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November 16, 2017

Volume 32 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

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.

Changes to the Canada Research Chairs program to increase equity and diversity in research

During the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa earlier this month, Canada’s Minister of Science announced some changes to the Canada Research Chairs Program. Kirsty Duncan said the changes are part of an effort “to give more people—women, Indigenous peoples, visible minorities and persons with disabilities—the chance to make their greatest contribution to research”. The changes include:
  • Limiting Tier 1 Chairs to a single renewal, allowing chairholders to hold a maximum of two, seven-year terms;
  • Allowing universities additional flexibility to convert chairs between Tier 1 and Tier 2 and across disciplines until December 2019, to promote greater uptake of diverse researchers into these prestigious positions; and
  • Revising the distribution of regular chair allocations across the federal research granting councils to promote research excellence in the natural sciences and engineering, health sciences, and social sciences and humanities.
You can read more about the changes on the CRCP website.

New funding for projects focused on clean energy and water technologies

Alberta Innovates, Emissions Reduction Alberta, and Sustainable Development Technology Canada announced funding for 11 new projects from small and medium enterprises that will support environmental stewardship and contribute to economic development by creating 300 new jobs.

This is the first time the organizations have worked together to allow companies to access funding through a single application process. The companies selected for support are from across Canada, but all technologies are being tested in Alberta.

The total funding envelope was $28.8 million and you can read more about the successful projects on the Alberta Innovates website.

NDP to impose conflict of interest rules on public agencies

The Alberta Government has proposed amendments to the Conflicts of Interest Act to ensure public agencies are governed transparently. If passed, the Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act 2017 would create a consistent set of rules for the province’s agencies, boards and commissions to ensure positions are not being used to further private interests.

If passed, the amendments would require board members and employees to conduct themselves impartially, disclose real and apparent conflicts of interest and place restrictions or limitations on:
  • Acting in self-interest or furthering private interest
  • Acceptance of gifts
  • Concurrent employment or other offices
Full details are on the government website.

Cleaning pipes – the genomics way

A Genome Alberta led project got an excellent write-up by Calgary business journalist Mark Lowey in Chemist Magazine recently. Microbial Induced Corrosion is responsible for at least 20 percent of pipeline corrosion and if the problem can be solved it could save the oil and gas industry hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention minimize environmental damage.

The MIC team and industry met in Calgary earlier this month to talk about the problem and genomics based solution and we got them together for a group picture.

Congratulations to everyone for the project’s good start!

New Alberta Innovates board members

In an Order in Council dated November 2nd, Jane Halford and Brett Robinson were appointed to the Board of Alberta Innovates and several other members were re-appointed.

Career opportunities at Genome Canada

Genome Canada has 3 job openings that you may be interested in. Follow the links and spruce up your resume!

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.

Enhanced understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine

We are going to indulge in a little pat-on-the-back with this edition of our Trending Stories because it was all over the mainstream media – locally at least.

The International Microbiome Centre opened at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine last week. It was first announced in 2015 with funding from the U of C and Western Economic Diversification Canada. The centrepiece for the Centre is the germ-free facility which also started ramping up its operation this week. The 10,000 sq ft research platform is one of the few germ-free research facilities in the world, and the only one that includes live cell imaging. Before the germ-free area was locked up to start being sterilized we took a tour with IMC director Dr. Kathy McCoy. With a 360˚ camera in hand we were able to get a good idea of the work that will be done there and what goes into maintaining a sterile environment. You can take the tour with us by going to our blog pages to watch all 5 parts. You’ll be able to use your computer or tablet’s pointing device to take a good look around the rooms as they were before the movers came in with the equipment!

Metro News, the Calgary Herald, and a Global News video report offered some insight into the Centre, and UToday noted “only those who love science, like showering frequently and have good bladder control need apply”.

While we were pleased with the coverage that the Centre received locally the microbiome has been getting other coverage as well. The Economist featured a piece on how our understanding of the microbiome is helping medicine, the NY Times had an article that covered the Human Microbiome Project, and Huffington Post got in on the act with a story on the link between obesity and the microbiome.

The launch of the IMC also included a Gairdner Symposium on Precision Medicine and the Microbiome, and an industry day which we were pleased to sponsor. Pictured at the left are Genome Alberta staffers Raja Singh, Anita Ludwar, Gijs van Rooijen, and Niall Kerrigan.

Update: The Latest Scoop on Goop

Past Trending sections of our newsletter have featured Gwyneth Paltrow and her Goop website which promises all sorts of remedies and treatments for many medical conditions, including some you may not even knew were a problem. Not sure what Goop is all about? The Atlantic will get you up to speed.

She’s back with another “In Goop We Trust Summit” being held in New York in January featuring leading experts in emotional and physical health such as Drew Barrymore, Chelsea Handler, Meg Ryan, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Linney.

May the Goop be with you…

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Epigenetics and battlefield chemicals

During the Vietnam war, the US army used herbicidal chemicals to clear forest cover around its bases in Vietnam, Laos and other neighbouring areas. One of these chemicals called agent orange is widely believed to have caused long lasting carinogenic effects in the US soldiers and local population without causing any mutations. Baylor College of Medicine is starting a study to investigate the epigenetic mechanisms by which this agent can cause cancers (e.g. prostate cancer) in populations and also investigating transgenerational inheritance of its effects.

Blueberry fights cancer through epigenetics

A new study from Sookmyung Women’s University in Korea and the University of Occupational and Environmental Health in Japan examined women who consumed Vitamin C or Blueberry juice for 2 – weeks to investigate DNA methylation and antioxidative effects of blueberry. The study found blueberry juice to be more potent than Vit. C in providing antioxidant effects and potential anticancer mechanism of blueberry or Vit. C is associated with inhibition of promoter methylation at the MTHFR. Blueberry juice (and Vit. C) may exert their biological effect through epigenetic modulation of DNA methylation.

Epigenetics of autoimmune diseases

50 million people (1 in 5 people) in US suffer from Autoimmune (AI) diseases where the host cells attack and destroy own cells, unable to distinguish them from foreign invading viruses and bacteria. 80 different type of AI diseases are known such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac etc. AI runs in families and several studies have shown that it occurs due to unfavorably interaction between genes and environment leading to some genes being turned off. DNA methylation and histone modifications have been shown to make B-cells and T-cells become overactive causing onset of AI diseases. Epigenetics promises new insights into the mechanisms onset of AI diseases and potential for treatment.

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.

Watson for oncology isn't an AI that fights cancer, it's an unproven mechanical turk that represents the guesses of a small group of doctors

Cory Doctorow is a Canadian science fiction author, blogger, and journalist who writes extensively about technology and science. He says that the IBM Watson technology being used for oncology is not quite as smart as you might think.
Source: Boing Boing

How the genomics health revolution is failing ethnic minorities

Current databases of genomics data do not reflect the same ethnic diversity of the population of Canada. Data largely derived from people of European descent will have serious consequences when applied to Indigenous or African American populations.
Source: The Conversation

Crop research partnership maps two lentil genomes

Research that was part of the $7.9 million Genome Canada funded “Application of Genomics to Innovation in the Lentil Economy” has resulted in the sequencing of two wild lentil genomes. The project is led by University of Saskatchewan scientists Kirstin Bett and Bert Vandenberg. The information will help to identify beneficial traits and integrate them into the genome of the domesticated lentil to develop lentil varieties with improved vigor, resilience and productivity.
Source: Grain News

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!

4th Annual Canadian Conference on Epigenetics: Mechanisms of Disease

This symposium is intended to bring together a critical mass of epigenetics researchers, along with key international leaders in the field, to engage in cross-disciplinary dialogue on recent advancements in the field of epigenomics with a focus on the impact of epigenetic mechanisms in human disease. There will be several sessions over the course of the three days including presentations by key international and Canadian speakers.

When: November 26 - 29, 2017
Where: Westin Resort and Spa, Whistler, BC

Details and registration available online

Mini Med School: Transplants

Mini-Medical School is designed for members of the general public who are interested in learning more about chronic diseases and topics such as Allergies, Concussions, Vaccines, Immune Deficiencies, Precision Medicine, the Microbiome, Women's Issues, and Environmental Exposures.

You won’t graduate with a medical degree after attending the Mini-Medical School series but you will gain more insight to healthy living and chronic diseases.

There are no pre-requisites to attend these lectures and they are open to the public from high school students to retirees. Each lecture will combine basic science with real life clinical situations in order to give Calgarians a better understanding of the effects of chronic diseases on the body. Each presenter is highly respected in their field of research, and is a current member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the Cumming School of Medicine with the University of Calgary.

The next one is in December when Dr. Kelly Burak & Dr. Andreas Kramer discuss transplants

When: December 4, 2017, 6:30 - 8:45pm
Where: Libin Theatre at the Foothills Campus, Cumming School of Medicine with the University of Calgary.

The closest parking lot to the Health Sciences Science where the Libin Theatre is located is Lot 6.

There is no cost to attend a lecture but online registration is required.

To listen to past lectures please click here.

Should you have any questions contact Maria Gallant, Operations Coordinator at 403-220-4132 or mjgallan@ucalgary.ca.

DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

Any and all researchers and students pursuing frontier energy and environmental genomics research are welcome!
In parallel with the Meeting, the JGI will be hosting the first ever Viral EcoGenomics and Applications (VEGA) Symposium – Big data approaches to help characterize earth’s Virome. The goals of this one and a half day symposium are to bring together a “viral ecogenomics” community, i.e. experts of viral/phage genetics, structure, ecology, evolution, and (meta)genomics, to foster discussions centered on how to best capture and characterize uncultivated viruses, understand the role of viruses in natural ecosystems, and functionally explore viral genetic diversity.

When: March 13 - 16, 2018
Where: Hilton San Francisco in Union Square

For more information or to register, please visit the meeting website.
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