening event. Stand by for details!

When: June 5 - 7, 2019
Where: Calgary

Registration and details available at the Inventure$ site.


The 7th International Symposium on Applied Microbiology and Molecular Biology in Oil Systems (ISMOS-7) is the largest event discussing microbiology and molecular biology in the oil and gas industry. This conference explores the application of emerging microbial and molecular tools to help resolve challenges faced by the industry.

Don't miss the Kitchen Party, sponsored by Genome Alberta, at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship on Wednesday, June 19! This promises to be a symposium highlight.

When: June 18-21, 2019
Where: Halifax Convention Centre, Halifax Nova Scotia

More information, including registration, is available at the symposium website.

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