Microbes help support all life on our planet. Although invisible to the naked eye, our survival depends on them.
Microbes are the trillions of microorganisms – bacteria, viruses, fungi, protists, archaea and algae – found in and on every living thing, such as in our gastrointestinal tract, or in a plant, or in the soil surrounding a plant. Different species of microbes form diverse and complex communities, and when combined with a host or environment, that microbial ecosystem is called a microbiome.
Microbiomes affect our lives in many ways. For example, microbial ecosystems help recycle nutrients in soil needed by crops, break down pollutants and provide much of the oxygen we breathe, and help humans and animals digest food and ward off disease.
Ontario Genomics is proud to support scientific teams across Ontario and their cutting edge microbiome research in Canada’s health, agriculture, bioproducts, water and mining sectors. To learn more about their amazing work and how it’s helping to drive healthier lives, a healthier planet, and healthier economies, check out the projects featured below.
Combating crop disease without pesticides
Project Leader: Dr. Manish Raizada (University of Guelph)
Some of the most serious fungal pathogens affecting corn enter the grain through the sperm-transmitting channels of the silks, leading to hundreds of millions of dollars in cumulative crop losses in Ontario and Canada, as well as the accumulation of toxins in the grain that affect the health of both humans and livestock. Manish N. Raizada’s lab at the University of Guelph is working to discover probiotic microbes that seek and destroy harmful pathogens which can be applied to combat the crop diseases afflicting grain farmers, reduce reliance on pesticides, and build more sustainable and effective industry practices. Learn more
Eliminating harmful bacteria for food safety & health
Project Leaders: Dr. David Edgell & Dr. Gregory Gloor (University of Western Ontario)
Dr. David Edgell and Dr. Gregory Gloor of the University of Western Ontario are working to develop and test a novel microbial control system to enable the selective elimination of individual bacteria from a mixed population of bacteria. Their dual nuclease-based CRISPR microbial control system has broad-ranging applications in biomedical research, industrial food-related processes, and human health. Learn more
Personalized medicine & drug efficacy for IBD patients
Project Leaders: Dr. Alain Stintzi (University of Ottawa), Dr. David Mack (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario), in partnership with Biotagenics
The more than 1,000 different species of bacteria that colonize our gastrointestinal tract are collectively known as our microbiome. Alain Stintzi and David Mack are working in partnership with Biotagenics to design simple and quick tests to reveal the optimal treatment for IBD patients. Their work will enable personalized treatment plans based on each patient’s characteristics and can be used to easily monitor each patient’s progress and modify treatment plans if needed. These tests will help clinicians use the right drug at the right time for the right patient. Learn more
Understanding the impact of antibiotics for neonatal intensive care
Project Leaders: Dr. Michelle Science (SickKids)& Dr Bryan Coburn (University Health Network)
Michelle Science at SickKids and Bryan Coburn from the University Health Network are utilizing Ontario Genomics’ SPARK program to discern the impact of antibiotic use on the microbiome of the vulnerable neonate population during a critical period of development. The results of their work will provide important information to guide decision-making and prescribing practices for infants and neonates in health care facilities to improve patient outcomes. Learn more
Improving groundwater remediation
Project Leaders: Dr. Elizabeth A. Edwards & Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan (BioZone at the University of Toronto)
Most microbes in the environment live in close association with one another in mixed communities. These communities maintain high levels of complex interactions exchanging nutrients, vitamins and other chemicals. Through Ontario Genomics’ SPARK program, Elizabeth Edwards and Radhakrishnan Mahadevan of BioZone at the University of Toronto are developing computational models to not only boost the efficiency of dechlorination in groundwater remediation, but also to pave the way for other applications in complex microbial communities such as in the human gut and in deep marine sediments. Learn more
Reducing sulphur contamination in mining wastewaters
Project Leaders: Dr. Lesley Warren (University of Toronto), Dr. Jillian Banfield (UC Berkeley)
Mining wastewaters contain sulphur compounds which can cause toxicity. An international team led by Lesley Warren at the University of Toronto and Jillian Banfield at the University of California, Berkeley is applying genomics, geochemistry and modeling to develop innovative monitoring, management and treatment tools. These innovations will safeguard the quality in receiving waters, better monitor, manage and reduce toxicity, and generate new tools to support cost-benefit decision-making. Learn more
Competitive Dairy Production
Project Leader: Dr. Gisele LaPointe (University of Guelph) in partnership with Parmalat
Gizele LaPointe and her team at the University of Guelph have partnered with Parmalat Canada to better understand the microbiota of cheese and increase its manufacturing capacity using metagenomic, metaproteomic and metabolomics tools to meet the requirements of cheddar cheese production. These innovations will improve manufacturing processes and controls, significantly increase production capacity of high quality aged cheese, and increase revenues for dairy farmers. Learn more