Manish N. Raizada of the University of Guelph is working to discover probiotic microbes inhabiting the hollow channels of Ontario corn silks. This investigation of the pollen tube microbiome aims to lead to the identification of probiotics which can be applied to silks to combat crop diseases afflicting grain. This has the potential to decrease the requirement for and reliance on pesticides, resulting in more sustainable and effective industry practices – with exciting implications for Ontario corn farmers, grain processors, and local consumers.
On June 11, 2015 Genome Canada launched a Request for Applications (RFA) seeking proposals for research projects with the potential to advance the field of genomics and eventually lead to social and/or economic benefits to Canada – that is, projects which focus on Disruptive Innovations in Genomics (DIG).
In a world that is requiring increasingly biological-based solutions to meet the growing need for materials, tree biomass remains one of the most abundant resources on earth. Drs. Emma Master of the University of Toronto and Harry Brumer of UBC are leading a team recently awarded $9.5 million to focus on upgrading key biopolymers from trees using enzymes, to create materials that provide higher value than what otherwise might be realized. The project will harness the genetic potential of microorganisms to identify and develop new biocatalysts for this purpose. The high-value products to target, identified by end users and stakeholders, include resins, coatings, bioplastics and adhesives.
On December 8, 2016, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced the $110 million investment in the 2015 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition ‘Natural Resources and the Environment: Sector Challenges – Genomic Solutions.’ The 13 projects approved for funding use genomics to address the important challenges and opportunities facing Canada’s natural resources and environment…
Dr. Stagljar and his team at the University of Toronto are using a Disruptive Innovations in Genomics (DIG) award to further develop their powerful Mammalian Membrane Two-Hybrid (MaMTH) technology, to map protein-to-protein interactions (PPIs) of integral membrane proteins directly in the natural context of the cell on a large scale. This technology will be the foundation for an Ontario-based company called Protein Network Sciences that will offer easy access to this novel disruptive MaMTH technology, advancing biomedical research and therapeutic discovery while benefiting Canadian social and economic infrastructure.
Proteins in cells are responsible for virtually every biological process. When they don’t work properly, the result can be human diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and heart disease. Dr. Andrew Emili of the University of Toronto is developing proprietary chemical probes and tool “kits” applicable to diverse biomedical specimens that will allow researchers to identify and quantify each and every one of the many millions of different protein molecules present in human cells and tissues at an unprecedented level of detail. This work will displace existing technologies and change the study of human cell biology and medicine.
RNAseq may provide a strategy for discovering novel genetic mutations that cause rare diseases – but can’t be used without obtaining the specific tissues in which the disease is present. Drs. Dowling and Brudno of The Hospital for Sick Children will use ex vivo disease models in place of tissue biopsies to perform RNAseq for gene mutation discovery. By combining recent advances in cell biology, genomics and bioinformatics, the lab will develop a new diagnostic methodology, fundamentally transforming the clinical diagnostics process.
Proteins control every function of every cell in our body. Proteins, however, never act alone; rather, they interact with many other proteins in what are called protein-protein interactions (PPIs). Gain or loss of PPIs can be the driving force behind disease development. Dr. Igor Stagljar of the University of Toronto is leading a team to develop and implement a novel disruptive genomics technology that can detect and monitor PPIs in human cells. This technology can be used to identify novel proteins as components of many essential cellular processes, leading to greater understanding of the role of specific proteins in our cells. Furthermore, the technology also has the potential to identify drugs that disrupt a defined set of PPIs when the PPIs cause disease.
Genome sequencing has revolutionized our understanding of the genetic changes that lead to cancer. Unfortunately, treatment still remains in the relative Dark Ages, with decades-old treatments that can be highly toxic and that don’t consider the subtle genetic differences among each patient’s disease. Dr. Charles Boone and his team at the University of Toronto are developing AbSyn, a new technology that will identify combination therapies tailored to individual cancers. AbSyn stands for the development of antibodies (Ab), whose promise for treating cancer has been hugely under-realized, and synergistic (Syn) therapies for cancer based on these antibodies. AbSyn will change the way we prioritize and discover new cancer drugs, building a new bridge between the gap of biological understanding and the commercial drug discovery process.
Genetic abnormalities are a leading cause of death among Canadian newborns and infants. Less invasive, less expensive prenatal diagnostic techniques that are able to provide relevant information at earlier stages of pregnancy are needed. Scientists and physicians at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital have developed a method to collect and isolate fetal cells non-invasively, using a technique similar to a PAP smear. Now Dr. Aaron Wheeler’s research group at the University of Toronto is developing techniques to isolate and analyze these cells for prenatal diagnosis of genetic abnormalities. If successful, these techniques could transform the way prenatal diagnosis is delivered, resulting in higher coverage of the population, reduced patient anxiety, increased medical options for at-risk pregnancies and significant reductions in healthcare costs.