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June 1, 2017

Volume 30 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

Ontario Genomics appoints new President and CEO

Bettina Hamelin has been appointed President and CEO of Ontario Genomics effective August 1st. Her previous role was as Vice-President of Research Partnerships at the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and spent 12 years in Medical R&D leadership roles at Pfizer Inc.

GAPP Round 7 awards $17 million

A team from Genesus and the University of Alberta, has been awarded $3.4 million as one of the five projects which received new funding in the latest Genomic Applications Partnership Program announcement. “Development of Genomic Crossbred Estimate Breeding Values to maximize profitability for Canadian pork producers” is led by Graham Plastow at the University of Alberta, and Robert Kemp from Genesus Inc.

The full media release and background information on the projects is available on the Genome Canada website.

Genome Alberta hosts climate change workshop

In conjunction with Emissions Reduction Alberta and Genome Canada, Genome Alberta organized a climate change workshop in Edmonton last week. There were 40 academic, industry, and policy representatives at the workshop which focused on biological tools to meet the challenges posed by climate change. A report from the workshop will be available in 4 to 6 weeks. The evening before the workshop, Genome Alberta hosted a reception for the attendees and for Members of the Alberta Legislature. Greetings from the Government were delivered by the Honourable O’Neil Carlier, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry pictured at left with Genome Alberta CEO David Bailey.

Funding opportunity for Alberta SMES with a cancer focus

Through its ASBIRI—Alberta Small Business Innovation and Research Initiative and Accelerating Innovation into Care funding programs, Alberta Innovates is leading the upcoming Early Detection of Cancer Challenge. The purpose of the Challenge is to identify and support the development of cancer detection/diagnostic technologies that will drive the growth of an Alberta diagnostics company while simultaneously enhancing outcomes for patients with cancer.

Application deadline is June 21st so better check into the details soon.

New Canada Research Chair at University of Lethbridge

Dr. Athanasios Zovoilis, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has been named a Tier II Canada Research Chair in RNA Bioinformatics and Genomics. He will receive $500,000 in funding through the Canada Research Chair program and more than $53,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund for laboratory tools and equipment.

More details on the U of L website.

Watch: The genome engineering revolution: CRISPR and SynBio

The was lots of discussion about gene editing at the 2017 Genomics Forum hosted by Genome BC on May 25th. There were sessions on genome engineering as it applies to human health, agri-food and natural resources, and a session on the social and ethical aspects of the technology. 

The sessions were recorded and the videos are available on YouTube.

U of A-led registry to eliminate brain tumour unknowns

Brain tumours can’t be prevented and are hard to treat. The statistics we use to track the incidences of tumours, survival rates, and to monitor patterns are generally based on U.S. data. A University of Alberta researcher is heading up a new national registry with a Canadian focus.

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.

American Science Budget Merry Go Round

Neil deGrasee Tyson recently made a video about science in America pointing out why science is important and why we need to support it. It has been viewed 325,000 times on YouTube and often appears in the same digital breath as discussions about funding U.S. science research and development. Or as the Verge put it, the plan to destroy U.S. science.

The White House budget proposal for 2018 has a long way to go before it is passed and the general feeling is that the ‘skinny budget’ will put on weight along the way. However even the proposed cuts to things such as the National Institute of Health can hurt science in America because of the climate of uncertainty and the signalling of priorities. The new French President has seen what might be coming and is urging scientists to move to France. Wired Magazine suggests that the cuts to science are because the White House either doesn’t know what science is or doesn’t care.

The current proposal would cut the NIH budget by 18%, the CDC by 17%, the FDA by 31%, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality would disappear altogether. Scientific American has a good review of the science related budget items and is keeping the page updated regularly. We will also update you regularly in our newsletters or you can monitor some of the details yourself with the Federal Science Budget Tracker from the American Institute of Physics.

Naylor Report Update

The Naylor Report was released on April 10th, got lots of attention for a few days, then all went quiet. 200+ Scientists and researchers changed that on May 31st when they gathered in Toronto with David Naylor to talk about what to do next to push the recommendations along. Unlike some of our trending stories that garner a lot of attention over weeks, the meeting only had a brief online moment, but it was a moment that went deep into Twitter’s science community. It made several trending lists including the Top 5 Canada trends on Twitter, and topped Toronto’s trending list. If you have any doubts about how science harnesses social media, just search for #SciRevYYZ

Here is a small sample of what was posted on Twitter that day:
  • Must look at under-represented minorities in research and build opportunities for them to participate and engage in science
  • Naylor: without new $$, no leader of a research Council can be successful.
  • Need to be forward looking with @CIHR_IRSC - support for reinvestment and the new leadership – Naylor
  • Challenges to Naylor report implementation: low bar for science funding being set in the US
  • How to support Naylor report: "give salient e.g., personalize, tell stories, translate, keep it positive, highlight the potential"
  • The failure of ����government to cover universities' cost of research is borne by undergraduate students. - David Naylor
  • Naylor: lots to be proud of with #cdnsci but we're no longer punching above our weight as a small nation
  • Q&A: should researchers form a lobby group? Count me in - let's do this and push the government - I'll sign up
  • Communicating the #Naylorreport to MPs, PMO with a strong and unified voice #supportthereport 

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Turning back the epigenetic clock with exercise

A new study has looked at exercise to determine whether or not it had the potential to alter genes. The result suggest that exercise-associated DNA methylation modification could tinker with out 'epigenetic clock'. The complete results are in the British Journal of Sports Medicine or you can get a quick overview on the Regenexx website.
Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine

New postdoctoral fellow job opportunity

The BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute has an opening for a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Epigenetics and Asthma. The successful applicant will work on collaborative project directed by Drs. Stuart Turvey and Michael Kobor. The position will be translational and interdisciplinary in nature aimed at examining whole genome DNA methylation and global gene expression in a large birth cohort dedicated to defining the origins of asthma. If you have a recent PhD or MD/PhD with a strong background and publication record in a relevant field, more information on the position and how to apply is just a click away.
Source: UBC

Tea consumption leads to epigenetic changes in women

In the seemingly endless list of things that may affect your health and lifestyle, tea has come under more scrutiny. There is evidence that that tea consumption in women leads to epigenetic changes in genes that are known to interact with cancer and estrogen metabolism. But men are not prone to the same epigenetic effects. Take a quick sip of the study at Medical Xpress or take a deeper drink from the original study if you have full access to Human Molecular Genetics.
Source: Human Molecular Genetics

Listen: Epigenetics and lung disease

This 20 minute podcast starts off with Dr. Steven Huang defining epigenetics and looking back at how our understanding has changed over the years. He is an Assistant Professor of Medicine, in the section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, at the University of Michigan Medical School. Dr. Huang studies epigenetics in the context of pulmonary fibrosis. In a conversation with Dr. Maor Sauler on the American Thoracic Society website, he talks about how research is increasingly identifying epigenetic changes as contributors to the pathogenesis of lung disease.
Source: American Thoracic Society

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.

WATCH: Helping make regenerative medicine a reality

This video is the most recent in a series of Research Excellence videos posted by the University of Alberta. It focuses mainly on the Alberta Cell Therapy Manufacturing facility at the U of A. Several researchers who are working on cell therapy strategies to treat diseases, talk about the importance of the equipment and expertise that are part of the facility.
Source: University of Alberta

WATCH: Illumina CEO: When you invest in health research you actually create jobs

Francis deSouza, the CEO of Illumina was on CNBC to talk about the future of genome sequencing, growth, and government science funding. He acknowledge the importance of consumer genetic testing but views health research as the important driver for his industry. He calls it a trifecta because it improves health outcomes, lowers health costs, and creates jobs.
Source: CNBC

The direct-to-consumer genetic testing fog

Genetic tests are being sold as a way to bring you personalized beer and wine recommendations, find the perfect date, and customize your diet and exercise regime. There is no science to back up the products but many companies are making money by ignoring the facts. Tim Caulfield from the University of Alberta confesses he may have a gene that makes him inclined to like movies with Dwayne the Rock Johnson, but that is no more reliable than many other genetic testing products on the market.
Source: Policy Options

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!

Genomics and Society - Expanding the ELSI Universe

The 4th ELSI Congress is the latest in a series of major conferences for researchers and others interested in the ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) of genomic research.

Topics for keynote and plenary sessions include:
  • The Evolution and Future of ELSI Research
  • Synthesizing the Human Genome
  • Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of the Precision Medicine Initiative
  • Genome Sequencing Enters the Clinic
  • Genes, Ancestry and Identity
When: June 5 - 7, 2017
Where: UConn Health/Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine campus, Farmington, Connecticut

More information and registration link

Personalized Medicine Summit

The 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit 2017 follows on from the highly successful first summit in 2015, which resulted in a consensus advisory document, the Roadmap for Bringing Personalized Medicine to British Columbians.

The deliverable of the summit meeting will be an updated edition of the 2015 roadmap publication to assist government, the public and healthcare providers to implement personalized precision medicine to result in more efficient and effective healthcare.

When: June 11-13, 2017
Where: Life Sciences Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Register now for the 2nd Personalized Medicine Summit

Additional summit information, including program & accommodations

Forest Health and Productivity - joint meeting of the CFGA 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. Abstracts are now being accepted for Posters and Volunteer presentations.

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

Canadian Forest Genetics Association

Registration Details

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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