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December 3, 2018

Volume 36 Issue 5


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.

Times are a changing

A few changes have arrived for our newsletters. Instead of GenOmics and Genomics in Society each coming out every 2 weeks, we are going to an alternating schedule. Starting with this issue, GenOmics will come out at the beginning of the month, and Genomics in Society will be in your Inbox around the middle of the month. We will also be adjusting the content to make it more relevant and adding a couple of new sections over the coming issues.

In the meantime you can help us be ensuring that info@genomealberta.ca is whitelisted in your email. We would also appreciate hearing from you about what content you would most like to see by sending a note to Mike Spear, Genome Alberta’s Communications Director.

Now – on with the content:

University of Calgary announces new Life Sciences Innovation Hub

The University of Calgary is purchasing the Shell Technology Centre Calgary (STCC) and will be convert the building into the new Life Sciences Innovation Hub in early 2019. The building is located in the University Research Park which is where Genome Alberta is located. According to the U of C, the Hub will be used by students, researchers, startups and companies to interact and explore new ideas and concepts, as well as provide dedicated wet lab and office space for developing companies. This latest announcement comes 2 weeks after the transfer of 3 buildings and 76 acres in the Research Park from the Government of Alberta to the University of Calgary.

You can see the STCC media release on our website.

International collaborations

Canada and the UK governments signed a memorandum of understanding in 2017 that promised to improve bilateral co-operation in innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture and food, and related technologies. One of the outcomes from that understanding was for Genome Alberta’s David Bailey to join Genome Canada on an international mission in London in September 2018 to report on progress made during the 1st year after signing the MOU. This was an opportunity to identify collaborations more fully, and to identify priorities for industry-led research. As a result of these two-day meetings new bilateral partnerships between Canada and UK are currently being formalized.

David Bailey also travelled to Belfast in mid-November to attend the 6th Agri-food International Forum, “Science and Technology – delivering a sustainable future for resilient food production and for the environment”. Canada had the largest delegation from countries outside of the UK. The meeting provided an opportunity to highlight priority areas of agri-food and genomics innovation and research. Several new collaborations were made with organizations from the United Kingdom, United States, and New Zealand.

Some of the attendees are pictured at right.

New paper from our CWD project

A major compound in soil organic matter degrades chronic wasting disease prions and decreases infectivity in mice, according to a study published November 29 in the open-access journal PLOS Pathogens by Judd Aiken of the University of Alberta, and colleagues.

Chronic Wasting Disease or CWD is a fatal prion disease of deer, elk and moose. It has been spreading throughout North America and researchers are working to identify the best means to detect the disease and to determine how it is spread. Transmission includes direct exposure to an infected individual, or indirect exposure to the environment that has been contaminated by an infected individual. Prion infectivity can persist in the environment remaining a source of disease transmission for many years.

The new paper comes as a result of some of the work done by the Genome Alberta-funded Systems Biology and Molecular Ecology of Chronic Wasting Disease project.

Science Borealis news

Genome Alberta was an original supporter and co-founder of Science Borealis, Canada’s only science blogging network. We continue to offer financial support to the volunteer-driven effort which currently has about 140 blogging members and more than 42,000 page views of the content. We are pleased to say that Ryerson University has joined the sponsorship ranks but we need more sponsors to keep the website strong in an era of science misinformation.

To find out more about how you can help, contact mspear@GenomeAlberta.ca.

People’s Choice Award: Speaking with Stephen Heard, the mind behind Scientist Sees Squirrel

Stephen Heard is the author of Scientist Sees Squirrel, and he this year’s winner of the Science Borealis and Science Writers and Communicators of Canada, People’s Choice Award for Canada’s Favourite Science Blog. Stephen has been posting for 4 years on a variety of topics, from statistics and the etymology of scientific Latin names, to science publishing. Connie Tang, Chemistry co-editor at Science Borealis spoke with him about how his blog and his research career intersect, as well as delving into the process behind managing a blog.

Science Borealis Core Volunteer Opportunity

Science Borealis is looking for a self-directed organized person to handle administrative tasks for our Core Team and Board of Directors. This remote volunteer Admin position provides a unique opportunity to be part of the inner workings of Science Borealis and work directly with our leadership. If you have excellent organizational and written skills and a few hours a week to contribute, contact us at volunteer@scienceborealis.ca and convince us you are the person for the job.

This role involves scheduling, attending, and documenting monthly teleconference meetings; managing correspondence and contact lists; maintaining shared document repositories; formatting and preparing promotional and in-house material for distribution. Time commitment would be 1-3 hours a week plus a 1-hour monthly meeting.

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.

The blow-up over gene editing

No question what dominated the news, our social media feed, and our media monitoring dashboard: "Genome-edited baby claim provokes international outcry”.

We can only scrape the surface of all the stories that hit the headlines and the Google searchers so we will try to introduce a cross-section of the story as it developed over a few days.

The MIT Technology Review was among the first with the story that they referred to as an “exclusive” look at the Chinese effort to create “CRISPR babies”. After the story was published on Sunday the 25th, the full news broke, and the Review added a link to the first Associated Press story and to He Jiankui’s own promotional video also posted on the 25th.

After the AP story it was a full court press online, in print, and across broadcast outlets.

Major mainstream sources such as NPR tended to be in front when it came to presenting the facts as they were known or with good explainers such as the Washington Post’s QuickTake. Almost as fast where the stories on the ethical considerations such a CBC’s “Many scientists denounce researcher claiming 1st gene-edited babies born in China” or CTV’s text and video report that led with the headline “You can’t pretend to be God”.

The major online-only sources were equally as quick and looked for other angles to the story. The Huffington Post wondered whether it was the fear of AIDS which was used as the carrot to recruit couples to join in the research effort and The Conversation was on top of He Jiankui’s appearance at a gene-editing summit in Hong Kong with a piece from someone attending the event.

It was also interesting to look at some of the reaction from China’s own outward facing press.

Prominent among the English press are China Daily and the South China Morning Post. Neither seemed to shrink away from criticizing the breakthrough. Starting with the initial reaction through to an editorial calling for an investigation and a headline about the ‘crazy’ and ‘unethical’ gene-editing experiment. These two media outlets are heavily state-influenced but the fact they were willing to not become strictly sideline cheerleaders does speak to how deep feelings about the news have been running.

We will leave you with couple of thought pieces from noted science writers. Ed Yong of The Atlantic writes about “Reckless and Needless Use of Gene Editing on Human Embryos” and the Globe & Mail’s Andre Picard wonders if the “brave new world of designer babies” has arrived.

P.S. As we were compiling this piece we there appears to be a second and possibly third pregnancy involving gene editing technology.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Opinion: The new frontiers of epigenetics

Two new methods of epigenetic assessment and intervention, APOBEC-coupled epigenetic sequencing and CRISPR, have the potential to dramatically enhance epigenetic research and its clinical applications.
Source: The Scientist

Leukemia epigenetics in focus

Some severe forms of leukemia develop because proteins on the epigenetic level lose their regulative function. Now, in a broad international collaboration, UK researchers have identified molecules that can effectively inhibit the dysregulated proteins. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers report the discovery, design, and testing of potential drugs on the cellular level. The findings set the stage for new biological experiments and cancer treatment approaches in the future.
Source: Wiley

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 monthly edition direct to your email, cancel a subscription, and view all of our back issues.

Public perspectives on food risks

About half of Americans think GMOs are worse for their health, up 10 points since 2016. However, majorities also say genetically modified foods will increase the global food supply and make food more affordable.
Source: Pew Research Center

Canadian Science Policy Conference speech by the Minister of Science and Sport

If you were unable to attend the 2018 Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa last month, here are the speaking points for The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport.

$400 million investment program positions Ireland for global leadership in genomic research and advanced life sciences

A life sciences consortium has announced a $400 million (€350M) investment program aimed at making Ireland a genomics research and development hub focused on new disease treatments and cures.
Source: CEO.CA

Canada signatory to biotechnology support statement

Canada joined 28 countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Jordan, Paraguay, the United States, Uruguay, Vietnam, and the Secretariat of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in supporting an International Statement on Agricultural Applications of Precision Biotechnology.

You can see the full statement on the WTO website.

Source: Manitoba Co-Operator

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!

Keeping up with the Speed of Disruption; Session 1

The Public Policy Forum’s professional development seminar series Keeping Up With the Speed of Disruption is coming up again. The series is for executives, policy directors, and practice leads who seek a better understanding of digital government trends and digital-era governance challenges.

The learning modules provide a deep dive into a selection of emerging technologies, likely areas of disruption and impact, and an exploration of how governments around the world are reacting – or not – to a quickly shifting technological landscape. For each session, the common threads of information security, privacy, ethics, regulatory implications and sustainability will be explored.

The first session, titled "The New Biology", explores the technologies that are changing the way we interact with biological information and biological systems.
The second session in January is titled "The New Intelligence", and explores the technologies and applications arising from artificial intelligence and the big data movement.

One of the featured presenters is PPF Fellow Rob Annan, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at Genome Canada.

When: December 7, 2018 and January 18th, 2019
Where: Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, Ottawa On.

The cost for this series starts at $2,250. For more information and registration, visit the PPF website.

Breeding for Efficiency 2018 EDGP Symposium

The Breeding for Efficiency 2018 EDGP Symposium is presented by the Efficient Dairy Genome Project (EDGP), in collaboration with the Universities of Guelph and Alberta, Genome Canada, Genome Alberta and Ontario.The program includes a discussion of genomics and its ethical, economic, environmental, legal and social aspects; data consolidation & partners' updates; and sequence, database & transcriptomics.

WHEN: December 10, 2018
WHERE: Delta Hotel & Conference Centre, Guelph, Ontario

Attendance is free with RSVP.
Please RSVP by email to Michela Arbuthnott or by telephone at 519-767-9660, ext. 103

International Plant & Animal Genome XXVII

PAG brings together over 3,000 leading genetic scientists and researchers in plant and animal research, and over 130 exhibits, 150 workshops, 1100 posters and over 1800 abstracts. And better yet it happens in warm and sunny San Diego!

Canada’s Genomics Enterprise will be there and we hope to see there.

When: January 12th – 16th
Where: Town and Country Hotel, San Diego

More details available at the conference website.

2019 AAAS Annual Meeting

Science transcending boundaries: The 2019 AAAS annual meeting theme explores ways science is bringing together people, ideas, and solutions from across real and artificial borders, disciplines, sectors, ideologies, and traditions.

WHEN: February 11-14, 2019
WHERE: Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, Washington, DC

For registration and information, visit the AAAS Annual Meeting website.

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