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October 17, 2017

Volume 32 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

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.

Remembering Bill Cochrane

One of Genome Alberta’s original Board members, Bill Cochrane passed away in early October at the age of 91.

From 1958 to 1967, Bill was Professor and Head of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University, Physician and Chief at the Halifax Children's Hospital, and was instrumental in raising the funds and managing the construction of the Isaak Walter Killam Hospital for Children in Halifax, NS. From 1967 to 1973 he was the first Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary. From 1973 to 1974, he was the Alberta Deputy Minister of Health, and then returned to Calgary to become President of the University of Calgary from 1974 to 1978.

In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2006 the Alberta Order of Excellence came his way. He received the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal, the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada Medal, was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, and over the years was awarded with multiple honorary degrees.

There will be a celebration of his life that is open to friends and colleagues on October 18, from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, at the Calgary Golf and Country Club.

16-year-old Calgarian recognized at European science fair

A winner of one of Genome Alberta’s regional science fair award has come back from Estonia with an additional award in hand. Colette Benko competed against 90 other projects from around the world and took the second place award which included a 5,000 euro (about $7300 Cdn) cash prize. Colette is a synovial sarcoma cancer survivor and during her own treatment developed her ideas focused on neuroblastoma treatments. The grade 12 student is also a Sanofi Biogenius competitor and not surprisingly is hoping to carry her research idea forward with her when she starts university next year.

Annual reports from across the genomics enterprise

Want to find out what some of Canada’s Genome Centres were up to in the past fiscal year? Check out the Annual Reports for Genome BC, Genome Alberta, Genome Prairie, Genome Quebec, Genome Atlantic, and Genome Canada.

David Bailey op-ed featured by CSPC

The Canadian Science Policy Conference invited many of its speakers and panelists to write an op-ed related to the conference theme and the presentations. Genome Alberta’s President & CEO David Bailey will be presenting at the CSPC on November 2nd at 1:30pm as part of the panel on ‘Bridging the Divide: Incorporating up-to-date research findings and social shifts into public policy’.

You can read his feature article on the CSPC website.

Career opportunity at Genome Canada

Genome Canada has an opening for Director of Technology Programs. The job is based in Ottawa and is responsible for Genome Canada’s portfolio of technology programs, focusing on technology platforms, technology development and bioinformatics/computational biology. The ideal candidate is bilingual and has a graduate-level, research-based degree and have at least ten years of relevant work experience. You should have extensive and current knowledge of genomics technologies, bioinformatics/computational biology, research methodologies, and the issues facing genomics research domestically and internationally.

Application deadline is October 31st and complete information is available on the Genome Canada website.

And one more for you. This time from Genome BC as its new Sector Manager – Health.

The application deadline is October 20th so check the full job description and brush up your resume soon.

Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Committee

In an Order In Council (O.C. 310/2017) recommended by Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, and approved on October 11th, Ray Muzyka was designated as Vice-Chair of the Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Committee.

The Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Committee works with key innovation support agencies, publicly funded post-secondary institutions, industry, and government to advance research and innovation in the province. Dr. Muzyka is founder and CEO of ThresholdImpact which focuses on mentoring entrepreneurs and angel investing in information technology, new media and medical innovations. He was originally trained as a medical doctor and practiced Emergency & Family Medicine while also co-founding BioWare, a videogame development studio. In 2002 he was named to the Globe & Mail Top Forty under 40, and was the recipient of the MacEwan University School of Business 2017 Dr. Charles Allard Chair in Business.

His term is set to expire on June 30, 2020.

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.


In May of this year the federal government announced it would spend $950 million on an "Innovation Superclusters Initiative". The superclusters were to be a non-profit consortium of companies, academic institutions, and other non-for-profit organizations. The initial deadline has passed and the 50 proposals have been reviewed and a short list of 9 ideas has been released. The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development started in Halifax with the first announcement and proceeded to cross the country with stops in Montréal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver for further announcement. Guess the travel schedule proved to be too tight because Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale stood in for Minister Bains at the Regina announcement.

The superclusters cover oceans, AI and data science, mobility systems and technologies, mining innovation, advanced manufacturing, protein innovation, agri-food, infrastructure, and digital technology.

The superclusters were part of the Federal 2017 budget and the idea was generally well received despite some confusion over timelines, the notion that policy could create a Silicon Valley North, and that the fund was not entirely ‘new’ money. There was also concern over the criteria (Bloomberg video) which effectively cut out small and medium sized businesses from applying. The Globe & Mail went so far as to say the idea may be doomed to failure because it was using an old approach to create something new, and the Toronto Sun pointed out that similar ideas around the world have failed. The whole idea of tech accelerators is even open to debate says the Financial Post.

Rightly or wrongly the idea has come to fruition and we will have to wait until sometime in 2018 for up to 5 of the short listed ideas to be approved for funding.


An update on our trending story on stem cell clinics

‘Strip Mall’ stem cell clinics have been coming under increasing scrutiny for treatments that range from useless to harmful. Starting next year California clinics offering therapies not approved by the FDA will have to post a public notice alerting patients to the treatment’s unapproved status. Now if only they had to also mention that it may also be useless…..

Source: Sacramento Business Journal

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

EpiSwitch to detect novel class of epigenetic biomarkers

A University of Oxford startup, Oxford Biodynamics has developed new diagnostic test (EpiSwitch platform) to diagnose and stage breast cancer and ALS patients. USPTO recently granted the company a patent around this technology. The company trades on AIM, the London Stock Exchange's international market for smaller companies and has a market capitalization of £150 million ($198 million). The EpiSwitch platform is based around a class of epigenetic biomarkers known as chromosome conformation signatures (CCS), which the firm claims provide a framework for analyzing changes in genomic regulation before the results of epigenetic changes manifest themselves. The company employs microarrays, next-generation sequencing, and real-time PCR to characterize these markers.

DNA therapy may help people get to Mars

NASA is exploring ways to alter DNA of Mars bound astronauts to protect them from cosmic radiation. The agency is planning its first manned Mars mission to take place in the 2030s, and efforts are on to protect astronauts from high-energy particles. Methods being explored include drugs to fix the damage wrought by cosmic rays and also considering altering the genes or expression of genes within the astronauts themselves. In particular, a compound dubbed NMN that has been effective in mice as well as looking into ways to make epigenetic modifications to tune up or down the expression of certain genes.

You’ll need to register to get full access to the article – but it is free.

How brain cells die in Alzheimer's and FTD

Removal of a regulatory gene called LSD1 in adult mice induces changes in gene activity that that look unexpectedly like Alzheimer's. Another surprise: LSD1 is tangled up in brain samples from humans with Alzheimer's and frontotemporal dementia (FTD), suggesting LSD1 as a central downstream player in these diseases and a drug target.
Source: Science Daily

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.

A user’s guide to cheating death

Not to mention a guide to genetically tailored wine, music, art, facial cream, and shampoo. Don’t forget Fido, because you can get a doggie DNA test as well. (those links by the way are random and by no means are an endorsement. There are many more companies offering similar products)

Those seemingly far-fetched claims and other aspects of genetic perception vs genetic reality are part of Tim Caulfield’s new Vision TV series called A User’s Guide to Cheating Death. The 6 episode series airs Mondays at 7:00p MT but if you want to catch up on missed episodes, the series is available online on the Vision TV website.

Universities introducing term limits for Canada Research Chairs to meet diversity targets

In May of this year the Federal government told universities they needed to produce an action plan to have more diversified nominees for Canada Research Chairs. The deadline for those plans is fast approaching and many universities are including term limits for the Research Chairs as one of the ways to meet diversification targets.
Source: Globe & Mail

AquaBounty and food activists clash over need for labels for GMO salmon

There is more than 4 tons of the GMO Aquabounty salmon on the market and GM food skeptics are not happy that they cannot track where the salmon are being sold. Canadian regulations do not require the fish to be labelled as genetically modified and they have been approved by the USDA and by Health Canada. The approach to marketing the fish is coming under fire for a lack of transparency and arguably is setting the wrong tone for the industry.
Source: Quartz

Genome editing of human embryos broadens ethics discussions

Francoise Baylis, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at Dalhousie University digs into the genome editing of human embryos. The technology is here and is not going away so we need to open up the discussion on the social, political and regulatory issues.
Source: National Post and The Conversation

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!

Canadian Cancer Research Conference

The 4th annual Canadian Cancer Research Conference will bring together the Canadian cancer research community for an agenda spanning the research spectrum. It is an opportunity for researchers, clinicians, decision-makers, and trainees to hear the latest developments in Canadian cancer research and network across research disciplines.

When: November 5 - 7, 2017
Where: Vancouver Convention Centre

Visit the conference main website for more information.

SPARK 2017

Registration is now open for SPARK 2017, a clean technology/bioindustrial conference being co-hosted this fall by Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates. The event will provide an opportunity for innovators and researchers to connect with others in their field, and with purchasers, funders, innovation advisers, and industry groups and associations.

SPARK 2017 is expected to attract 400 or more attendees from the oil and gas, agriculture, forestry, clean technology and bioindustrial sectors. Conference sessions will cover a range of topics, including how Alberta is advancing technology through policy and regulation, how other jurisdictions have succeeded in advancing this area, innovators who have successfully accessed funding and what they learned, what the market is demanding today, and next-gen products and technologies.

When: November 6 - 8, 2017
Where: Shaw Conference Centre, Edmonton

Gairdner Symposium on Precision Medicine & Microbiome

Genome Alberta is pleased to be one of the sponsors for the Gairdner Symposium on Precision Medicine and the Microbiome. The symposium will feature world-renowned academic, researchers and industrial experts, including Dr. Lee Hood, Dr. Martin Blaser, Dr. Kevin Maloy, Dr. Gwen Randolph and Dr. Henrique Veiga-Fernandes.

The focus will be on precision medicine and the role of the microbiome in host immune cell development and function during health and disease including during infections, inflammation, and chronic disease. The opening of the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre (WCMC) will be announced during the event and you are invited to drop by the Genome Alberta display to learn more about our involvement in microbiome research.

When: November 9-10, 2017
Where: Foothills Campus, University of Calgary.

More information is available on the Gairdner website and at WCMC.

AEN Bioinformatics & Computational Biology Workshop

The Alberta Epigenetics Network, in partnership with Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences, is organizing a workshop at the University of Calgary to provide researchers and industry partners a platform to share current knowledge & trends, expertise, resources, and challenges in the areas of computational biology, bioinformatics, and Artificial Intelligence.

When: November 24th
Where: University of Calgary, PF-126

Registration is free but you must register by November 10th.

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