Large-Scale Applied Research Projects
In addition to the ongoing projects from previous competitions, the Ontario Genomics Institute took on three new large-scale applied research projects this year:
→ Dr. Sachdev Sidhu and Dr. Charles Boone from the University of Toronto are conducting research using recombinant antibodies that target cancer-associated proteins to identify new therapeutic targets and test these agents in relevant models of human cancer. The synthetic antibody program will receive $9.8 million over the next three years.
→ Dr. Mehrdad Hajibabaei from the University of Guelph is working to describe and understand biological diversity by studying the typical mix of species that can be found in different habitats. Beginning with the Wood Buffalo National Park in Alberta, Biomonitoring 2.0 will improve upon current environmental monitoring techniques by more accurately studying organisms found in different environments, while reducing sampling costs and allowing for studies of environmental change over time. The Biomonitoring 2.0 project will receive $3.1 million.
→ Dr. Colin McKerlie from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and Dr. Steve Brown from MRC Harwell in the UK have teamed up with researchers from 10 research institutions in six countries to form the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium. Through the Canadian component, NorCOMM2, scientists will study developmental problems and diseases in 280 mouse models, each containing a different mutated gene that no longer fulfils its function. By comparing mice with normally functioning genes and mutant mice models, this research seeks to determine the effect of each mutation and whether the gene or the protein it produces could be used in a diagnostic test or be the target for a new drug. The NorCOMM2 project will receive $9.8 million.
SPARK Technology Development
OGI’s SPARK program provides catalytic funding for technology development in genomics sciences. The recipients of 2011 SPARK grants were:
→ Dr. Michael Brudno and Mr. Marc Fiume from the University of Toronto, who will be developing a software platform known as MedSavant, a search engine for patient information, medical observations and genome sequencing data. MedSavant will make disease information more accessible to geneticists and medical professionals, who can use this information to improve patient outcomes in a clinical setting.
→ Dr. Yu Sun and Dr. Zhe Lu from the University of Toronto are looking to develop a prototype for automated pronuclear injection – the most common method used to inject genetic material into mouse embryos. This technology will aid the study of gene functions in mouse models by automating the most difficult and time-consuming steps of the process, which are currently performed by highly-trained professionals.
→ Dr Andrei Yudin from the University of Toronto will develop a novel technology to rapidly identify small cyclic protein fragments that can be used as a new class of therapeutic agents. Peptides and proteins are made of up amino acids, which are less likely to cause unwanted side effects when used as therapeutic agents. These peptides will provide other stable drug options for pharmaceutical companies to use for future drug discovery.
→ Dr. Brendan Frey and Dr. Benjamin J. Blencowe from the University of Toronto are developing a new internet-accessible portal that researchers can use to study how DNA mutations affect RNA splicing and the genetic determinants of diseases. This project will result in better understanding of human disease by developing a catalogue of novel functional sites and combinations of RNA features, allowing for corresponding cellular features and regulatory mechanisms to be identified.