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November 16, 2016

Volume 28 Issue 4


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

New funding opportunity coming with the 2017 LSARP competition

The 2017 Large-Scale Applied Research Project competition will focus on genomics and precision health. This Competition should be formally launched in early 2017 with detailed guidelines and application forms available at that time.

Funding will be aimed at supporting projects that will demonstrate how genomics-based research can contribute to a more evidence-based approach to health and, thereby, improve health outcomes, or enhance the cost-effectiveness of the healthcare system. Applicants will be required to apply for funding through their regional Genome Centre. The application process will be comprised of three steps: Registration, Pre-Application and Full Application. Based on a January 2017 Competition launch, the deadline for Registrations is expected to be in March of 2017. Genome Alberta will be hosting preparatory sessions with interested teams on December 2nd (Teleconference), 5th (Calgary), and 6th (Edmonton). Please contact Genome Alberta Project Coordinator Harleen Ghuttora if you have specific questions about the competition or would like to participate in the information sessions.

Visit our website for more information about the competition and to download forms.

York U researchers are the first to sequence genome of Africanized honeybees

Africanized honeybees, or killer bees, are hybrid strain that have a highly successful biological invader covering areas from Brazil and up into California. A Canada-Brazil collaboration has just announced the sequencing of the invasive honeybees and has made the genomic resource publicly available. The research team sequenced the genomes of 360 Africanized honeybees from 30 colonies, identifying more than three million mutations. The results were published in Scientific Data by the journal Nature.

Read more about the work in the York University News.

Alberta Innovates restructures, cuts nine executives to save $2.5 million a year

Many of you have probably already seen the news but it didn’t become official until after we sent out our last newsletter.

The Alberta government has cut managerial positions and merged four economic agencies into one Crown corporation in a move it says will save $2.5 million annually. The plan was originally announced in March of 2016 but the official date for the changes kicked in earlier this month. The new Alberta Innovates Corp. combines groups that invested in agriculture, food and forestry, health research, energy and the environment, and emerging technology, the province announced Tuesday. It will have a couple of subsidiaries, InnoTech Alberta Inc., to help test new technology on a larger scale, and C-Fer Technologies which will work with industry and client subject matter experts to develop solutions to unique engineering challenges in the oil and gas industry.

U of G researchers to develop eDNA tool for aquatic tracking

Take a sample of water from a lake, run it through a mobile device to analyze the DNA in the sample, and you have a quick look at the organisms that have left trace DNA behind. That’s the goal of a University of Guelph team who have received a $125,000 Idea to Innovation grant. Such testing is available in the lab but a mobile testing unit will make tracking endangered or invasive species easier, and help to identify species and populations for improved stock management. The researchers hope to have a prototype ready within in a year.

See the full media release on our website.

Genome BC joins partnership to study personalized medicine

China’s BGI, which has pioneered treatments tailored to patient’s specific genetic make-up, has signed a memorandum of understanding with several B.C. health organizations to further the study of the new approaches to medicine. Among the signatories were St. Paul's Foundation, the Vancouver Prostate Centre, Genome BC and Deloitte.

Science Borealis editorial team manager wanted

Science Borealis is the only blogging network devoted to bringing you a made-in-Canada perspective to science. If you​ are super-organized, able to wrangle a large team and ever-changing schedule, and know a thing or two about science communication and running a blog, ​Science Borealis wants you! Th​is job requires more than average volunteer commitment (5-7 hours / week) Science Borealis is offering a small ​monthly ​stipend to offset that.​

Read the full posting to find out more.

Latest edition of MetaboNews

MetaboNews is published by The Metabolomics Innovation Centre (TMIC) in partnership with the Metabolomics Society. It is intended to keep metabolomics researchers and other professionals informed about new technologies, software, databases, events, job postings, conferences, training opportunities, interviews, publications, awards, and other newsworthy items concerning metabolomics.

The November edition of MetaboNews is now online.

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.

Click image to enlarge

Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops

This investigative report from the New York Times was destined to trend. Critics of biotech crops had there ‘I knew it’ moment, GMO proponents dived in to challenge the article, and as is often the case, social media split into opposing camps. We’ll start with the original NY Times article that some people might not have been able to read if they had used up their ‘free’ allotment of articles. (The Toronto Star has a quick free version)

The piece says that genetically modified crops in the U.S and Canada have not reduced the use of pesticides and have not significantly increased crop yields. When measured against European crop statistics the article says the largely non-GM practices in Europe perform at least as well and sometimes better. The article illustrates its point through the extensive use of data and by telling the story of 2 farmers. One in the U.S and one in France.

Blog articles such as this one from pest management experts said the graphs were confusing and challenged why data from France got the most attention. Many agricultural groups such as the American Soybean Association also took issues with the NY Times and said it “painted an incomplete picture."

Some blog posts did not do the case for GMOs any favours by taking almost a Trump-like position and used up screen real estate criticizing the media while dwelling less on the facts. Jayson Lusk, a food and agricultural economist offered a more detailed argument against the NY Times data and pointed out that determining whether GMOs have lived up to the promise might also require some detailed assessment of what the expectations really were. The nonprofit website Grist likes to get everyone thinking and one of their regular food contributors Nathanael Johnson wrote a thoughtful piece that was immediately a social media favourite – likely because of some good balanced writing.

Not surprisingly Monsanto joined into the discussion on a few fronts including a Huffington Post article by Robert Fraley, the company’s Chief Technology Officer and a post on the Monsanto Blog pages. The CEO of Bayer (which is waiting to complete its acquisition of Bayer ) send a note directly to the NY Times.

Embryonic stem cells, fetal tissue research and the future of science under Donald J. Trump

And that dear readers is but the tip of the post-election science reaction which needless to say is a trending story for weeks, if not years, to come. We’ll give you a few of the highlights over the next few issues of our newsletter so let’s start by diving in deep.

George W Bush restricted federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, Barrack Obama loosened the restrictions, and it remains to be seen what’s next. What will soon-to-be President Trump do asks AAAS Science, and in much the same vein bioethics.net says that bioethics faces a rocky but navigable road. But those are mere details in what is to come over the next 4 years.

We will surely hear more on such specific issues once we get closer to Inauguration Day so we should start to tackle the bigger picture of the Trump/Pence team with a not overly optimistic image from the Washington Post. CBC Radio host Bob MacDonald echoes the sentiments in a blog post and in particular notes concerns over Trump’s anti-vaccine and climate change hoax views that will influence policy and shape public perception as well. The President Elect’s views of climate science seems to be particularly worrisome for many and Scientific American said the economy, the research, and the planet are all at risk because of it.

Apart from science research, Trump’s decisions will reach out into the broader tech world (or ‘the cyber’ as Trump called it during one of the debates) and Ars Technica says even net neutrality could be at stake. This article from PBS goes into more depth and looks at how the new administration’s policy will affect science, technology, and health at home and abroad ( which Tech Crunch called a shadow of despair). As a world leader in science research and funding, the U.S. will not just be charting its own course for science but is in a position to shape the world’s science landscape says Vox.

In the end however, science was never something that Trump discussed during his campaign and Nature says the Trump effect may simply be unknown – the ultimate experiment. BBC however set out to find clues that might relate to science policy.

There will be more to come in future newsletters but for the moment we will leave you with Canadian science fiction writer and journalist Cory Doctorow’s outline of Trump’s war on science over the campaign trail. Stay tuned….

Found on Twitter Up arrow

Twitter is known for its 140 character posts, but did you realize it has moved well beyond that? Images have become very important to making a point on Twitter (see the Ian Bremmer post below) and don’t use up any of the 140 character allotment. Videos can be embedded into a Twitter post and are a great way to get noticed. Just ask the Stem Cell Network which received a big boost from Minister Kirsty Duncan who acknowledged the significance of Canadian stem cell research in this video from the Minister’s Twitter feed. You’ll also see a video embedded in the Tweet from Minister Catherine McKenna in the first of our recent Tweets below which also feature Genome Alberta funded researcher Casey Hubert.

Be sure to follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter to see how you can put it to use in your science and research communications activities.

This small sample of what we’ve seen on Twitter lately is brought to you by the following:

@ec_minister Canadian Minister of Environment & Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/climate-action.html

@EpiExperts New England Biolabs feed for the exchange of information about epigenetics. http://epiexperts.com

@IAmBiotech One of the official accounts for the Biotechnology Innovation Organization based in Washington, DC. https://www.facebook.com/IAmBiotech

@ianbremmer Ian Bremmer is a political scientists, a professor at NYU, columnist, author, and President of the Euroasia Group. http://www.ianbremmer.com

@MacleansMag The main account for Maclean’s Magazine. http://www.macleans.ca

@OSUartssciences The account for Oklahoma State University College of Arts and Sciences. http://cas.okstate.edu/news

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.

Genetic test costs taxpayers $500 million a year, with little to show for it

Under the section of Things We Do For No Reason, the Journal of Hospital Medicine published a paper saying half a billion dollars is being spent on tests for venous thromboembolisms that do nothing to help hospital patients. In other words, the authors say, ordering the testing on inpatients is something doctors do for little or no reason.
Source: STAT

Three stories give us a glimpse of the real possibilities for stem cell therapies

One-stop-shop for stem cell treatments are a dream and at times are also unfortunately a scam. However the value and technology of stem cell treatments are real as Lisa Willemse write about from her time at the recent Till and McCulloch Stem Cell Meetings.
Source: OIRM

WATCH: Understanding GMO: The journey begins

This crowd funded documentary is in English and Chinese but with subtitles will give you plenty of information with a unique perspective. A group of Chinese students studying abroad spent 6 months visiting 8 cities interviewing researchers, farmers, social activist, consumers, and government officials to try to understand all the issues around GMOs, the science, and the perceptions. It will use up an hour of your day, but we think you will find it an hour well spent.
Source: YouTube

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!

What can a patient's DNA tell healthcare providers?

Join Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors, Genome British Columbia, in a discussion about the impact of genomics on healthcare at the President’s Speaker Series.

Completed in April 2003, the Human Genome Project gave us the ability to read the complete genetic blueprint for building a human being. This has significant implications for healthcare, which Dr. Lopez-Correra will explore in her presentation. Based on her work with healthcare providers in BC, she will describe how the Human Genome Project’s outcomes influence genomic applications in healthcare that will better inform decisions for patient care.

Dr. Lopez-Correa will also discuss ways healthcare systems can embrace the genomics revolution, as well as the social, economic and legal implications of incorporating genomics into the standard of care.

When: November 21, 2016, Noon – 1:00 p.m.
Where: Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, Shaw Auditorium, 11220 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB

Register by Friday, Nov. 18 and you can also attend via Telehealth locations across the province (pdf file).

If you have any questions, please email pss@ahs.ca.

ArcticNet Annual Scientific Meeting 2016

ArcticNet will host its 12th Annual Scientific Meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The ASM2016 will welcome researchers, students, Inuit, Northerners, policy makers and stakeholders to address the numerous environmental, social, economical, and political challenges and opportunities that are emerging from climate change and modernization in the Arctic.

As the largest annual Arctic research gathering held in Canada, ArcticNet’s ASM is the ideal venue to showcase results from all fields of Arctic research, stimulate discussion and foster collaborations among those with a vested interest in the Arctic and its peoples.

When: December 5 - 9, 2016
Where: RBC Convention Centre, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Register here for this year’s ArcticNet Scientific Meeting in Winnipeg.

Methane and Air Emissions – Compliance and Cost Reduction

The Canadian and Alberta Governments have announced policies to reduce methane emissions by 40 to 45% levels by 2025. Although final decisions have yet to be made, applicable draft federal regulations are anticipated in 2017 with provincial regulations to follow. This information session sponsored by Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada will provide a primer on the issue and show examples of field implementation of emissions reduction equipment and technologies by 3 petroleum companies while adhering to criteria of cost effectiveness and operational reliability.

When: December 12, 2016, 9:15 AM - 11:00 AM
Where: Nexen Annex Theatre (+15 Level), 801 - 7th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB

There is no cost for this event.
For more information and registration details

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)

Precision Medicine World Conference

Recognized as a vital cornerstone for all constituents of the health care and biotechnology community, PMWC provides an exceptional forum for the exchange of information about the latest advances in technology (e.g. DNA sequencing technology), in clinical implementation (e.g. cancer and beyond), research, and in all aspects related to the regulatory and reimbursement sectors.

When: January 23-25, 2017
Where: Computer History Museum, Silicon Valley California

Conference details and registration

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