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October 3, 2016

Volume 28 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

We feature stories that are relevant to Canada’s genomics community. If you have anything you’d like to see highlighted here, drop a note to info@genomealberta.ca

Babiuk wins 2016 World Agriculture Prize

Former Genome Alberta Board member and now Vice President of Research at the University of Alberta Lorne Babiuk has won a major international award from the Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA). The World Agricultural Prize “recognizes exceptional and significant lifetime achievements of a faculty member from a university working in the disciplines relating to the agricultural and life sciences”. Dr. Babiuk has spent most of his career working on the improvement of animal and human health through the use of vaccines, and has played a major role in the development of six vaccines.

Read more on our website.

Genomics enterprise project sheds light on how lodgepole pine and interior spruce adapt to local climates

Researchers from the AdapTree Project, funded by a variety of industry participants and organizations including Genome Canada, Genome BC, Genome Alberta, and Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions have published a paper on how trees seem to be adapting to climate change. The researchers also cover a variety of institutions including the study authors from UBC, University of Calgary, Northeastern University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University of Alberta. The research could lead to improved forest management by selecting trees that will thrive in a warming global climate.

Revolutionizing clean energy with science

The September 22nd episode of CNBC’s Sustainable Energy series on the science and thinking behind clean energy ideas featured the work of Casey Hubert’s and his lab. It runs just over 16 minutes and includes Casey Hubert, Carmen Li, and Steven Bryant.

Scientists looking for producers to participate in beef genomic trial

Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Gentec are asking producers to send in samples from their herds for use in a genomic prediction trial. More details are in this article from Alberta Farmer Express. Producers who are interested in submitting samples and SNP genotyping can contact Michael Vinsky. Anyone with scientific questions can contact Changxi Li.

CSPC Editorial Series

In advance of the 8th Canadian Science Policy Conference, its website will feature editorials covering the themes of the conference. The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada's Minister of Science, has even weighed in with this piece. Be sure to follow the whole series leading up to the November Conference.

Think Synthetic Biology

Ontario Genomics has launched a major effort to encourage investment into synthetic biology. They kicked things off with a special report on synthetic biology (pdf file) and the role it can play in solving challenges in health, technology, food, and the environment. There will also be a special event in Toronto at the MaRS Centre featuring Andrew Hessel talking about synthetic biology and the role it can play in these areas.

Gabe Kalmer leaving Genome B.C.

After many years with Genome BC, Dr. Gabe Kalmar, Vice President, Entrepreneurship and Commercialization and a member of the Executive Management Team, will be leaving Genome BC to assume the role of President and Chief Executive Officer with the Pacific Autism Family Centre. Gabe's years at Genome BC involved leading the Project Management group through several Genome Canada competitions and pioneering user partnerships while developing the Sector Development team.

Autism is an area very near to Gabe and the Centre will find his knowledge and passion to be a great asset. We wish him all the best in his new role.

Trending Stories Up arrow

Here is what trended online and in print with the broader 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. Summer can be a pretty slow time for news of all kinds and science is no exception. There were no big trends so we have a selection of some of the stories that trended quickly and disappeared almost as fast.

Enjoy the material, and feel free to offer some feedback on the story selection.

The cost of corporate funded research

The news that the sugar industry funded research into the affects of sugar on our health to show that sugar did not have adverse affects got everyone’s attention over the past few weeks. The story trended across social media and was present in mainstream print and broadcast media. The story may well have started to emerge as far back as June when stories such as this one in the Huffington Post talked about the apparent ‘in’ that companies such as Coca Cola had with CDC officials in the U.S. It became big news however when a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine said that sugar industry had tried to manipulate research about the health effects of sugar intake. This NPR (audio) story will give you a good overview of the story, complete with secret memos.

With headlines like “Sugar Industry Manipulated Heart Studies” it was inevitable that the story would get enough attention that journalists would need to advance the story. The New York Times took that step and dug into the whole area of research that is backed by corporate funding. The result is a ‘Room for Debate’ series published on September 20th.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the world's peril

When the U.N. General Assembly gets involved in an issue, people pay more attention. Doesn't mean the problem is solved but it goes a long way to raising awareness.

So when a special U.N. session was held on September 21st to help deal with the problem of antibiotic resistance, the subject crept into more media channels and into new social media nooks and crannies.

Scientific American often walks along the line where media, social media, and popular science intersect and put out their own warning and some advice about dealing with the challenge of AMR. The author of this post by the way is someone to listen to as she has won a Peabody Award in Broadcasting, the Polk Award for Foreign Reporting, and the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.

The Toronto Star made ‘apocalyptic scenario’ its headline grabber and went on to give a good lead-in to the special day of discussion in New York. The Guardian made note of the declaration from all 193 UN member states to deal with the spread of drug resistant infections. Vox did a good long form piece which focused on three ways to deal with the problem. On the day of the meeting the UN Dispatch pulled no punches when it said “Antibiotic Resistance on Pace to Cause Global Economic Damage Akin to the 2008 Financial Crisis”. Newsweek called it a “landmark agreement” and posted a video with Thomas Frieden, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Even PETA joined the discussion and blamed factory farming for the problem.

After all the discussion and the agreement what comes next? The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy tackled that one and now the rest of the world has to as well.

Found on Twitter Up arrow

Mickey Mouse and Elsa may soon have not only their own Twitter handles, but may also own a piece of Twitter. Disney as a corporation has moved beyond creating cute characters for cartoons and is now an entertainment conglomerate with interests that extend into news. So why would such a company want Twitter? Well Twitter has become a major source of breaking news and live videos which fits neatly into the game plans of ESPN and ABC News which Disney just happens to own. Disney may have to call in its magic Genie to pull off the purchase though. It is rumoured that Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are interested in buying Twitter as well.

While we wait for the backroom negotiations to settle Twitter’s fate, follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter to see how you can see beyond thee cartoon characters and put the instant messaging service to use in your science and research communications activities.

 "Beware the hype: Top scientists cautious about fighting cancer with immunotherapy"

A targeted approach: bioengineered bacteria to deliver #cancer drugs directly to tumours, this week on @CBCQuirks

 Interview with @mark_lynas about GMOs and environment

Arguments supported by facts and evidence may not change people's beliefs - @kirkenglehardt. We have our work cut out for us #stjudescicomm

Trees as distantly related as humans and kangaroos use same genes to adapt to #climatechange

‘A drop of seawater contains millions of microbes’ #UBC’s Steven Hallam on new @PNASNews research

A tip of our Twitter cap to those who share their thoughts, knowledge, and ideas:

@CaulfieldTim Tim Caulfuield is a Professor of health law & science policy at the University of Alberta, Trudeau Fellow, and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. http://www.hli.ualberta.ca/People/TimothyCaulfield.aspx

@CBCQuirks Quirks & Quarks is CBC Radio's weekly science program hosted by Bob McDonald. http://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks

@DanielNorero Daniel Norero is studying bochemistry and plant biology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. He also writes for Biology Fortified and the Chile Skeptic.

@eyoste Elizabeth Whittington is with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. https://www.stjude.org

@r2rnow Research2Reality is an initiative that highlights Canadian scientists engaged in innovative and leading edge research. http://research2reality.com

@ubcscience News and events from the Faculty of Science at the University of British Columbia. https://science.ubc.ca

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.

Taking appropriate steps towards gene editing in Canada

Patrick Bedford is the new Manager of Clinical Translation and Regulatory Affairs at the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine. In this blog post he says Canada need to identify clear scientific milestones for gene editing and make them mandatory.
Source: Signals

UK bioethicists eye designer babies and CRISPR cows

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics in London in the United Kingdom released its 130 page preliminary report on the potential impact of advances in genome editing. The Council considered the possible effects of the new technologies in fields such as health care, food production, industry and public health. The Council plans to finish its work and final report by early 2017.
Source: Nature

Grading the Presidential candidates on Science

The United States cannot change the laws of nature but it can definitely influence how we fund research into science. That massive funding machine to the south can move brain research into the realm of 'cool' and set the tone for precision medicine research. How science fares under the next U.S. President could open or close many investigative door. Scientific American graded the candidates. Hilary Clinton did well. Donald Trump not so well.
Source: Scientific American

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!

7th Annual Livestock Gentec Conference

Genome Alberta is pleased to once again be one of the sponsors for this year’s Livestock Gentec Conference on the theme of Managing in a Time of Unprecedented Change.

Theme areas to be covered include consumers and how they influence the ag products available, how livestock animals are raised, and livestock’s impact on the environment. Sessions will be dedicated to multiple aspects of bovine production - including animal care, health, and production efficiencies - impacting both the beef and dairy industries.

When: October 18 & 19
Where: Delta Edmonton South

Visit the Livestock Gentec website for more information

American Society of Human Genetics Meeting

The 66th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics will be held at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, BC.

The ASHG Annual Meeting is the largest human genetics meeting and exposition in the world. This year’s meeting is expected to attract over 6,500 scientific attendees, plus over 200 exhibiting companies. The meeting provides a forum for the presentation and discussion of cutting-edge science in all areas of human genetics.

ASHG members and leading scientists from around the world are selected to present their research findings at invited, platform, and poster sessions. Abstracts presented at the Annual Meeting are published online and are citable. ASHG’s Annual Meeting also features a trade show floor that offers attendees the opportunity to view state-of-the-art medical and laboratory equipment, products, services, and computer software designed to enhance human genetics research, teaching, and consultation.

When: October 18 - October 22, 2016
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre

For more about the ASHG 2016 Meeting, click here

The Genomics Revolution and its Impact on Human Kind

The 2016 Don Rix Distinguished Keynote Address will be presented by Richard Resnick on October 25 at 4:00 in the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Dr. Resnick is CEO of GenomeQuest, a maker of genomic software. Under his direction the company has solidified their leadership position in the intellectual property and agriculture markets and he has led its expansion into healthcare. Resnick has extensive experience building and growing innovative technology companies in life sciences.

When: October 25, 2016 4:00pm
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre

The event is sponsored by Genome British Columbia and you can find more information and register free of charge on the Genome BC website.

Canadian Science Policy Conference

The annual CSPC is back in Ottawa in November and is one of the best opportunities to hear about new developments in science policy in Canada and discuss the current and future state of science with your colleagues. The CSPC has become Canada’s most comprehensive, multi-sectorial and multi-disciplinary annual science policy forum and attracted numerous politicians and hundreds of professionals from industry, academia, the non-profit sector, federal and provincial governments every year.

When: November 8th – 10th
Where: Shaw Centre, Ottawa

For more information go to cspc2016.ca

Celebrating Women in Technology

Geeky Summit is the biggest celebration of women in technology and entrepreneurship in Western Canada. Chic Geek envisions more women as makers, builders and creators, leveraging technology to change the world. Geeky Summit will bring together inspirational speakers from across North America and provide hands-on, practical workshops so attendees can walk away with the motivation and tools to start changing the world through technology.

When: November 16, 2016
Where: Telus Spark, 220 St Georges Dr. NE, Calgary, AB

More information and details for registration can be found here.

Communicating Public Health Information

Join Canada’s leading health practitioners, communicators, advocates, analysts, and researchers, as they share the latest intelligence and approaches that:

  • Demonstrate how risk prevention and harm reduction increases positive public health outcomes – and saves lives
  • Raise public awareness, stakeholder engagement and government support
  • Conserve scarce public service resources and decrease public expenditure on chronic public health issues and crises
  • Improve public safety and aid at-risk communities

When: December 7 - 8, 2016
Where: Mariott Bloor Yorkville, Toronto, Ontario

For full details of the two-day Agenda and how to register, click here. (pdf file)

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