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October 14, 2016

Volume 28 Issue 2


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

Federal government announces new competition for 11 Canada Excellence Research Chairs

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced the launch of a new competition for 11 Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERCs) when she was in Calgary last week. The CERC program awards universities up to $10 million over seven years to support world-class researchers however, only one of the 27 CERCs is a woman. During her speech the Minister said that she believes “that research excellence and gender equity are not mutually exclusive”. To back that up, the new competition will require institutions to include detailed equity plans and recruitment strategies that promote the participation of women and other underrepresented groups in the CERC program.
See the full media release.

Ryerson University opens new Faculty of Science research facilities at MaRS

On October 5th Ryerson University officially opened a science research presence in the MaRS Discovery District with a 20,000 sq ft collaborative space. The facility has a suite of technologies, instruments and equipment that will support research in cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology and environmental toxicology.
Read more details on our website.

New genomics project aims to reduce co-infection in Atlantic salmon

Scientists at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) are partnering with industry partner EWOS/Cargill to develop new therapeutic diets for farmed Atlantic salmon. The initiative could lead to healthier fish and significant savings for the Canadian aquaculture industry. The project is one of six national research collaborations awarded through Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP).
See more information about the latest GAPP announcements on our website

Ontario Genomics CEO stepping down

At the Ontario Genomics Board Meeting held on Thursday October 6th Dr. Mark Poznansky announced that he will be stepping down as President and CEO. The OG Board begin the process of recruiting a successor immediately and Mark will continue in his role during the transition period.

Ottawa-made DNA analyzer set to revolutionize healthcare

Spartan Bioscience of Ottawa has a new 10 cm wide wonder cube it is hoping will catch on around the world. It has been awarded the 2016 Outstanding High Technology Company Recognition Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Ottawa “for developing the world’s smallest on-demand DNA-testing system, enabling unprecedented portability and convenience.”
Are we getting closer to the Star Trek Tricorder?

Jay Cross appointed director of the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation

The University of Calgary announced that Jay Cross will be the inaugural director of the College of Discovery, Creativity and Innovation (CDCI). Dr. Cross brings a wealth of experience as a creative and respected educator, researcher, innovator and leader to his new role in shaping the future of the CDCI.
Complete details on UCalgary Today.

NIH commits $6.7 million to advance DNA, RNA sequencing technology

The National Human Genome Research Institute in the U.S. has awarded $6.7 million in new funding to develop DNA sequencing technologies that are more sensitive, faster, cheaper and more accurate than what is available now. These new awards are part of a program that began in 2004 through the Genome Technology Program. The grants are spread across 4 universities and 2 businesses.
More information is available on the NGHRI website.

From our blog pages

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.

Theranos to close its labs and blood-testing centers and lose 340 staff

Your Trending Editor would like to thank Theranos for its ongoing support in providing content for this newsletter and to the media outlets who provide material such as this story from The Guardian. “Raining Blood” is the way Gizmodo describes the latest news and it didn’t get much better from other sources. The rapid rise and fall of the company that was valued at $6 billion at one point is so intriguing that a movie is already in the works with Jennifer Lawrence starring as Elizabeth Holmes the company founder. Holmes is not allowed to own or operate a blood-testing lab for 2 years after a ruling by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services so will likely have time to go to a cinema to see it when it is released.

With the latest cutback in staff and operations an article in Forbes magazine says there could be as much as $500 million left on the books and that Theranos should return some of that back to investors. In an ironic move the latest plan for Theranos is to become simply a company that does tests in the same manner that it originally claimed it would disrupt and replace. If you are wondering about who is on the Board of Directors for a company in such a downward spiral check the Theranos ‘About’ pages and make your own second guesses about the decisions that were made.

Theranos watchers took this latest news in stride however, and one observer Tweeted “I don't believe anything Holmes or Theranos says about anything

Genome editing – the key ethical issues

In our last newsletter we mentioned the new report on gene editing technologies by the Nuffield Council of Bioethics and now it is time to let the analysis begin.

First up we have this from the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford a quick overview of what the author calls a “good first step”. The Guardian picked up on parts of the report that talked about “garage biolgists” and the risk that poses to society. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry had something to say about how gene editing comes into play in their sector and concluded their was a greater need to engage diverse views and opinions on the use of gene editing tools. Seed Quest focused on the report’s top two challenges of gene editing for inherited genetic diseases, and increasing food production rates in farmed animals. The website SynBioWatch is skeptical of genetic technology in general but its message about “Unintended Consequences” will resonate with many people and will be a concern that industry and researchers need to be prepared for.

Across many of the articles we checked for this edition of trending news the BBC suggestion that the overall ethical issues 'should be discussed' was a common message. The technology may not be quite ready, but the public is ready to talk about it now.

Found on Twitter Up arrow

In our last newsletter we told you about rumours that digital and media giants such as Disney, Google, and Microsoft were going to make offer to buy Twitter. Since then the rumour mill has turned the other way and now it looks like the potential buyers are down to one. That company is Salesforce and its stocks have risen on the rumour and Twitter stocks have taken a dip as it tries to capture the value of its 320 million active users.

If you are one of those active users be sure to follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter to see how we put it to use in our science and research communications activities.

What we found on Twitter for this edition came to us from the following:

@B_Stadnicki Brady Stadnicki says he is a farm kid from Jenner, Alberta. He works in Ottawa as a Policy Analyst for the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

@CCRM_ca The Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine is a Canadian not-for-profit organization supporting the development of technologies for the commercialization of stem cell- and biomaterials-based products and therapies. ccrm.ca

@EsotericCD Jeff Biehar is an attorney and also works on the Decision Desk Daily newsletter. www.decisiondeskhq.com

@Marja_P Marja Pirttivaara works with the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra.

@phylogenomics Jonathan Eisen is a Professor at UC Davis. phylogenomics.me

@ScienceMin The official acccount for the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada Minister of Science. www.canada.ca/en/services/science.html

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.

Big data tackles growing problem of drug resistance

Even if the term ‘big data’ is become an overused headline, the bottom line is that data needs to be analysed, understood, and applied to solve problems. A consortium of researchers from McMaster University, University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Dalhousie University, has received $500,000 in grants from Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop big data solutions to the problem of antimicrobial drug resistance through the use of extensive DNA sequencing.
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Read more about other Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Competition results (pdf file) on the Genome Canada website.

The concept of race lacks scientific support, Harvard professor says

Racial tension has become a major part of the U.S. Presidential Race but the science says that it may be real in the public’s mind – but not when it comes to biology.
Source: Toronto Star

Bypassing GMO regulations with CRISPR gene editing

The US Department of Agriculture recently announced that regulation of a CRISPR-Cas9 gene-edited mushroom fell outside of existing GMO-related legislation. There has always been a gap between regulations and technology but as genetic tools are advancing rapidly there are growing concerns about that gap.
Source: Nature (behind the paywall)

Kevin Folta receives the Borlaug Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Communication Award

Recipients of CAST’s annual award are science and agricultural experts who have excelled at communication through written material, public presentations, and various forms of media.

Dr. Kevin Folta, chair of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, received the award on October 12th, during the Borlaug Dialogue/World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa. The award is dedicated to the memory and life-work of Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Food Prize founder, Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, “The Man Who Fed the World.”
Source: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology

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

Spooky Science Weekend at University of Lethbridge

On October 21 and 22, children aged five to 12 from across southern Alberta are invited to participate in a variety of Halloween-themed science activities in three separate events at the University of Lethbridge. Spooky Science Weekend offers numerous fun, hands-on science activities for enthusiastic children, exposing them to several different streams of science and spooky fun!

For safety reasons no more than 100 children can attend a single event, and children must be accompanied by an adult. The Spooky Science Weekend is free but you must register in advance on a first come – first serve basis. Visit the University of Lethbridge webpage for more details or register on the Eventbrite page.

When: Friday, October 21st 5 – 7 p.m. and Saturday, October 22nd 1 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 7 p.m.
Where: University Hall Atrium, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Alberta T1K 3M4

2016 Till & McCulloch Meetings

The Till & McCulloch Meetings are Canada’s premier stem cell research event and are an opportunity for you to meet and network with Canada’s leading stem cell scientists, clinicians, bio-engineers and ethicists, as well as representatives from industry, government, health and NGO sectors from around the world.

The 2016 Till & McCulloch Meetings are presented by CCRM, the Stem Cell Network and the Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Online registration for this event is now closed, however people interested in attending the 2016 Till & McCulloch Meetings can still register on-site at the Registration Desk on Oct. 24. If you have any questions, please contact the event planner directly.

When: Monday, October 24 – 26, 2016
Where: Whistler Conference Centre, Whistler, BC

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

Life Science Association of Manitoba Annual General Meeting

Building on our Strengths: What Data can do for Manitoba

When: October 27, 11:45 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Where: The Manitoba Club, 1000 Waverley Street, Unit A, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Click to register

Learn more about the keynote speaker Dr. Paul Terry CEO, PHEMI

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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