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July 3, 2018

Volume 35 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.

Genomics part of Nova Scotia investment in offshore research

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy has outlined how more geoscience work will proceed as part of the government’s four-year $11.8-million commitment to the second phase of the Offshore Growth Strategy.

An interesting part of that strategy is to continue the work of the Genome Atlantic, Genome Alberta, Genome Canada GAPP Round 5 project on de-risking offshore oil and gas exploration. Putting microbiology to work to narrow down likely drilling sites is a new idea and Casey Hubert (pictured at left during one of the video shoots for the project) and his team at the University of Calgary are breaking new ground. Some bacteria thrive on hydrocarbons and can be found around seeps—areas where petroleum naturally bubbles up out of the seabed. These bacteria can provide an indication of petroleum trapped beneath the surface.

Genome Atlantic led the production of a video about the work being done and you can find the video and more information about the new Nova Scotia investment in offshore research on our website.

Iain Stewart reappointed as President of National Research Council

Mr. Stewart has been serving as President of the NRC since August 24, 2016. Prior to joining the NRC, he held various leadership positions throughout the public service, notably as Associate Secretary of the Treasury Board and as Assistant Secretary of the International Affairs, Security and Justice Sector at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. He also held a number of key science leadership positions at Industry Canada, including Assistant Deputy Minister of the Strategic Policy Sector, Secretary to the panel on Federal Support to Research and Development (known as the “Jenkins panel”), and Associate Assistant Deputy Minister of the Science and Innovation Sector. Outside the public service, Mr. Stewart served as Assistant Vice-President, Research at Dalhousie University and was a member of the NRC Council.

This reappointment will enable Mr. Stewart to build on the results he achieved during his first term as NRC President and continue the work he launched with the NRC Dialogue.

Génome Québec supports Montreal Cancer Consortium

The multi-institutional Montreal Cancer Consortium (MCC) comprises the Centre de recherche du Centre hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal, Goodman Cancer Research Centre, Centre de Recherche Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, Institute for Research in Immunology and Cancer, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University, the Université de Montréal, Génome Québec Innovation Centre, and the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre.

The MCC will receive $6.5 million over the next two years from several organizations supporting the initiative. As the project catalyst, TFRI is providing $2 million and Oncopole, Genome Québec, Goodman Cancer Research Centre and Institut du Cancer de Montréal are among several other co-funders. The Consortium will focus on immunotherapy treatments for melanoma and acute leukemia initially and use the knowledge and resources gained to support other cancer types.

The complete media release from last week’s announcement is available on the Terry Fox Research Institute website.

Who were the Alberta public sector’s biggest earners in 2017?

Health executives, deputy ministers and pathologists continued to be among the best-paid members of Alberta’s public sector last year, according to new data released by the province.
The so-called annual “sunshine list” of the government’s top compensated employees is required to be released by June 30, but the province decided to disclose it more than a week early this year.
See the write up in the Edmonton Journal and the full list available 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.


Thanks to a Canadian Press series on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), “superbugs” popped up regularly in our top keywords this week.

The opening piece in the series was “Contagion: A new front in war against superbugs” and this particular take on the series comes from the Halifax Chronical Herald. It outlined the problem and gave it a regional context by noting that superbug rates in hospitals are lower in the Atlantic region compared to central and western Canada. The CP series pushed the keywords up in our media monitoring and that ensured other superbug references surfaced as well. The Guardian always covers science well, and over the last few years that has included the rise of antimicrobial resistance. Remember how the SARS virus spread through Hong Kong and around the world? This Guardian article warns that it is only a matter of time before the next epidemic and it will be much harder to combat this time around.

The growth of micro-organisms able to overcome the drugs we use to treat them, has been on the rise around the world for decades and the Times Colonist says that Canada has been slow to act on the problem. The story includes a 3 minute video featuring a BC woman talking about the death of her husband who died from an infection that his chemotherapy weakened system could not counteract and that could not be treated because of antimicrobial resistance. As an aside it amazes your newsletter editor how often media or bloggers post videos without giving thought to what may come before or after the video. This story about the death of George Gould is a touching one from the very outset but preceding the video I was treated to an ad that was a comic take on investing. We have the technology to avoid that happening!

There are many reasons why AMR is getting out of hand and one of those reasons is the use of antibiotics in farming. New regulations, consumers demand, and more awareness of the problem are moving the dial in the right direction but over medication of livestock is still a contributing factor to AMR. At home and around the world, producers are worried that less antibiotic use means less income. A video from the Globe & Mail and a story from the National Post will help you understand the farmer’s perspective.

There is a glimmer of good news on the subject. There are startups willing to invest the time and money to find new ways to meet the challenge says Bloomberg news.

Finally, would you really prefer that people in your social media stream not share the latest tale of misery associated with a cold, flu, or other malady? Let them do it because it can help in the AMR fight according to the Huffington Post. Infodemiology and infoveillance have become recognized (and perhaps made-up) words to help provide real time information that can be used to identify AMR challenges by helping public health officials get a better picture of infectious disease outbreaks.

Theranos may trend here for years to come

The U.S. Secretary of Defence, James Matis was on the Board of Directors for Theranos after he retired from the military, but while still in the service he was an advocate for using the company’s technology inside the military according to Vox. Even though the Wall Street Journal first exposed the technology as not viable in October of 2015, Mattis was still advocating for the use of Theranos services in December.

Theranos Inc founder Elizabeth Holmes was indicted by a federal grand jury in California on charges of wire fraud 2 weeks ago, and a few day ago Holmes lost her request for a stay on the charges. Also charged was former Theranos president, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who has been less visible throughout the scandal but who is now speaking out saying he was not part of any fraud and did not benefit financially.

If you want a little more context try this piece from the conservative magazine and website, The Weekly Standard.

And of course keep reading our newsletter because along with Goop, we’re sure Theranos will never let us down when it comes to trending content.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Epigenetic mediated plant response to climate changes

Severe climate conditions e.g. frost at a critical stage of plant reproductive development can reduce crop yield by 25%. However, cold acclimatization creates tolerance. A new study has shown that cold induces epigenetic changes (HOS15-mediated chromatin modifications) that regulate abiotic stress processes thereby inducing cold tolerance and makes plants hardy.

Single-cell multi-omics sequencing of human early embryos

Fertilization, and subsequent development of the zygote, and later the embryo, is an important phase of early human development where critical epigenetic reprogramming occurs. However, not much is known of the epigenetic state of gametes and embryonic stem cells, before and as they prepare for implantation. Methylation and chromatin states at this stage, and their interrelationship, is believed to play an important role in regulating gene expression in the embryo. A new study provides deeper understanding of the epigenetic reprogramming tha occurs during human preimplantation development. The group used ‘single-cell chromatin overall omic-scale landscape sequencing (scCOOL-seq)’ to study the chromatin state and DNA methylation of human embryos before implantation, simultaneously in the same cell. Using SNPs, researchers tracked the epigenetic reprogramming of each parental genome in the cells, identified from the donors' own genomes. The paternal genome was highly methylated before fertilization, but quickly demethylated after fertilization while the maternal genome was more methylated after fertilization.
Source: Nature Cell Biology

Ribowest Conference 2018

AEN partnered with Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) and University of Lethbridge to organize the 2018 Ribowest Conference from June 10-13, 2018. Attended by over 100 researchers from across the country and North Western United States, the meeting focussed on current RNA research in transcription, translation, RNA processing etc. as it relates to investigating genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics etc. Opening keynote lectures were delivered by Epigenomics and Bioinformatics researchers Drs. Martin Hirst and Steve Jones (University of British Columbia). Other keynotes included Dr. Michelle Scott (University de Sherbrooke) on transcriptomics, the Gairdner Lecture by Dr. Nahum Sonenberg on RNA translation (University of McGill) and the closing keynote by Dr. Jennifer Kugel on non-coding RNA (University of Colorado Boulder, USA). The meeting also featured Young Investigator lecture and poster competitions sponsored by AEN.

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.

Are genetic testing sites the new social networks?

Your GenOmics editor first compared the behind-the-paywall part of 23andMe to Facebook years ago in a presentation in Washington, DC. This article gives a far more eloquent description of how the genealogical resources sharing aspect of genetic testing services connects people.
Source: NY Times

Let’s Talk Science Outreach welcomes First Nations University of Canada as 48th Outreach site

In 2016-2017 school year Let’s Talk Science Outreach engaged over 286,000 youth and educators from coast to coast to coast in hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences. The outreach opportunities are made possible thanks to the support of companies like Bayer Canada who recently partnered with Let’s Talk Science through a $150,000 donation. First Nations University of Canada in Regina and the partnership combining will combine Indigenous knowledge and STEM.
Source: Let’s Talk Science

Frankengenes: U of A law prof says rules for gene-editing should be sensible

University of Alberta law professors are drafting a policy to regulate gene editing research. The initiative comes after U of A researchers published a paper which explained how their team purchased and assembled bits of mail-order DNA from the internet, and how the resulting virus was able to infect cells and reproduce. Critics worried that the research was taking place in a “wild west-style policy vacuum” and that it was opening the door to unethical and harmful uses of the technology.
Source: Edmonton Journal

Gene-edited farm animals are on their way

Disease is one of the greatest challenges to pork production and one of the hardest to manage. Feed, genetics, and environment all come into play and researchers from the Rosliln Institute at the University of Edinburgh have come up with at least one solution to the genetic part of the problem. They have used gene editing to delete a small region of pig DNA which will prevent the PRRS virus from gaining a foothold on the surfaces of pig cells.
Source: BBC

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!

Forage to Beef - Waldron Ranch Grazing Co-op

Join Foothills Forage & Grazing Assocation and Livestock Gentec for a tour of Waldron Ranch Grazing Co-op featuring:
  • Grazing systems (Continuous, rotational & never grazed pasture management systems)
  • Economic advantage of vigour in the cow herd
  • Drone application in ranch management
  • Grazing sheep to control Leafy Spurge - A success story
Genome Alberta supported researcher John Basarab will be presenting on the science and benefits of EnVigour

Registration includes morning coffee & snacks, lunch and bus transportation from Maycroft Community Hall to the Waldron Ranch.
Meet at Maycroft Community Hall for 9:00am. Please prepare to spend a significant portion of the day outside. Registration closes Tuesday, July 3rd.

When: 10 July 2018,  9:00 AM – 3:30 PM
Where: Maycroft Community Hall, Maycroft Ab.

Register online

1st Alberta Neurodevelopment Neuroscience Meeting

The 1st Alberta Neurodevelopmental Neuroscience Meeting is a public forum for clinicians and scientists involved in NDD and genomics, as well as for families living with neurodiversities, including Autism Spectrum Disorder.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Evan Eichler from Seattle. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher and world-leader in genomic in ID and ASD research.
Sebastien Jacquemont, a leader on CNV in ID and ASD will also be on hand for a number of sessions.

Participants may follow either the Molecular & Biomarkers stream, or the Patient and Family stream.

Sessions include (subject to confirmation):

Molecular & Biomarkers
  • Understanding the genetic architecture of autism
  • Genome died effects of haplo-insufficiency and over expression on cognition and behaviour and implications for diagnostics in the neuro-developmetal clinic
  • Measuring Executive Function in Early Childhood
  • Targeted Treatments in FXS

Patient & Family
  • How to support your child’s journey through Special Education
  • Occupational Therapy support for the Development of Fine Motor and Play Skills
  • Living in the Moment while Planning for the Future
  • An Innovative Model of Care Coordination for Children with NDDs and Concurrent Medical/Social Complexities

‘Tis the season for kid’s summer camps and here's a summer-long weekly camp in the Lethbridge area:

ULeth Destination Exploration Summer Camp

Keep an eye out for future scientists and inventors on campus this summer – Destination Exploration summer camps start July 3 and run until August 24. Hundreds of campers will experience the excitement of STEM at Grossology, Farm Camp, Ancient Technology and Tech Sampler camps, along with many other exciting options.

Each day, campers will learn about amazing facts, complete interactive experiments, discover new technologies and make new friends. Campers will also get to experience some of the research that is happening on campus with several faculty and graduate student-led activities and tours.

Destination Exploration Summer Camps are put together by an amazing team of dedicated staff. Camp instructors have put in a great deal of effort to make this summer a great one for campers. Camp is also made possible by wonderful volunteers, grad student TAs and management staff.

Week Two offers:
  • Grossology
    Grossology is the study of all things gross! Slimy, sneezy, snotty, eewey, gooey and the things you can’t talk about at the dinner table will be the topic of this week! Ages 6 – 9.
  • Maker Girl
    This girls-only space is a great place to design create, problem-solve and learn new sciences & technologies. Learn coding and combine crafting with tech. Get messy with science experiments! Ages 8 – 11.
  • Ancient Technology
    How did our ancient ancestors survive? What kind of tools did they need to live? You will get to build primitive tools, make ancient dyes, and learn early engineering practices. Ages 8 – 11.
  • Codemakers – Code Breakers
    Computer coding is all around us! Students will learn the basics of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Python coding to build their own website, program a computer game, and develop life-long tech skills. Ages 11 – 13.

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