Genomics is an important research area in Canada, where Genome Canada is tasked with the mission to ‘harness the transformative power of genomics to deliver health benefits to Canadians’. The main focus is on supporting genomics research and innovation in both academia and the commercial sector, and developing new health applications, but it also supports the development of responsible policies and practices through collaborative research and engagement, and also of genomic science communications, via its six Genome Centres. These are research centres geographically spread across the country.
The Ontario Genomics Institute and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation have just announced almost C$7 million funding for regional projects to ‘facilitate a more personalized approach to the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses’, using genomics to improve diagnosis and guide treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, rare genetic diseases, autism spectrum disorders and oesophageal cancer.
Meanwhile Genome Alberta has just unveiled the new logo for ScienceBorealis, a Canadian science blogging site developed with Canadian Science Publishing, whilst Genome BC and Genome Quebec have joined with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and others to support a new project to develop a new real-time test for HIV drug resistance, with a view to improving personalised evaluation and treatment for patients with the virus.
The new test uses the latest DNA sequencing technology to expand the range of drug-resistant HIV strains that can be identified based on the presence of resistance-associated mutations in the viral genome, as well as including analysis of the patient genome as well (for example, to identify variants associated with adverse reactions to the common anti-viral Abacavir). Research lead Dr Richard Harrigan of St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver said: “We plan to expand the number of human genomic markers tested so we can predict side effects for all classes of HIV drugs”. They will also develop a new ‘early warning’ system to monitor the appearance of drug-resistant HIV strains, to support early interventions to limit their spread.