Sequence #10: Pandemic response & economic renewal go hand in hand

The last few months have been unprecedented as we have all struggled to respond to a global pandemic. We hope that through it all, you and your families have stayed healthy. Even as restrictions ease and the economy re-opens, we are mindful of the need for continuing vigilance to ensure that we can all move forward, propelled by cautious optimism and a shared commitment to renewal.

Despite the challenges, this has been an especially productive time for Genome Atlantic as we have actively advanced an array of initiatives on two independent tracks: those focused on COVID-19 surveillance and the genetic determinants of disease severity, in parallel with ongoing efforts to continue to strengthen the bioeconomy of Atlantic Canada. Both are necessary for our region’s economic recovery and well-being. In this issue of Sequence, we share some exciting examples of each, including some great new video content.

We recently announced funding to Dalhousie University researchers to support important COVID-19 genomics projects. One, led by Drs. David and Alyson Kelvin, aims to find COVID-19 biomarkers that will help doctors triage patients and inform patient care protocols in settings like long-term care facilities, emergency rooms, hospitals, and ICUs. The second project, led by Drs. Nikhil Thomas, John Archibald and Morgan Langille, is piloting a surveillance tool to quickly identify early trends in transmission in high-risk settings like long-term care facilities, food processing plants or fishing vessels.

Genomics is a vital tool in our battle against COVID-19. Watch our short, animated videos “On the Trail of Covid-19” and “The Race for a Vaccine” to find out why.

On the economic development front, find out how forestry giant JD Irving Ltd. is using genomic selection to significantly improve forestry tree breeding practices and increase production. Take a deeper dive into the headline-making New Brunswick oyster breeding project through an engaging project video and a Q/A (Scroll down) with L’Étang Ruisseau Bar’s Dr. Martin Mallet and Laval University’s Dr. Louis Bernatchez. And hear from Dr. Kurt Gamperl at Memorial University and Dr. Mark Fast at UPEI for an update on their work addressing the adverse effects of climate change on farmed Atlantic salmon.

To round out this issue, medical research innovator Dr. Janessa Laskin of the BC Cancer Agency tells us why genomics could be the future of cancer treatment. And we profile our long-time industry collaborator Dr. Richard Taylor, recently retired from a long career with EWOS and Cargill, who shares some tips on forging successful industry-academic partnerships.


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SEQUENCE # 9: De-risking investments through genomics R&D

Recently we visited the Research and Productivity Council (RPC) in New Brunswick to film how they use genomics in testing, developing and improving products and processes.  RPC is a global leader in material and environmental testing, work that puts them in daily contact with innovation at every stage of technology and market readiness. For many years, Genome Atlantic has collaborated with RPC – for example, working with RPC scientists like extractive metallurgist Neri Botha to improve the efficiency of bioleaching for mining clients. (See link to our story and video below.) 

RPC’s Executive Director Eric Cook believes that genomics is a critical biotechnology for driving innovation and he credits Genome Atlantic for helping to de-risk business investment in genomics projects.  Genome Atlantic does this by providing advice and guidance at every step – from assessing the feasibility of a genomic solution, to helping with proposal development, to securing funding, to project management – to ensure that projects deliver maximum benefit to our business and public-sector clients.  And because all our projects are industry-led, we’re committed to finding practical solutions and delivering maximum benefit for our business and public-sector clients – whether we’re using genomics to help de-risk offshore oil and gas exploration decisions, develop novel clinical aquaculture feeds, or find new treatments for Atlantic Canadians with genetic diseases. 

The fact that private sector investment makes up almost 30% of our portfolio speaks to the high level of confidence Atlantic Canadian businesses have in genomic technologies and in Genome Atlantic’s ability to maximize and de-risk their investment. 

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 In this issue of Sequence we zero in on three innovative examples of genomics applications relevant to Atlantic Canada. Three years ago, Genome Canada and Genome Atlantic launched a large-scale R&D project aimed at tackling Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC), which is a multi-million-dollar problem for our oil and gas energy sector.  We caught up with project co-lead Dr. Lisa Gieg to find out what she and her team have learned so far and how this information could be used to help predict and manage MIC.  At RPC, we met up with Neri Botha to see how using naturally occurring bacteria to extract metal could be a viable and environmentally friendly solution for the mining industry.  And we talk with two plant geneticists who are passionate about helping the region’s apple industry shine – Dr. Sean Myles dishes on apple breeding (and cannabis traceability) and Dr. Zoë Migicovsky tells us why her love of apples drew her to Nova Scotia (watch our video profile and story on Zoë.).