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

Bettina Hamelin, Vice-President of Research Partnerships, NSERC; and Steve Armstrong, President and CEO of Genome Atlantic, shake hands on a newly-signed MOU to increase collaboration between the two organizations.

December 12, 2016

Genome Atlantic and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to increase collaboration and streamline the process by which researchers and industry clients access programs and services.

Joint initiatives could include Research and Development opportunities, talent support, training and student employment programs, as well as other related activities that encourage partnership between academic institutions and industry provided there is an economic benefit to the Atlantic region.

“The partnership formalizes the close relationship between Genome Atlantic and NSERC,” says Genome Atlantic President & CEO Steve Armstrong.  “For academic researchers and companies, this will mean greater flexibility to access the services and funding programs offered by both organizations – effectively, by helping to create a one-stop shop.”

“By coordinating our efforts, NSERC and Genome Atlantic will be able to expand our networks, strengthen partnerships with academia and industry and boost collaborative research,” says Bettina Hamelin, Vice-President of Research Partnerships, NSERC. “Together, we can build on synergies and more effectively promote our shared goal of building a stronger dynamic between research and innovation in Atlantic Canada.”

The MOU will be in effect until March 3, 2020.

Genome Atlantic is a not-for-profit corporation with a mission to help Atlantic Canada reap the economic and social benefits of genomics and other ‘omics technologies. Working with a broad range of partners, Genome Atlantic helps companies, genomics researchers and others collaborate around strategic R&D initiatives that create sustainable improvements in agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, energy, the environment, forestry, human health and mining. Genome Atlantic has helped to enable more than $87 million in genomics R&D since its inception in 2000.

NSERC invests over $1 billion each year in natural sciences and engineering research in Canada.  Our investments deliver discoveries – valuable world-firsts in knowledge claimed by a brain trust of over 1,000 professors. Our investments enable partnerships and collaborations that connect industry with discoveries and the people behind them.  Researcher-industry partnerships established by NSERC help inform R&D, solve scale-up challenges, and reduce the risks of developing high-potential technology.  NSERC also provides scholarships and hands-on training experience for more than 30,000 post-secondary students and post-doctoral fellows.  These young researchers will be the next generation of science and engineering leaders in Canada.

13 research projects deploy genomics to address challenges in Canada’s natural resources and environment sectors

A new collaborative research project led by scientists at the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and Memorial University of Newfoundland is one of 13 projects announced by the Government of Canada, through Genome Atlantic, that will address challenges in Canada’s national resources and environmental sectors. (Read More)

Genome Canada News Release

$110 million investment in projects look to mitigate the effects of climate change on forestry and fisheries, protect the Arctic, and support polar bears and other wildlife.

December 8, 2016, Montréal, Quebec – Science plays a critical role in providing the evidence necessary to harness the power of Canada’s natural resources in a way that is sustainable, innovative and leads to jobs that grow the middle class. The knowledge emerging from genomics can help those in the natural resource and environment sectors take advantage of new opportunities, which drive sustainability, growth, productivity, commercialization and global competitiveness.

Today, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced $32 million in federal support for 13 large-scale applied research projects that will help multiple sectors and regions within Canada use genomics to solve long-standing challenges. In addition, $78 million will be invested in these projects by co-funders from provinces, international organizations and the private sector, among other partners.

Today’s announcement was made at the Université de Montréal’s Biodiversity Centre, where Minister Duncan highlighted one of the funded projects focused on preventing toxic outbreaks in drinking water. Dr. Sébastien Sauvé’s project promises to help guard against algae blooms contaminating drinking water for millions of Canadians whose water sources are increasingly under threat from algae blooms and cyanotoxins.

Adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change is a strong theme that runs through many of the projects, as they will look at finding ways to breed healthy, productive forests, preserve the genetic diversity of rainbow trout and strengthen conservation of the polar bear.

“These new genomic research projects strengthen Canada’s position as a leader in producing evidence-based solutions to come of our grandest challenges. In addition to growing the economy and improving the quality of life for middle class Canadians, they will accelerate our drive toward clean technologies and other approaches that will safeguard our water and biodiversity, lower our carbon footprint and protect our environment.

– The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“The natural resource and environment sectors are areas where genomics is just starting to emerge as a powerful tool to help address issues facing many traditional industries. These new projects will tap into the huge potential for innovative, genomics-based solutions that will help some of our key industries – mining, forestry, fisheries – revive and thrive in the face of climate change, while also protecting our precious ecosystems, drinking water and wildlife.”

–Marc LePage, President and CEO, Genome Canada

Quick Facts

  • The natural resource industries directly and indirectly account for almost 19 per cent of nominal GDP and around 1.8 million jobs. In addition, natural resources exports account for more than half of Canada’s merchandise exports and were valued at $235 billion in 2013.
  • A hallmark of these projects is that they include research from the standpoint of the social sciences and humanities, with a view to identify societal issues upfront so that the science can be transformed into sound practices and policies that enhance the impact of genomics in society.
  • Furthermore, several projects involve close collaboration with northern communities both to marry traditional Indigenous knowledge with cutting-edge genomics science and technology, and to equip residents of potentially affected communities with effective surveillance tools and management strategies.


Associated links

Backgrounder on funded projects
Genome Canada Sector Strategies


Media Relations
Innovation, Science and
Economic Development Canada

Andrea Matyas
Director, Communications
Genome Canada

Follow Minister Duncan on social media.
Twitter: @ScienceMin

Follow Genome Canada on social media.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN: @GenomeCanada

Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a catalyst for developing and applying genomics and genomic-based technologies, to create economic and social benefits for Canadians. Genome Canada connects ideas and people across public and private sectors to find new uses for genomics, invests in large-scale science and technology to fuel innovation, and translates discoveries into applications and solutions across key sectors of national importance, including health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & aquaculture, energy, mining, and the environment.

Genomics helping biosciences thrive in major research project

Originally Published December 6, 2016, The Guardian, Charlottetown PEI: 

Scientists from the University of Prince Edward Island, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and aquaculture feed manufacturer EWOS/Cargill are meeting this week in Charlottetown to launch a new $4.5 million project to develop better therapeutic diets for farmed Atlantic salmon.

Animal and fish health are a key area for PEI’s thriving bioscience sector. Through this pioneering project, Prince Edward Island is well positioned to be part of the next big breakthrough in therapeutic diets for farmed fish.  Growing healthier fish could save the Canadian aquaculture industry up to $57 million dollars a year while reducing the need for additional treatments to help keep the fish healthy.  It’s a win-win for fish farmers, consumers, the economy, and the environment.

The project, managed by Genome Atlantic and funded in part by the Government of Canada via Genome Canada, is studying co-infections by multiple pathogens like sea lice, bacteria, and viruses – something that can happen during a disease outbreak in Atlantic salmon.

This will allow EWOS/Cargill to develop therapeutic formulas that will combat, reduce, or prevent co-infections, potentially cutting fish losses by up to 20% overall and 50% for some diseases.

To help guide this complex research, the scientific team is using genomics, a powerful combination of genetics, biology and computer science that unlocks the mysteries found in every living thing.  More commonly associated with human health in terms of enabling earlier diagnoses and more personalized treatment, genomic technologies are relevant to many other sectors including aquaculture, agriculture, mining, energy, and forestry.

This broad bandwidth of application spanning seven sectors will continue to play a pivotal role in the overall growth of our bio-economy.

In the context of the salmon co-infection project, the team will use genomics technologies to identify the presence or absence of infecting organisms based on their DNA fingerprint, while also monitoring the genes involved in the salmon’s immune response.

More broadly in the aquaculture sector, advanced genomics technologies are also helping local aquaculture companies develop enhanced breeding programs for finfish and shellfish alike, by allowing them to select for elite performance in terms of growth rate, disease resistance and tolerance to changing water temperatures.

In the agriculture sector, a huge part of Prince Edward Island’s economy, genomics technologies are leading to increased crop yields, plants that are more drought resistant and pest resistant, and a reduction in the need for chemicals.  These technologies also have applications in the dairy industry by helping regional farmers evaluate the accuracy of genomic profiling as a prediction tool for future milk production.

Beyond applications in human health, agriculture and aquaculture, genomics technologies are also helping local companies fine-tune their environmental monitoring techniques by identifying select microbes capable of cleaning up contaminated industrial sites. Similar techniques are also being used to identify the presence of certain marine bacteria associated with hydrocarbons, with the aim of de-risking offshore oil and gas exploration in Atlantic Canada.

Genome Atlantic works with an array of companies, researchers, government departments and innovation agencies to ensure these leading technologies bring tangible benefits to Atlantic Canada. This includes the generation of economic benefits in parallel with capacity building at our local universities.

UPEI is a key partner in the salmon co-infection project – a testament to the outstanding research on aquatic species health conducted at the Atlantic Veterinary College.  This work, including the research on fish health led by Dr. Mark Fast, is advancing the science of aquaculture in Atlantic Canada toward a more sustainable future.

We thank our many partners spanning seven sectors for their growing commitment to help position Atlantic Canada as a leader in genomics-driven bioscience research and development – an area that is increasingly important to our region’s health, well-being and prosperity.

Steve Armstrong, President and CEO, Genome Atlantic, a not-for profit corporation that helps Atlantic Canada reap the benefits of genomics and other ‘omics technologies.