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May 16, 2018

Volume 34 Issue 4


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.

Alberta Applied Agricultural Genomics program update

In early April, Genome Alberta, in partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry launched a new funding competition to support the advancement of genomics-enabled research to address challenges and opportunities important to Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food sectors.

We had an excellent response to our call for registrations and the quality of those submissions speaks well of the province’s ag research community.

The list of registrations being asked to submit Letters of Intent is now on our website.

Synthetic biology: biotech, the next generation

Synthetic biology combines biology and engineering to produce innovations across multiple sectors with a strong genomics foundation.

The 2018 Canada SynBio conference held in March in Toronto was the first national conference in Canada focused on synthetic biology, in partnership with ISED Canada, Genome Canada and regional Genome Centres, the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, MaRS Discovery District and Autodesk, alongside sponsors Integrated DNA Technologies, Twist Bioscience, and CropLife Canada.

The conference organizers have released the Canada SynBio 2018 discussion paper The Present and Future State of Synthetic Biology in Canada (Kinder, Jeff and Robbins, Mark, The Institute on Governance, 2018) and it is available for download (pdf file).

Genome BC invests $1 million in Canadian 3D bioprinting company

Genome BC has announced $1 million in funding to Aspect Biosystems, a privately held biotechnology company focused on commercializing cutting-edge 3D bioprinting technologies.

Aspect’s Lab-on-a-Printer™ 3D bioprinting platform technology enables the rapid creation of functional living tissues. The therapeutic applications are broad and have attracted the attention of global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.

Sniffer bees help hives survive

With the support of Genome BC and Genome Canada UBC researcher Leonard Foster is trying to prevent bee deaths. He is using molecular genetics in the lab and bee breeding techniques in the field to develop “sniffer bees”.

Read more from the Richmond Sentinel.

Canada's top science prize won by researcher who spies on shape-shifting proteins

Lewis Kay, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto and a senior scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children, has won Canada top science prize, Herzberg Gold Medal. It is awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to recognize "research contributions characterized by both excellence and influence." The medal comes with a $1 million dollar grant spread out over 5 years.

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.

U.S. moves to shut down dodgy stem cell clinics

The U.S. Department of Justice filed lawsuits to shut down clinics in Florida and California that have been marketing and performing unapproved and unproven stem cell treatments to patients. The initial targets of the California lawsuit are California Stem Cell Treatment Center and Surgical Network Corporation which, according to the LA Times, charges patients thousands of dollars per treatment. The Florida filing is against U.S. Stem Cell Clinic.

Though there has been a great deal of media coverage of suspect stem cell treatments, the number of clinics continues to grow as desperate patients look for a last chance at health or search for a miracle cure. Many patients end up going deeply into debt for the uninsured treatments and the clinics reap the rewards – sometimes benefiting from celebrity-led hype.

CIRM, California’s Stem Cell Agency is one of many organization that has been pushing for the crackdown, but even in the face of such opposition the clinics have said they will “vigorously defend” themselves against the actions.

We aren’t seeing quite the same activity here in Canada, but the controversial U.S. stem cell clinics do have Canadian connections. Health Canada is investigating some of the clinics and procedures but as the head of one of the Canadian clinics said “"I didn't alert them that I'm doing it,"… "I get very upset when the government — certainly the federal government — interferes with the patient-physician relationship." There is even an Alberta connection that your GenOmics editor brought to the attention of the media resulting in this interview on CBC radio.

This is not likely the end of the crackdown so check future newsletters to help keep you up-to-date.

Theranos Update

The scandal that brought down Theranos has an impressive list of people who lost money on their investments. The family that owns Walmart, the U.S. Secretary of Education (and some of her relatives), and a media mogul, all got caught as the company came tumbling down according to unsealed court documents.

Read the details in the NY Times.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

St. Boniface Hospital research complex, an incubator for success

Thirty years ago a group of scientists had a brand new empty building in Winnipeg filled with nothing more than desks, and a vision of the future. That vision is now 3 buildings with 250 people who work in health, agri-food, and medical research. The past and present got together recently to celebrate the success of the St. Boniface Research complex and this story from the Winnipeg Free Press will give you some appreciation of what has been achieved over 3 decades. Raja Singh, the Director of our Alberta Epigenetics Network is an alumnus of the research centre and he is pictured at the left with Henry Friesen, one of the founders of cardio-vascular research at the centre.

Alzheimer’s disease symptoms reversed in flies by balancing enzymes

By 2050 another American will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease every 30 seconds. Curing the disease is rapidly becoming as much an economic issue as it is a quality of life problem and researchers are now looking to epigenetics for cures. It has only been done in fruit flies so far but a team at Drexel University has reversed symptoms by adjusting the production of certain enzymes. This article from Newsweek includes a short video outlining the societal impact of Alzheimer’s

Identical twins hint at how environments change gene expression

Through their similarities and differences, twins offer insight into the effects of genetics and the environment. Twins who were reared apart offer particularly powerful case studies and this story from The Atlantic covers several cases. You’ll find the “Jim Twins” particularly interesting – if not a little creepy

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.

Six promising genetically engineered animals stuck in regulatory purgatory

The Canadian led effort to develop a genetically modified salmon met with scientific and regulatory success. It is however, pretty much alone when it comes to genetically modified food that will appear on your table.

Door will open to genetic discrimination if act protecting Canadians is overturned, genomics expert says

Quebec is challenging Canada's Genetic Non-Discrimination Act which became law in 2017. The province is challenging the constitutionality of the act saying that by making it illegal to deny a service based on someone's genetic test results, the act infringes on the regulation of the insurance industry — a provincial jurisdiction.

Will You Eat CRISPR Produce?

With improved gene-editing techniques scientists can add desirable traits to plants with more precision and at less cost. Jennifer Doudna, one of the inventors of CRISPR technology, has said she believes CRISPR’s swiftest impact will be on agriculture. But will consumers tuck into a meal of it?
Source: The Medium

Stock photos of scientists reveal that science is mostly about staring

When you can’t find a ‘real’ photo of a ‘real’ scientist the fall back is stock photography. Those stock seem to be revealing the truth about science - that it is mostly about staring. Some of those real scientists have taken to Twitter to post some of their favourite #BadStockPhotosOfMyJob .
Source: The Verge

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!

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.

14th Annual Conference of the Metabolomics Society

Hold the Date for Metabolomics 2018: June 24-28, 2018

The 14th Annual Conference of the Metabolomics Society will be held in Seattle, Washington, USA on June 24-28, 2018. The Society’s annual conference consistently features the latest developments and applications in the field of metabolomics.

Further details will be released regularly at metabolomics2018.org.

The Art of Leadership for Women

The Art of Leadership for Women brings together a unique collection of extraordinary, influential women whose talent, drive and passion have established them as dynamic leaders and change agents. These role models share their personal stories while shining a humanistic lens on many of the narratives and issues confronting women in business today.

Speakers include:
  • Arianna Huffington
  • Laura Vanderkam
  • Tiffany Dufu
  • Dr. Annie McKee
  • Tammy Heermann
When: June 26, 2018
Where: Calgary Telus Convention Centre

Learn more & register at the conference website.

Atlantic Venture Forum

The entrepreneurial landscape has changed significantly since the first Atlantic Venture Forum (AVF) in 2013. As the ecosystem continues to gain momentum, the AVF is being transformed to meet the needs of this dynamic region. New ventures and growth stage companies need more than just financial capital to succeed. Innovation, partnerships, ingenuity, and expertise are just a few of the ingredients for an entrepreneur’s tech success story.

The forum offers:
  • Networking: Tech industry executives, entrepreneurs, Investors, corporate strategics, research partners, and more.
  • Inspiration and Ingenuity: A technology showcase featuring outstanding early stage companies complimented by mature growth stage companies, all from the Atlantic Canadian region.
  • Business Intelligence: The latest investment and innovation trends direct from industry experts.

When: June 28-29, 2018
Where: Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Click to visit the conference website for information about speakers and program schedule.

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