Why precision research may lead to blockbuster, not customized, medicines

November 7, 2017

The appeal of precision medicine is the promise that we can understand disease with greater specificity and fashion treatments that are more individualized and more effective. A core tenet is that diseases such as type 2 diabetes may be a compilation of many subgroups, and that we can develop distinct treatments for each. But, at least outside of oncology, could there be an alternate tenet?

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Non-permanent RNA editing

November 6, 2017

MIT scientists have engineered a new molecular system for efficiently editing RNA in human cells. Unlike the permanent changes to the genome required for DNA editing with CRISPR/Cas9, RNA editing is a potentially reversible way to make corrections in the cell, for instance as a treatment for rare diseases.

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World’s largest autism genome databank adds more than 2,000 sequences

November 3, 2017

The Autism Speaks MSSNG team announced the upload of an additional 2,030 fully sequenced genomes to the project’s cloud-based databank – making it the world’s largest whole genome resource for autism research. The MSSNG team includes Dr. Stephen Scherer and the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Autism Speaks and Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences).

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Ontario Genomics invests in renewable chemicals

November 1, 2017

Ontario Genomics is pleased to announce its investment in Ardra Inc. via its Pre-Commercial Business Development Fund. Ardra is a specialty chemicals company focused on the production of natural ingredients for the cosmetics and flavour and fragrance industries. Their synthetic biology platform uses designer biochemical pathways to produce a large portfolio of high-value products. Ardra’s development pipeline…

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New test for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations could reduce pre-emptive mastectomies

October 25, 2017

A genetic test that more accurately predicts the risk of developing breast cancer could soon be used on high-risk groups. Researchers behind the test, available in England only at this time, say it could reduce the number of women choosing pre-emptive mastectomy surgery. The blood test looks at 18 genetic variations, or single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), known to affect the chances of getting breast cancer.

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GA4GH to collaborate with 15 international genomic medicine initiatives

October 23, 2017

Advances in precision medicine depend on the ability to share genomic information voluntarily, securely and responsibly. To achieve this, The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) has struck formal collaborations with 15 international genomic data initiatives. Ontario and Canada lead or help drive at least three of these, CanDIG, ICGC-ARGO and Matchmaker Exchange. Genome Canada has also announced new operational funding for the GA4GH.

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Supercluster shortlist announced

October 20, 2017

The Liberal government has whittled down the list of contenders eligible for a piece of its $950-million “supercluster” program, an initiative to foster innovation and create jobs in five specialized hubs across the country. The nine finalists on the government’s short list include partnerships in ocean and digital technologies, artificial intelligence, transportation, manufacturing, mining, agri-food and infrastructure. Ontario Genomics is pleased to see genomics as a key enabling technology in several of the supercluster initiatives.

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DNA deepens mystery of Newfoundland’s lost Beothuk people

October 19, 2017

Ontario Genomics funded a project to help understand the complex origins of Canada, and the relatedness (or lack thereof in this case) between Maritime Archaic people and the Beothuk. The technology being developed by Hendrik Poinar’s group at McMaster University has kept them at the forefront of paleo-DNA technology. Poinar has leveraged this funding to secure funding from other sources, including Illumina. The surprising results of this study were published in Current Biology (Duggan et al., 2017, Current Biology 27, 1–8) and appeared in a recent Globe and Mail article

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Ontario Genomics appoints three new board members

October 18, 2017

The Chair of the Ontario Genomics Board of Directors, Brian Underdown, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Deb Stark, Dr. Benjamin Rovinski and Dr. Alan Winter to its Board. Dr. Stark is the former Deputy Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and brings a wealth of experience…

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Gene silencing drug opens new era for rare genetic disease treatments

October 11, 2017

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. unveiled positive results from a late-stage clinical trial of the drug patisiran for the treatment of familial amyloidotic polyneuropathy. Patisiran works by interrupting the production of a specific disease-causing protein through a process called RNA interference (RNAi), which eliminates unwanted proteins. Because RNAi can be easily tuned (in theory) to any disease, this may herald a new class of medicines.

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