Archives for March 2021

Two New Members Join the National Engineering Biology Steering Committee

Ontario Genomics is pleased to welcome Isha Datar and Dr. Sheila Singh to the National Engineering Biology Steering Committee (NEB Steering Committee).

The NEB Steering Committee supports Canadian advances in biotechnology and engineering biology that enable biology to engineer useful products from sustainable inputs, like waste, through biomanufacturing. In recent years, biomanufacturing has seen a surge in venture capital investment. By working towards a national engineering biology roadmap, the NEB Steering Committee can help make sure Canadian biotechnology companies and manufacturers are competitive in the growing global race to solve our most pressing challenges in a sustainable way.

Two New Members Join the NEB Steering Committee

The new members will strengthen the NEB Steering Committee\’s expertise in food security and advanced engineering of health technologies.

Isha Datar, Executive Director of New Harvest, a donor-funded research institute advancing the science behind cultured meat. Isha has been pioneering cellular agriculture since 2009, driven by a passion to create a better world with transformative technologies. In 2010, Isha published “Possibilities for an in-vitro meat production system,” in Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies; thus beginning her quest to establish the field of cellular agriculture. She co-founded Muufri (now Perfect Day) and Clara Foods in 2014 and soon after passed her founding equity to New Harvest in full to establish the first endowment for research related to agriculture products produced from cell cultures. In 2015, she named the field “cellular agriculture,” officially creating a category for agriculture products produced from cell cultures rather than whole plants or animals.

Dr. Sheila Singh is a professor of surgery and biochemistry, chief pediatric neurosurgeon at McMaster Children\’s Hospital, Division Head of Neurosurgery at Hamilton Health Sciences, and scientist appointed to the Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute at McMaster University. Since 2007, Dr. Singh\’s lab applies a developmental neurobiology framework to the study of brain tumorigenesis. She holds a Tier 1/ Senior Canada Research Chair in Human Brain Cancer Stem Cell Biology and is Director of the McMaster Surgeon Scientist Program. She is the scientific founder and interim CEO of a start-up company, Empirica Therapeutics, a brain cancer therapeutics company that is seeking new, data-driven, and polytherapeutic treatment options for patients with glioblastoma and brain metastases. Empirica (recently acquired by Century Therapeutics) aims to translate research discoveries co-developed at McMaster University and University of Toronto through clinical trials and into the clinic.

Ontario Genomics congratulates our two new Steering Committee members on their appointments and welcomes the expertise and valuable perspective they bring to the team.

Ontario leading edge genomics projects attract $8.4 million of investment

March 9, 2021 – Today, on behalf of the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, William Amos, Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science), announced $2.7 million in federal support through Genome Canada to two Ontario Genomics applied genomics research projects that will improve the well-being of Ontarians & Canadians. Working in collaboration with industry, health-care players, as well as provincial and other federal partners—with co-funding valued at $2.8 million—this represents a total investment of $8.4 million in projects that will deliver tangible benefits to Ontarians and Canadians.

Today’s announcement will support research on early detection and better treatment for atrial fibrillation. This disease affects 25% of Canadians aged 70 and over, increasing their risk of strokes, heart failure and other complications. Peter Liu at the University of Ottawa, in collaboration with Roche Diagnostics, will identify and classify atrial fibrillation biomarkers—improving disease diagnosis, risk prediction, and patient care and outcomes, while also reducing health-care costs.

This investment also includes funding for an epigenomic profiling tool to better understand the unique progression of breast cancer in individuals. Working with Thermo Fisher Scientific, John Bartlett at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research is investigating the effects of differences in ethnicity with the aim of more equitable delivery of targeted breast cancer treatment to Black and Asian women.

Ontario Genomics is proud to be working with these talented teams. These programs fund translational research and development projects that address real-world challenges and opportunities as identified by industry, government, not-for-profits, and other “receptors” of genomics knowledge and technology.

Learn more about this announcement: Genome Canada News Release


“Genomics to the rescue yet again – partnerships between researchers and industry support critical technological advancements that will grow Ontario\’s economy and save lives,” Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President & CEO of Ontario Genomics.

“Investing in genomics research with a line of sight to application is critical for the health and well-being of Canadians,” Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada.

“Thermo Fisher is proud to partner with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to enable their clinicians to integrate epigenomic profiling to breast cancer treatment, creating greater equity in healthcare delivery and improving care for all,” Jeff Smith, Global Lead, NGS Precision Medicine Initiatives, Thermo Fisher Scientific.

“Moving forward we want to understand how the complex relationship between biology and ethnicity can accelerate the delivery of the best treatments to patients, treating everyone as an individual based on the biology of their disease,” Dr. John Bartlett, Director, Diagnostic Development, OICR.

“Atrial fibrillation is an important public health issue to address. Its early detection and the appropriate triage to treatment is an area identified as a high priority for patients and physicians, as well as for the healthcare industries. We believe that a validated, accurate diagnostic biomarker panel for atrial fibrillation is key for improved care of patients with this condition,” Dr. Peter Liu\’s Vice-President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer, University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Women in Genomics Mentorship Network

Powered by Ontario Genomics

A 2020 survey conducted by the Women in Leadership Foundation found that 82% of women believed mentorship to be an integral part of career advancement. Further, 90% of participants took more responsibilities at work, and 90% of mentees had improved confidence.

This year, on International Women’s Day, Ontario Genomics is launching our inaugural “Women in Genomics” Mentorship Network, created for anyone who identifies as a woman*.

This pilot program seeks to connect women, across a diversity of sectors and specialties in genomics, with the guidance, knowledge, and community to help them thrive in our booming genomics ecosystem. Whether you’re just starting out or are well-positioned in your career, mentorship has the power to transform the way you see your work, yourself, and your future.

Help build our collective courage to smash glass ceilings, flip the switch on women-in-science stereotypes, and connect with other women who are striving for personal growth and professional success.

Mentorship is a proven strategy to help women advance their careers. By leveraging the knowledge and experience of our peers and seniors, we can break down the barriers to the advancement of women in genomics in Ontario and beyond.

This network has been created as part of Ontario Genomics’ commitment to advance genomics through a lens of equality, diversity and inclusion. Strategically matching mentors with mentees based on areas of expertise and professional goals, our network is designed to connect women in genomics at all career levels.

Update April 20, 2021
PLEASE NOTE: Registration for the first cohort is now closed. If you have submitted your interest to participate you will receive further information in the coming weeks (Spring 2021). If you are interested to participate in the future, please stay tuned to our Twitter @OntarioGenomics.

 * Although this scheme primarily aims to support women, including trans women, we encourage other trans people, gender queer, non-binary, Two-Spirit, agender and gender questioning people to apply.