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December 4, 2017

Volume 32 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.

Members’ statement about CWD

On November 29th, Craig Coolahan, the MLA for Calgary-Klein rose in the Legislature and spoke about our Chronic Wasting Disease project. Project co-lead Debbie McKenzie (pictured at left with Mr. Coolahan) attended the sitting that afternoon and was introduced from the Public Gallery.

You can find the full text and details on our website.

Alberta researchers receive $6 million in GAPP funding

Results of the 8th round of funding under the Genomic Applications Partnership Program were announced earlier this week. Five new projects were successful including one from Alberta led by Deirdre Church of Calgary Lab Services, and Ian Lewis from the University of Calgary. Their project “Device for the rapid detection of seven common bloodstream infections and assessment of antibiotic susceptibility” will develop a new testing device that can identify bloodstream infection pathogens and determine their drug sensitivity in less than six hours.

There was $8.1 million in federal funding for the five projects and an additional $16.4 million from provincial governments, businesses and research partners for a total of $24.5 million.

Read more about the project on our website and view the media release.

New projects to explore societal implications of genomics research

Five new projects have received funding under the Genome Canada and Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Joint Initiative on Societal Implications of Genomics Research. The projects were announced by the Minister of Science, the Hon. Kirsty Duncan, earlier this month as part of a major SSHRC grants and scholarships funding announcement. The overall objective of the Genome Canada-SSHRC joint initiative is to support social sciences and humanities research and related activities that will enrich our understanding of the societal implications of genomic research.

More information on the newly funded project is available on the Genome Canada website.

Examining soil communities could provide answers for the mining industry

Genome BC has investing in research to address gaps in environmental assessment guidelines and protocols for successful ecosystem reclamation following a mine closure. Led by Dr. Lauchlan Fraser and co-led by Dr. Jon Van Hamme from Thompson Rivers University the research will focus on applied reclamation research and will work with industry associations, regulators and First Nations to improve efficiency and effectiveness of mine reclamation.

Read more about the project on the Genome BC website.

Ontario appoints its first Chief Scientist

Ontario has named Molly Shoichet as the Province’s first Chief Scientist. She is a professor at the University of Toronto and a member of the Order of Ontario, and will report to Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science.

Read the media release for more details.

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.

Women in Science

The stories making the headlines over the last several weeks have involved the harassment of women in entertainment, the media, and in politics and it has give rise to many other stories about harassment that don’t quite make the top of the news. But they are there, and while the harassment of women in science hasn’t trended, it still deserves to be a headline – even if only on our newsletter pages.

One story that has made the general news has been featured in our newsletter in the past but has come back to the news pages in the past week. In October of 2016, a female grad student filed a suit against her supervisor saying she was sexually harassed at a remote field location in the Antarctic. On November 17, Boston University concluded its investigation and has recommended that David Marchant’s employment be terminated. He is appealing the ruling and this story in Science Magazine will bring you up-to-date.

Like the stories making headlines today, sexism in science is not new. "'Go Fix Your Make-Up, We're Working,' Female Science Students Are Told By Their Lecturers" is a 2015 story in the Huffington Post. The story paints a picture of science where sexism is ‘highly normalized’ and refers to a Bristol University students’ union study which found a majority of staff felt uncomfortable in their place of work because of their gender.

This article in STAT by Karin Lachmi makes the case for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professions to take the lead in meeting the challenges of gender biases and sexual harassment in the workplace. She is co-founder, chief scientific officer, and president of Bioz, a search engine for life science experimentation, and writes both from a personal, and a professional point-of-view.

If the issue is not addressed the impact could be substantial. Some have called it the 'leaky pipeline' phenomenon, as women gradually withdraw from the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This article from Nature: Ecology and Evolution says we need a zero tolerance policy that covers interaction in the field, the lab, and at conferences.

Eileen Pollack wrote a book called The Only Woman in the Room about her experience as a female astrophysicist. The book is almost 2 years old now but little has changed and this 17 minute podcast from Quirks and Quarks is as relevant today as it was in January of 2016.

More stories are making the news because women are more willing to speak out and the media is taking the time to listen. It can be a minefield if a reporter is too quick to rush the story as the Washington Post found out, but reporters are getting better at covering harassment stories and the World Conference of Science Journalists addressed it head on this year.

Harassment and gender equality top the keyword list but there is a lot of evidence to show that a diverse and comfortable workplace leads to productivity, economic growth, prosperity and our ability to compete globally. It may well be that doing the right thing is not enough and that the economic argument may finally sway the holdouts, especially if research funders choose to take action.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Bioinformatics workshop

Advances in omics research have created data of unprecedented size and complexity. This has necessitated the need to develop new computational, data-analysis and theoretical tools for simulation and modelling to better understand the associated biology and help develop precision strategies in health, agriculture and other fields. AEN and the Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences partnered to organize a workshop on November 24 to provide researchers and industry partners a platform to share current knowledge and discuss the application of Bioinformatics, Computational biology and Artificial Intelligence to study biological systems.

The workshop was attended by over 75 researchers, trainees from Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge, and industry participants from IBM, Illumina, Thermo Fisher, Zenith Epigenetics, Resverlogix, Cybera, MolecularYou, AOR Pharma and others. Presenters discussed current work being done in this area and opportunities to collaborate on innovative and transformative research in computational biology, bioinformatics, mathematics, AI/deep learning and health informatics to enable novel translational research.

Midwest chromatin and epigenetics meeting

Purdue University has provided funding to the Epigenetic and Chromatin Biology Cluster to hold a meeting in June. The event will bring scientists from the Midwest together at Purdue to share recent discoveries in transcription, chromatin and epigenetics. Read more about Purdue's faculty clusters here.

Epigenetics may be the mechanism in passing mental illness to the next generation

Mental illness associated with early childhood adversity may be passed from generation to generation, according to a study of adults whose parents evacuated Finland as children during World War II. The study was conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Helsinki University in Finland. It appears in JAMA Psychiatry.

From our blog pages:

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 conversation with Canada's Chief Science Advisor Dr. Mona Nemer

Want to know even more about Canada’s Chief Science Advisor? At the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa in early November, Mona Nemer was on stage to talk about herself, her new role, and about science in Canada. You can see her conversation with Mehrdad Hariri on YouTube along with some of the other video and audio recordings of presentations given during the conference. If you don’t have time to watch the full recording of Mona Nemer at CSPC here is a summary from ScienceMetrics.
Source: CSPC

‘Clean meat’ could be a major revolution for the agriculture sector

Have your cow and eat it too thanks to biotechnology and ‘clean meat’. It is also the subject of a new book, Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World, by Paul Shapiro, vice-president of policy at the Humane Society of the United States.
Source: Globe & Mail

UBC develops new technique to identify unwanted animal products in ground beef

DNA testing can already identify foreign species in meat products, but it can't locate offal, such as hearts, livers, kidneys and stomachs, mixed in with meat of the same species. UBC's new technique can do both.
Source: Metro News

Parents may one day be morally obligated to edit their baby’s genes

If gene editing can cure a disease, is it wrong to not use it? Where is the line between genetic enhancement and simply fixing what is wrong? And who decides what is wrong?
Source: Science 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!

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code

Genome: Unlocking Life's Code is an exhibit at Science North which will help you unravel the mystery behind the complete set of instructions needed for every living thing on Earth to grow and function: the genome. It took nearly a decade, three billion dollars, and thousands of scientists to sequence the human genome in 2003. And thanks to the pioneering work of the Human Genome Project, we are starting to know so much more about ourselves, and our world.

When: October 7, 2017 - January 7, 2018
Where: Science North, Sudbury Ontario

Learn more about the exhibit at Science North.

Technology for Precision Health Summit

The Technology for Precision Health Summit is presented by Health 2.0, which promotes, showcases and catalyzes new technologies in health care. Through a worldwide series of conferences, code-a-thons, and prize challenges, they bring together the best minds, resources and technology for compelling panels, discussions and product demonstrations, and more.

The day starts by diving into genomics and other –omics technologies that are rapidly making their way to clinicians and into Electronic Health Care Records. This is the convergence of technology, science, and healthcare. Enabled by technology, how does this new information change the way that patients get treated? You’ll hear from healthcare providers, company CEO’s and physicians working in technology for clinical decision support. Other sessions include supporting R&D, predictive analytics, clinical trials and business models.

When: December 12, 2017
Where: San Francisco, Ca.

Read the full agenda.

Register to attend

The Plant and Animal Genome XXVI Conference

The Plant and Animal Genome XXVI Conference (PAG) is designed to provide a forum on recent developments and future plans for plant and animal genome projects. Consisting of technical presentations, poster sessions, exhibits and workshops, the conference is an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas and applications on this internationally important project.

Genome Alberta and the other Genome Centres will be well represented - we look forward to seeing everyone there!

When: January 13-17, 2018
Where: San Diego, California

Register here by January 12, 2018 to reserve your spot at the conference!

Learn more.

Mini Med School: Autoimmunity

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 into 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.

In February Dr. Dianne Mosher & Dr. Marvin Fritzler discuss autoimmunity

When: February 5, 2018, 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.

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