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December 15, 2016

Volume 28 Issue 6


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

$35.6 million awarded to Alberta-led research projects in national funding competition

Four projects led by Genome Alberta secured 31% of the Large Scale Applied Research Project Competition funding announced last week by Federal Science Minister Kirsty Duncan. The $35.6 million is part of an overall $110 million investment which will use genomics tools and technology to meet challenges faced by Canada’s natural resource and environment sectors.

13 successful projects were announced and Alberta’s success in securing 4 of those projects is our best LSARP showing to date.

The successful applications are:
  • Resilient Forests: Climate Pests & Policy – Genomic Applications (total budget $5.6 million)
    Project co-leaders: Barb Thomas, Nadir Erbilgin – University of Alberta, Yousry El-Kassaby – University of British Columbia

  • Systems Biology and Molecular Ecology of Chronic Wasting Disease (total budget $11.5 million)
    Project co-leaders: Debbie McKenzie, David Wishart – University of Alberta

  • Managing Microbial Corrosion in Canadian Offshore and Onshore Oil Production (total budget $7.8 million)
    Project co-leaders: Lisa Gieg – University of Calgary, John Wolodko – University of Alberta, Faisal Khan – Memorial University

  • GENICE: Microbial Genomics for Oil Spill Preparedness in Canada’s Arctic Marine Environment (total budget $10.7 million )
    Project co-leaders: Casey Hubert – University of Calgary, Gary Stern – University of Manitoba
Go to our blog pages to see details on all the successful projects and read about Genome Alberta’s best LSARP success to date. Casey Hubert’s GENICE project has been getting some good coverage such as this article in UToday and the chronic wasting disease project was featured in the Globe and Mail. We’ll have more stories in future newsletters but visit our main website to keep up with the latest news and information on the projects.

BC researchers win big in federal competition for disruptive innovation

Also announced last week were the results of Genome Canada’s Disruptive Innovation in Genomics Competition to support the development of disruptive innovation in the field of genomics. A disruptive innovation offers the capability to do things not previously possible and is not an incremental improvement of an existing technology. BC-led research earned about a third of the announced funding and you can see full details on the Genome BC website.

Genome Atlantic and NSERC sign MOU to expand research and innovation capacity in Atlantic Canada

Genome Atlantic and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada have entered into a memorandum of understanding to increase collaboration and streamline the process to connect researchers to programs and services. More details are on the Genome Atlantic website.

Canada’s top doctor Gregory Taylor retiring ahead of schedule

Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada’s chief public health officer is retiring three years ahead of schedule. Canadian Press is reporting that his last day will be on Friday.

Which cheese? Which wine?

One of the favourites on the food table at holiday parties is wine and cheese. Finding the perfect pairing however is not necessarily a favourite task for many of us, but there is an app for that now thanks to University of Toronto professor Gary Bader. He also happens to be a member of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team.

His web app is called the Wine and Cheese Map and all you need to do is type in the name of a wine or a cheese and you get a range of suggestions for the appropriate pairing. As the Washington Post points out, Kraft Singles are not on the list.

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 search is on for a Chief Science Advisor

Way back in May Canada’s Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan penned an op-ed which said that she had spent several months studying how to structure the role of a Chief Science Advisor for Canada. At the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Ottawa in November she reiterated her desire to create the position and promised we would hear soon. At last, we are pleased to say, the search is on and it has generated some buzz in and around Canada’s science community. Here is the video of the Minister’s announcement on December 5th.

Like any job posting the government has laid out specific requirements, roles, and duties. Among other things you’ll need a doctoral degree, research experience, skills in public science communication, knowledge of how government works, and preferably be bilingual. You’ll also have to live in Ottawa.

The role will be an advisory one and will be required to brief cabinet when needed. That could be an awkward position to be in if the briefing doesn’t fit existing policy, but there are signs that the role will be permanent and protected by legislation.

Interested in applying? Brush up your CV and off you go.

Scientists struggle to explain spike in methane emissions

Methane levels are on the rise and it has got the media buzzing. EurActiv follow EU related news and the site suggests that scientists are not exactly sure what is causing the spike. This article looks at several of the reasons and has some good side bar stories covering emissions from agriculture, shale gas, and flaring. How severe is the spike? Arctic News has some good graphs and points out that on the afternoon of December 5th, Methane levels over the Arctic Ocean are higher than elsewhere in the world.

Time magazine’s first look at the new findings touch on agriculture and the increased use of natural gas as the culprit. Most popular media seems to be focusing on agriculture as the main source and even where it isn’t the focus of the story, a picture of a cow is front and centre such as these stories from the CBC and the Washington Post.

Whatever the cause this sudden surge may diminish the efforts already underway to fight climate change says The Guardian.

Theranos update

The tale of the rise and fall of medical testing company Theranos has provided plenty of fodder for our trending story and numerous stories for technology and business writers and journals. Overlooked though is that as Theranos was on the rise they we performing diagnostic testing services and making promises to patients.

PBS and CBS host and journalist Charlie Rose has been a fan of Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes but as the company started to falter and slip away Charlie Rose was surprisingly quiet about the events. He recently tackled the story and as the program has often done in the past, brought out a new aspect to the tale. This interview will give you a new perspective on Theranos – namely the toll it has taken on people who put their health into the hands of an unproven technology. John Carreyrou from the NY Time is one of the guests in the interview and he has also written about one of the whistleblowers from inside Theranos and what that has meant to his life, his career, and his finances. Tackling a story about a tech darling as Theranos was is a daunting task and how it all came about is as interesting as the story of Theranos itself. Score one for investigative journalism.

Found on Twitter Up arrow

A few months ago there was a lot of speculation about the sale of Twitter even though executives at the social media giant would prefer to remain independent. Speculation has included Salesforce, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and even Verizon or Comcast. Twitter stock rose. It now appears everyone is out of the race except perhaps for Salesforce. Twitter’s stock prices have fallen. Much of the ups and downs and speculation is because Twitter’s user numbers have stalled and that worries investors. However with more than 310 million regular users (and considerably more registered users) , of which roughly 100 million are daily active users, that’s not a bad place to have stalled.

The real challenge withTwitter is how to stand out and put it to work for you or your organization if you aren’t Donald Trump. Yet, with good planning, using some of the right tools, and understanding your goals and your audience, Twitter works. 140 characters at a time. With every edition of our GenOmics newsletter we bring you this small sample of some of the posts that have come through our Twitter account, because the accounts get noticed.

Be sure to follow @GenomeAlberta and @mikesgene on Twitter to see how we have put it to use to get noticed as well.

Thanks to the following for using Twitter to share science:

@CaulfieldTim Tim Caulfield is a Professor of health law and science policy, a Trudeau Fellow, and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash. He’s also been know to join research teams from the Genome Enterprise. http://www.hli.ualberta.ca/People/TimothyCaulfield.aspx

@DrKhouryCDC Dr. Muin Khoury is Director of the U.S. CDC Office of Public Health Genomics. http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/default.htm

@IAmBiotech One of the accounts for the U.S. Biotechnology Innovation Organization https://www.facebook.com/IAmBiotech

@NSERC_CRSNG The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca

@pknoepfler Paul Knoepfler is a Professor at UC Davis, a biomedical scientist, science writer, advocate, and cancer survivor. http://www.ipscell.com/paul/

@sciencepolicy Account for the annual Canadian Science Policy Conference. http://www.sciencepolicy.ca

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.

Canada’s next big economic pitch: to feed a hungry world

As Canada tries to diversity away from an oil and gas economy, agriculture is a niche the country is well positioned to move on. It is as much about farming technology as it is about genomics to help the industry deal with climate change, and this article says it take political will and industry action.
Source: Globe & Mail

Union deal reached allowing government scientists to directly share research with media

The union which represents many Federal public servants including scientists, has reached a tentative contract giving its members the right to share their research with the media without being designated as an official spokesperson.
Source: CBC

LISTEN: Drug resistant "superbug" gene found on pig farm

Carbapenems, are considered a last resort antibiotic used against drug-resistant infections in hospitalized patients. Researchers have stumbled on a bacteria that is resistant to this important class of antibiotics. It was found on a pig farm in the U.S. and no one is quite sure how it got there.
Source: Quirks & Quarks

What the CRISPR patent dispute is all about

What is tougher to decipher? Molecular biology or Patent Law. You might want to put your money on the law.
Source: Scientific American

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!

International Plant & Animal Genome XXV Conference

The Plant and Animal Genome XXV Conference 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 opportunity to exchange ideas and applications on this internationally important project.

PAG XXV is expected to include:
  • 2000+ abstracts
  • 135+ exhibits
  • 1200+ posters
  • 140+ workshops
When: January 14 - 18, 2017
Where: San Diego, CA

More information and registration details here

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

Festival of Genomics

The Festival of Genomics London brings together academia, biopharma and healthcare to explore the power of the genome in driving R&D and the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
  • Kari Stefansson, CEO of deCODE will offer insights into the company’s exceptional genomic data set and its implications for PMI
  • MHRA CEO Ian Hudson’s has insights into the development and regulation of precision medicine and companion diagnostics
  • You’ll get a glimpse into the Qatar Genome Program - a large-scale, high impact project that’s just completed its pilot phase

When: January 31 and February 1, 2017
Where: ExCeL London, Royal Victoria Dock, London England

More information and details on how to register can be found here.

12th Annual Biomarkers Congress 2017

  • Over 250 delegates representing leading biotech companies, global pharma organizations and internationally renowned academic institutions
  • Over 55 presentations, case studies, round-table and panel discussions focused on the key innovations of biomarker research in discovery and development, companion diagnostics, data management, innovative biology, precision medicine and clinical biomarkers
When: February 21 - 22, 2017
Where: Manchester, UK

More information and details on how to register

Agricultural Institute of Canada - AIC 2017

The Agriculture Institute of Canada, AIC, is presenting a Conference to be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba in April of 2017. This year's topic will be "Agricultural Innovation in a Changing Environment". Agriculture and the environment are intricately linked within a complex ecosystem, with agriculture both depending on and impacting critical natural resources. Canada’s agriculture sector is an important steward of the environment and has an important role to play in meeting today’s global sustainability and climate-smart goals.

When: April 24 - 26, 2017
Where: Delta Hotel, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Further information and details on registration can be found here.
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