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December 19, 2017

Volume 32 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

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.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – Genome Alberta style

We gathered together some of our funded researchers and with help from our regular podcast contributor Don Hill and the Dead String Band, produced a special version of The Night Before Christmas. Pour another cup of coffee or eggnog and enjoy our Ho-Ho-Ho Ensemble production.

$6 million in new funding for Alberta researchers

A Genome Alberta-led project has received funding in the latest round of the Genomic Applications Partnership Program, or GAPP. This is the 8th round of GAPP which was created to fund downstream research and development projects addressing real world opportunities identified by industry, government, not-for-profits and industry. GAPP projects are collaborations between academic researchers and the end-users, and are co-funded by Genome Canada, the end-user, and other stakeholders.

This new Alberta collaboration is between Calgary Lab Services as the end-user working with the academic partner, Ian Lewis from the University of Calgary. Together they will be developing a device to test for bloodstream infections. The current procedure can take 2 to 4 days to identify the pathogen and evaluate its susceptibility to antibiotics. The U of C and Calgary Lab Services have already developed a prototype which reduces the testing time to 24 hours, and with the new funding will reduce the time to less than six hours and move the product into clinical use.
Once in use the device will not only simplify the testing procedure, but reduce costs by more than 70 percent.

Read more about the GAPP 8 announcement and view the background information (pdf file) for the 5 new projects announced on December 1st.

University of Calgary students create award-winning tools using human waste

The University of Calgary iGEM team sponsored in part by Genome Alberta had some gold medal success at the International iGEM Competition in Boston. The team’s idea to turn human sold waste into a useable plastic that can be used in a 3D printer caught the attention of the judges and of NASA.

Two of the team members were interviewed on CBC Radio so take 6 minutes to listen to a couple of rising science stars explain their idea.

Genome BC invests in microbiome startup

Microbiome Insights has received $750,000 through Genome BC’s Industry Innovation Program. The company provides next-generation-sequencing-based analytical testing and consulting services to microbiome researchers in academia and industry. The new funding adds to the company’s recent round of equity financing. The Genome BC fund provides commercialization support for companies developing innovative life science technologies that address biological challenges in key economic sectors in BC.

Read complete details on the Genome BC website.

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.

Calestous Juma

Our trending story this week is also a late breaking story. Harvard Professor, environmentalist, and writer Calestous Juma died on December 15th at the age of 64. He was born in Kenya and came to be recognized as a leading expert in the application of science and technology to sustainable development around the world. He was a professor of International Development and faculty chair of the Innovation for Economic Development Executive Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and director of its Science, Technology and Globalisation project.

Read more about him on Wikipedia.

Juma used social media extensively and his Tweets and some of his articles have been featured in our newsletters many times. Reports have indicated he had health problems for some time but he was still Tweeting last week and had an article featured in The Conversation.

 A Goopy Update

"Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop Brand Expands To Canada For First Time Ever" reads the headline in the International Business Times. In no time at all Globe & Mail columnist Andre Picard posted a Tweet: “Paging @CaulfieldTim” and alerting him to the news.

For those who might wonder why the call went out to Tim Caulfield it is because he is the author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash.

We’ll keep you up-to-date on the Gwyneth’s Great Canadian Adventure.

Alberta Epigenetics Network News Up arrow

Brain gain for Canada and for epigenetics

Canada’s Science Minister, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, announced the new Canada 150 Research Chairs and the field of epigenetics received some attention. Miguel Ramalho-Santos will leave his position of Associate Professor and Principal Investigator at the University of California, San Francisco, and head to the University of Toronto as the Canada 150 Research Chair in Developmental Epigenetics.

Also coming to the University of Toronto is Donna Rose Addis who will be the Canada 150 Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Aging. The Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University will be Caroline Colijn, and Margo Seltzer takes on the role of the Canada 150 Research Chair in Computer Systems at the University of British Columbia.

You can read the details in the media release and there is a good story in the Globe and Mail for more background.

In vivo target gene activation via CRISPR/Cas9-mediated trans-epigenetic modulation

In a first of its kind study, researchers have shown the ability of in vivo target gene activation using CRISPR-Cas9 system through trans-epigenetic remodeling. This provides an opportunity to measure phenotypes and develop targeted epigenetic therapies against human (and potentially animal) diseases.

Until now, most epigenetic therapies have relied on developing drug that can alter epigenetic marks. These drugs come with side effects that include targeting off-target or unintended genes as well.

Parallel epigenetic modifications induced by hatchery rearing in a Pacific salmon

Raising animals in captivity has long been thought to impact the fitness and competitiveness compared to animals raised in the wild. This has led to debates whether animals raised in captivity should be released into the wild to maintain their wild stock. A recent study examined epigenetic differences between pacific salmon raised in a hatchery and their natural born cousins raised in two different rivers. The study compared genome-wide methylation patterns between the two types of salmon and found significant differences that are likely to affect the ability of hatchery-born salmon to migrate successfully in an ocean. There were no genetic differences found in the fish from the different sources.

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.

DNA from Vancouver belugas helps researchers sequence genome

When beluga whales Qila and Aurora became ill in 2016 Steven Jones from the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre suggested genomics might help the Aquarium’s veterinary team discover what was causing their illness. They ultimately collected enough DNA to sequence the complete beluga genome. The Genome BC-funded research has been published in the journal Genes. Dr. Jones, head of Bioinformatics at the GSC, led the research with colleagues from the University of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Source: Global News

The last Tasmanian tiger died in 1936. Can mapping its genome help bring it back?

If humans are responsible for driving a species to extinction, is there an obligation to bring it back if technology makes it possible? A preserved female cub made it possible to map the genetic sequence of the extinct marsupial, and now there are discussions around reviving the species.
Source: National Post

First Irish genetic map reveals a ‘sink’ of Celtic ancestry

A researcher team led by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and the Genealogical Society of Ireland has helped to construct the first genetic map of the people of Ireland. The Irish DNA Atlas was compiled from DNA samples of almost 200 individuals with four generations of ancestry linked to specific areas.
Source: Silicon Republic

Time for a tailor?

Funding from Genome Canada and Genome Quebec has helped a research team show the importance of adapting gene-editing tools to an individual patient’s genome. The findings were published last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and suggest that individual genetic differences may either reduce the value of gene editing or even cause dangerous off-target effects.
Source: Harvard Medical School

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.

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.

DOE JGI Genomics of Energy & Environment Meeting

Any and all researchers and students pursuing frontier energy and environmental genomics research are welcome! Also, all current JGI Community Science Program (CSP) users, as well as investigators considering an application for future CSP calls.

Running 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 the 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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