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August 2, 2018

Volume 35 Issue 3


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.

$1.65M for synthetic biology research and training at Concordia

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has committed $1.65 million dollars over six years to establish a research and training program at Concordia’s Centre for Applied Synthetic Biology. The Synthetic Biology Applications - or SynBioApps – program will help students develop professional skills that complement their academic education and improve their job-readiness. It will be open to students from biology, biochemistry, engineering, computing, and mathematics.

U of T innovation centre to help form ‘new cornerstone’ of the Canadian economy

If you are in Toronto over the next couple of years keep look across the street from the MaRS Discovery District where College Street and University Avenue meet. Between now and 2021 you will see a new innovation complex rise to support and increase the University of Toronto’s biomedical and regenerative medicine activities.

You can read more on the U of T website.

Research vessel departs for study of 'black hole' of Hudson Bay

The GENICE project (2015 LSARP) is set to hitch a ride on board a crab boat that has been re-fitted as a research vessel. GENICE is a collaborative effort led by Genome Alberta, with the involvement of Genome Prairie, Genome Quebec, multiple academic institutions, the Town of Churchill, and the Aqiqik Hunters & Trappers Organization. The project is looking at the role of nature's own 'first responders' - the resident microbial communities which are part of a natural bioremediation process.

The CBC has a good story about the voyage of the William Kennedy, and the Arctic Research Foundation has posted a video featuring members of the GENICE team.

New science communicator programs

The Genome Alberta supported Science Borealis blogging network is helping train up and coming science bloggers through its New Science Communicator programs. The 2 programs are designed to coach new science wroters and provide them with experience working directly with editors. The programs are not open to individuals but are provided through sponsoring partners such as universities and professional organizations.

  • New Science Communicator Workshop: a stand-alone science communications workshop fully managed and delivered by Science Borealis.
  • Pitch and Polish: for students who are currently enrolled in a science communications course and are under the supervision of an instructor. Management and some editorial tasks are shared between the Science Borealis mentor and the students’ course instructor.

Learn more on the Science Borealis website.

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.

“Organisms obtained by mutagenesis are GMOs and are, in principle, subject to the obligations laid down by the GMO Directive”

With that headline ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union, researchers and companies working on gene editing technology have been sent into a tailspin. The initial news stories were surprisingly vague and only referred to a “series of new biotechnology breeding techniques” that were now under the GMO umbrella. Within 24 hours however science writers, news outlets, and researchers had sunk their teeth into what has happened.

“Absurd” is how Matt Ridley described the ruling in The Times. He went on to say that the ruling was based more on politics and lobbying than it was on science and expert panels. The debate on how to treat gene edited plants and animals has been going on for a decade, but now that there is a ruling in place the feeling is that the biotech industry may have lost 10 years of effort and the Guardian said it was a setback for UK scientists involved in field trials of gene edited camelina crops. Nature quotes one researcher saying “This will have a chilling effect on research”. It also seems likely that European research will simply shift overseas to North America.

Farm Futures has been following the story and posted a short summary as well as a comment from U.S. Agricultural Secretary Sunny Perude on the ruling. Steven Salzberg a contributor to Forbes Magazine was not impressed with the ruling and suggested that salt, wild boar, and wild blueberries were about the only food that would not be classified as GMO. The New York Times feels the ruling is sowing confusion and said it raises a more fundamental question about what genetically modified actually means now.

Needless to say however, some see this as nothing more than a victory over Monsanto.

We can’t leave that as the final word and instead leave that to Feed Navigator which echoes the broad feeling from the research community that there needs to be a science based legal framework for new plant breeding techniques.


Goopy Update

Never fear, Gwyneth is here to ensure that Trending Stories never runs short of material. The New York Times Magazine takes you “Inside the growth of Goop — the most controversial brand in the wellness industry”. A long read but in the opinion of your Trending Editor – a fun and informative one!

Meanwhile Goop lost what was a good magazine deal because of its loose connection to science and facts. The Conde Nast group published 2 editions of a Goop magazine before the fact checkers caught up and the deal fell apart. Paltrow described it as doing “things in a very old-school way”.

Read more in The Guardian and thank those old school ways.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Epigenetic alterations linked to childhood stress

Kids who experience severe stress are more likely to develop a host of physical and mental health problems by the time they reach adulthood, including anxiety, depression and mood disorders. But how does early life stress put children at risk when they grow up?

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison have compared the whole genomes of children with very high-stress early lives to those of kids whose childhoods were relatively tranquil. They found scores of differences in how their genes function, differences that may point out avenues to better diagnosis and treatment of stress-related disorders.

The results of that work is published in Nature – Scientific Reports and you can find a summary in Reliawire.

Calibrating scientific skepticism – a wider look at the field of transgenerational epigenetics

After a conversation on Twitter between Kevin Mitchell (aka @WiringTheBrain) a lecturer and researcher in Ireland, and Jill Escher from the Escher Fund for Autism (aka @JillEscher) where they put forward their case for and against multigenerational epigenetic inheritance, Kevin Mitchell wrote this post.

Featured blog post

Epigenetics and the big picture in non-genetic inheritance

From the lighter side of epigenetics on Twitter

"Theory: Time Lord regenerative abilities are an extreme example of #epigenetic phenotype alteration under conditions of fatal duress. #DoctorWho #epigenetics”

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.

Walsh and Gibbs: Why Doug Ford's science cuts could hurt Ontario

It isn’t just the big headline cuts that make a difference – a series of smaller cost cutting measures can hurt just as much. Freezing travel and cancelling subscriptions have implications as well.
Source: Ottawa Citizen

Timothy Caulfield on Elle Macpherson, anti-Vaxx nonsense, and the opportunity to engage

We may not always admit, but we do like a little celebrity gossip now and then and sometimes find it hard to resist a few clicks on the latest news (if you call it that!). Tim Caulfield however finds it somewhat frustrating when it starts moving into the spreading of pseudoscience.
Source: BMJ Opinion

Meanwhile in other Tim Caulfield news:
U of A law professor’s show gets picked up by streaming giant Netflix

Pet genomics medicine runs wild

The latest wild west frontier in genetic testing is for dogs. Dog owners being what they are, they are generally willing to go to great lengths in the quest for the best possible ways to ensure their pets are healthy and happy. That now includes genetic screening but it may be based on weak science and not always deliver as advertised. Hmmm….. where have we heard about that before?
Source: Nature (includes a good Nature audio podcast feature) and NPR (also with a podcast feature)

Ottawa unveils integrity rules to shield scientists from interference

The federal government released its “Model policy on scientific integrity” this week. The policy is part of a promise in 2017 that was part of the Memoranda of Agreement between the Treasury Board and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) in Respect of Scientific Integrity. The policy covers transparency, the ethical conduct of research, freedom from political interference, and includes mechanisms for dealing with breaches of scientific integrity.
Source: Ottawa Citizen, the Office of the Chief Science Advisor and Canada’s National Observer

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!

18th International Biotech Symposium & Exhibition

The 18th International Biotech Symposium & Exhibition brings diverse research and applications of biotechnology together under one roof. It will provide an international forum for the exchange of ideas and cross-pollination among peers, combined with a social program to facilitate networking. 

The theme of the 2018 conference is Supporting a Healthy World. Biotechnology is revolutionizing the development of innovative medicines and diagnostics, sustainable agriculture, new sources of energy, and environmental remediation. With the advent and integration of big data and artificial intelligence, biotechnology promises to transform our world.

Plenary speakers include:

When: August 12-17, 2018
WherePalais des congrès, Montréal, Quebec

Learn more & register for IBS18 at the conference website.

BioAlberta's 19th Annual AGM & Awards Gala

BioAlberta, in partnership with TEC Edmonton, presents the Health & Life Sciences Showcase and BioAlberta's 19th Annual Awards Gala.

Participants will have an opportunity for:
  • Company pitch sessions
  • One-on-one partnering meetings
  • Round table sessions on health economics and natural health products
Companies seeking investments are invited to apply for the pitch event. Innovators are invited to apply to participate in the partnering session.  Apply by August 15.

When: 24 September 2018
Where: BMO Centre, Stampede Park, Calgary

Check the website for details and registration announcements.

4th Int'l Congress on Epigenetics & Chromatin

Theme: Epigenetics: The Science of Change

When: September 3-5, 2018
Where: Park Inn by Radisson, London Heathrow

Registration available online. More details listed on the conference website.

Lake Arrowhead Microbial Genomics Meeting

This conference is part of a yearly meeting initiated in 1991 to bring together genome sequencers, bioinformatics specialists, biologists, and geneticists, to forge interactions that would result in meaningful functional genomics.

The goal is to translate the influx of new genome sequencing information into useful biological studies. The Lake Arrowhead 2018 meeting will have a major focus on microbial communities, the human microbiome, pathogens, and genome evolution. This year's event will cover micro-organisms for which extensive analyses exist, and those for which new biological and technical strategies are being developed. There will be a mix of invited presentations and poster sessions.

When: September 16-20, 2018
Where: UCLA Lake Arrowhead Conference Center, Lake Arrowhead, California

Registration and more information available at the conference website.

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