We acknowledge the land on which the Ontario Genomics office is located. It has, for thousands of years, been and continues to be the traditional and ancestral land of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. We recognize the enduring presence and contributions of all First Nations, Métis, and the Inuit peoples. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.
“Congratulations to Ontario Genomics for another successful year. Thanks to your ground-breaking work, Ontario is becoming a global leader in research and innovation across sectors such as health, agriculture and agri-food, bioproducts, natural resources, and the environment. Genomics technologies and tools have the potential to transform lives and help solve some of our biggest challenges. Your support for genomics research is having a large impact on Ontarians’ health care and well-being.”
– Hon. Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities.
“As the world continues to turn to science to address some of our most pressing and difficult challenges, we continue to dedicate ourselves to the earnest task of advancing genomics and engineering biology in Ontario and beyond.”
– Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO
“This year’s annual report theme, “Genomics on the Frontlines,” underscores the ongoing role of genomics-related research and technologies in solving some of the greatest challenges of our day.”
– Dr. Deborah Stark, Board Chair
Leading the application of genomics-based solutions across key sectors to drive economic growth, improve quality of life and foster global leadership in Ontario.
Connecting scientists, ideas and partner organizations for collaborative investment opportunities in genomics technologies. Learn more about how we bring the right researchers together with the right partners at the right time to achieve our goals.
“We take pride in our impressive track record and continued commitment to supporting job creation, investment, and intellectual property (IP) generation in Ontario. Behind these numbers are the people whose passion and dedication to genomics and biotechnology deliver a real impact across so many sectors and in so many corners of this province.”
– Dr. Jordan Thomson, Associate VP, Strategic Partnerships and Resource Development, Ontario Genomics.
“The better the science, the better the patient care,” Dr. Louis ‘Lou’ Siminovitch, a great and influential molecular biologist, genetics pioneer, and scientific leader.
– Dr. Louis Siminovitch (1920-2021)
It is globally recognized that genomics and other ‘omics technologies are vital tools that need to be widely adopted and utilized in our fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic. Our team at Ontario Genomics made supporting the province’s response to COVID-19 a priority. Given our 20+ years of network building in the genomics community, we have worked, since the earliest days of the pandemic, to break down silos, facilitate networks and connections and leverage the expertise of the entire sector in the fight against the virus.
Known for our leadership in groundbreaking 'omics innovations, Ontario Genomics has its finger on the pulse of what is making headlines. Learn about projects, organizations, and researchers that Ontario Genomics has worked with and/ or funded that are making headlines locally and around the world.
Our annual Canada SynBio Conference 2020 pivoted to a virtual Bio-Revolution Webinar Series. In its third year, this national conference explored emerging themes in engineering biology through a series of engaging and interactive panel discussions.
Ontario Genomics partnered with TheFutureEconomy.ca for an interview series on ‘The Future of Biomanufacturing’. In this six-part series experts explored the development and application of biomanufacturing and bioengineering to advance Canada’s knowledge-based economy in the areas of low-carbon manufacturing, food security and advanced engineering health technologies.
This series highlights developments and necessary improvements in Canada’s biology innovation system; the skills and talent required to prepare our future workforce; and the collaborations and investments needed to make Canada globally competitive in biomanufacturing and bioengineering.
The primary mandate of Ontario Genomics’ Board of Directors is to provide strategic insight and operational governance. The Board comprises leaders from Canada’s life science sector, including not-for-profit research and education institutions, agriculture, food, bioeconomy, pharmaceutical and biotechnology enterprises, financial entities, public policy centres, and government. Through quarterly meetings, the Board aims to fulfill Ontario Genomics’ guiding principle promoting world-class research, creating strategic genomics resources and advocating the development of a globally competitive life sciences sector. The Board members’ time and expertise are essential to our ongoing success and future direction, and we are grateful for their contributions.
“In the continued pursuit of realizing the expansive socioeconomic impact of genomic technologies, a student-focused perspective is needed in addition to the multi-sectoral expertise already present. My role on the Board played a part in furthering this goal by integrating trainee interest within Ontario Genomics’ continued employment of genomic-based solutions to problems facing both Canadians and the world.”
– Jehoshua Sharma, Board Student Observer, Ontario Genomics.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the immediate value that genomics brings to the healthcare system, to patient care, and to inform public health policies.
As the pandemic spread, genomic surveillance efforts helped track genetic changes in the virus over time and identified viral Variants of Concern (VOC). Genomic data generated from the surveillance efforts have supported local and regional public health interventions. Moreover, genomics became the technology platform that enabled COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccine development.
In response to the global pandemic, Ontario Genomics acted rapidly to mobilize Ontario’s existing genomic surveillance capacity and data expertise through a coordinated, province-wide approach. Ontario Genomics supported the province’s direct COVID-19 response by applying our expertise to create a pan-Ontario consortium, the ONCoV Genomics Coalition.
“The power and capacity of science to solve the world’s most pressing challenges have come to the forefront throughout this pandemic. I am proud to have played a role in harnessing Ontario’s dynamic and diverse research and innovation capacity, bringing it together across the province for better pandemic response and supporting national and global efforts for COVID-19 solutions.”
– Dr. Yoo Jin Park, Advisor, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
The ONCoV Genomics Coalition brought over thirty Ontario-based organizations together, including Public Health Ontario, academic sequencing Centers, hospitals, and research institutes, to accelerate the characterization of the SARS-CoV-2 virus across the province.
“My research interest in genomics is in understanding the best use of genomics in infection prevention, particularly outbreak management. But much of my work in this pandemic has been to try to develop strategies to make sure that samples and meta-data are available to support everyone’s research agendas. The ONCoV Genomics Coalition, built by Ontario Genomics, has provided a vital platform to facilitate this.”
– Dr. Allison McGeer, Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
Since its inception in March 2020, the ONCoV Genomics Coalition has worked tirelessly to build a standardized, streamlined process that brings together all the province’s genomics capacity among its members to accelerate the genomic characterization and surveillance of COVID-19 in Ontario.
On November 24, 2020, ONCoV piloted the “Pan-Ontario Point Prevalence SARS-CoV-2 Characterization Study,” in coordination with sixteen COVID-19 testing laboratories and three main sequencing centers to provide a ‘one-day’ snapshot of COVID-19 cases across Ontario, demonstrating the capabilities of coordinated COVID-19 genomics surveillance in Ontario for the first time. This successful demonstration of a coordinated genomics surveillance capacity in Ontario enabled the submission of a comprehensive plan to monitor variants of concern to the Premier’s Office, which helped develop the Province’s Six-Point Plan currently implemented by Public Health Ontario.
“The McArthur lab has been a key participant in genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 with ONCoV on behalf of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) with funding from CanCOGeN. With the McMaster and Sunnybrook sequencing cores, we sequenced nearly 4000 isolates from Ontario. We also constructed the SIGNAL bioinformatics pipeline for Illumina sequencing of the virus, which is the main tool used to support SARS-CoV-2 sequencing at PHAC’s National Microbiology Laboratory. On the research front, we were part of the team with Sunnybrook that first isolated the live virus, performing all the genomic confirmation of the isolates.”
–Dr. Andrew McArthur, Associate Professor and Director BDC Program Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences at McMaster University.
Ontario Genomics is dedicated to creating partnerships to commercialize made-in-Ontario technologies that save lives and help with pandemic preparedness. Using our ONCoV genomics community, we were able to link Nicoya, a leading provider of analytical instruments for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, to patient samples required for capacity building of their portable COVID-19 diagnostic test to fight the current outbreak of this novel coronavirus and potentially help in future outbreaks as well.
“At Nicoya, we develop biosensor technology that is used by scientists to understand diseases and develop new treatments. With support and funding from the NRC IRAP, we’re leveraging our expertise to develop a low-cost, single-use rapid test that detects active SARS-CoV-2 infection, or any other pathogen, and can be self-administered for widespread testing.”
– Ryan Denomme, Founder & CEO, Nicoya.
Ontario’s genomics community has the expertise and know-how to put genomics infrastructure to work in a comprehensive and collaborative environment that enables much-needed solutions in our fight against COVID. One such company is Cyclica, which specializes in data-driven drug discovery and fueling cross-organizational collaborations at a molecular level. As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe, Cylica started exploring its existing technologies to work towards identifying a treatment for COVID-19.
“In January 2020, we began work on finding a repurposed drug for COVID-19. Since launching the COVID-19 Stimulus Plan in March 2020, we've committed both financial and in-kind contributions to over 20 research groups. The goal has always been to advance COVID research, propose new therapeutic candidates, and advance our understanding of COVID-19 and related diseases.”
– Naheed Kurji, Co-founder, President & CEO, Cyclica.
Ontario Genomics created a dedicated website for the ONCoV Genomics Coalition and a COVID-19 Resources page to keep the ONCoV Coalition members, the research community, and the public informed about COVID-19 resources, funding opportunities, and reliable news.
Ontario Genomics has been working proactively with governments and leaders in the research community to mobilize a coordinated response to the national – and global – emergency caused by novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
At the national level, Genome Canada established the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) in April 2020 with a $40 million investment for viral and host sequencing across the country funded by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) through Genome Canada and administered in Ontario by Ontario Genomics.
Ontario Genomics spearheaded the application for CanCOGeN funding in Ontario, successfully securing close to $3M to date to support Ontario’s response to COVID-19, which includes providing funds for the genomic sequencing activities and building genomic surveillance capacity in the province.
“CanCOGeN support was instrumental in establishing a SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing program at the coal face, allowing for timely generation of viral sequences directly from patient samples in our diagnostic laboratory as variants of concern emerged. These early data not only sharpened the lens on VOCs but also allowed us to identify samples for virus isolation early on, thus supporting a virobank and enabling critical follow-on work for our group and others.”
– Dr. Samira Mubareka, Clinician Scientist, Veterans Research Program at Sunnybrook Research Institute.
“I’m very pleased to have contributed to Canada’s COVID-19 response by helping develop virus sequencing and analysis methods that are being used to track the spread and evolution of SARS-CoV-2. These methods were developed through a national collaboration aimed at standardizing how we sequence and analyze the genomes, which allows us to produce the high-quality data we need to see how the virus varies across Canada.”
– Dr. Jared Simpson, Investigator II at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
COVID-19 has radically changed our world, and the impact of the virus will be seen for years to come. When COVID-19 spread around the globe, the genome of SARS-CoV-2, the deadly virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, mutated and evolved as it passed from person to person. As we have seen, these changes have impacted features of the virus, including how infectious or severe the disease would be with different variants and strains.
Ontario Genomics partnered with DNAstack and a national consortium of academic, industry, and nonprofit partners* to launch the COVID Cloud project, which recently launched as a commercial product known as Viral AI. COVID Cloud is a collaboration among national leaders to harness Canada’s unparalleled genomics research capabilities to rapidly sequence, analyze, and share the genetic blueprint of SARS-CoV-2 as it evolves.
This group supported the development of a technology platform that gathers massive volumes of critical COVID-related data from around the world, which scientists can then access easily and securely. Equipped with this information, they are able to rapidly sequence, share and analyze SARS-CoV-2 the genomic profile of COVID-19 variants, as well as monitor transmission patterns, mutation rates, and where within the genome the virus is mutating, which is important for developing vaccines and drug targets, as well as informing public health policy.
“Realizing the urgent need to understand the genomic footprint of this rapidly evolving virus, it was critical we work together and collect data that could inform public health policies and diagnostic and treatment research, as well as vaccine trials.”
– Dr. Ann Meyer, Advisor, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
The COVID Cloud project brings together Canadian expertise from infectious disease, virology, genomics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, science policy, and pharmaceuticals to provide real-time monitoring of virus evolution, transmission, and rate of mutation.
“Ontario Genomics is the hub for the province’s genomics research and has shown leadership in this trying time through initiatives like ONCoV, which helped create a collaborative network to support Ontario’s response to the pandemic. Ontario Genomics provided invaluable user feedback and commercialization guidance to support the success and scalability of COVID Cloud. We are excited to continue our collaboration and extend the reach of this technology beyond COVID-19 to other public health crises and specialty disease areas.”
– Dr. Marc Fiume, CEO, DNAstack.
As part of the project, Ontario Genomics provided feedback and helped validate the COVID Cloud platform to analyze the results of the Point Prevalence study. The platform is currently supporting the Government of Ontario’s response to the pandemic by combining genomics and other data to do real-time analysis and inform public health decision-making. It is also being used to help share viral sequence data with Canadian researchers, powering their insights about the virus in the context of human health as part of Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN)’s VirusSeq initiative.
“Partnering with Ontario Genomics has provided a unique opportunity to test our technology with data from the Point Prevalence project. Through this project, Ontario Genomics has helped us build products to empower data custodians and researchers to do collaborative research and maximize the impact of genomics data.” – Max Barkley, Director of Engineering, DNAstack.
In addition to accelerating the response to COVID-19 by creating software solutions, the COVID Cloud will leverage genomics and precision health for other disease areas, including preparing for future pandemics and building Canadian and international research networks to accelerate the impact of genomics and biomedical research.
The COVID Cloud Project has been funded by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster.
*Partners involved in the COVID Cloud Project:
Ontario Genomics, DNAstack, BioSymetrics, Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University, FACIT, Genome BC, Mannin Research, McMaster University, Microsoft Canada, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Roche Canada, Sunnybrook Research Institute, and Vector Institute.
Ontario’s genomics community has the expertise and know-how to put genomics infrastructure to work in a comprehensive and collaborative environment that enables much-needed solutions in our fight against COVID. Ontario Genomics exists to create industry-led partnerships, to commercialize made-in-Ontario technologies that save lives and help with pandemic preparedness.
Nicoya is a leading provider of analytical instruments for the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. They're developing breakthrough nanotechnology, biochemistry, and optical sensor technology.
Ontario Genomics funded their benchtop instrumentation research that helps study protein and molecular interactions, a critical step for effective drug discovery. They recently raised $10M in funding to expedite drug discovery and expand to international markets.
Nicoya is developing a portable COVID-19 diagnostic test that will expand testing capabilities in centralized and point-of-care settings. “We’re funding four Canadian companies who are working on what may be breakthrough solutions for COVID-19 rapid testing,” said Justin Trudeau in an update about the federal COVID-19 response.
This research received funding through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program and Ontario Genomics helped linking Nicoya to samples required for capacity building of this diagnostic to fight current and future outbreaks of this novel coronavirus.
Cyclica specializes in data-driven drug discovery and fueling cross-organizational collaborations at a molecular level. As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc around the globe, Cylica started exploring their existent technologies to work towards identifying a treatment for COVID-19.
At the onset of the pandemic, in January 2020, they began work on finding a repurposed drug for COVID-19. In April 2020, Cyclica entered a joint venture with Mannin Research to develop novel compounds for the treatment of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
In addition, Cyclica has teamed up with top-tier academic institutions to identify repurposed drug for COVID. By combining artificial intelligence and an extensive atlas of protein biology, Cyclica is taking new approaches to searching for old drugs that could fight COVID-19—and it’s helped find what could become a first-in-class candidate, Capmantinib.
Capmatinib is an FDA-approved MET inhibitor used to treat non-small cell lung cancer. The discovery was made in collaboration with Ryerson University, The Vector Institute, the University of Toronto along with other prominent Canadian research institutions.
Ontario Genomics supported Rapid Novor early in their journey to advance life-science for better human health using next-generation sequencing. As a world leader in antibody protein sequencing technology, Rapid Novor specializes in proteomics, bioinformatics, and big data processing.
In response to the global pandemic, Rapid Novor acted rapidly to mobilize their existing capacity and expertise to support COVID-19 research with complementary antibody sequencing for researchers.
Additionally, this world-leading University of Waterloo spinoff company, expanded operations with the help of a $5-million USD investment to decode antibodies for potential medical treatments for COVID-19 and other illnesses.
Rapid Novor’s team is currently decoding the antibodies in the blood of patients who are recovering from COVID-19 with the hopes that the information can be used to develop new treatments. The National Research Council of Canada, through its Industrial Research Assistance Program, has also given the Rapid Novor team a grant to support the coronavirus work.
(This project was funded by Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP)) Breast cancer accounts for approximately 25% of new cancer cases each year and 13% of all cancer deaths in Canadian women. Breast cancer which was once considered a homogenous tissue disease, is now known to be a complex, heterogeneous disease. Breast cancer in patients is individual and has different molecular make-ups; therefore, precision oncology promises to significantly improve treatment options.
To better comprehend the individual nature of breast cancer in patients, the implementation of integrated ‘omics solutions is needed to understand the combined effects of genomic and epigenomic changes in driving cancer progression and deliver on the promise of precision medicine.
Emerging research in breast cancer implicates epigenomics in the regulation of multiple cancer processes, including treatment response. Additionally, epigenomics data across cancer driver genes from different ethnic groups shows that molecular processes are influenced by differences in ethnicity. This highlights the diagnostic importance of epigenomic features for equitable delivery of healthcare to patients.
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) and Thermo Fisher Scientific have collaborated to develop and validate novel panel-based targeted approaches for the evaluation of epigenetic alterations in breast cancer to address two major needs: improved predictive and prognostic assays for all breast cancer patients and a focused study comparing methylation profiles between cancers in ethnic minority groups.
“We’re investigating the impact of ethnicity in the biology of breast cancer. We are developing new tools to improve the diagnosis of breast cancer patients and accelerate personalized treatment based on the biology of their disease.”
– Dr. Melanie Spears, Principal Research Scientist, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.
“This strong partnership project is using genomics and ‘omics technologies to develop promising tools to better manage breast cancer treatment across different ethnicities. These solutions have the potential to provide more personalized and equitable healthcare solutions for Canadians and the global community.”
– Dr. Helen Petropoulos, Associate VP, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
Congratulations to all our other successful project leaders.
(This project was funded by Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP)) In Canada, consumption of contaminated food causes 4 million illnesses, over 14,000 hospitalizations, and more than 300 deaths each year, with an estimated annual economic burden of approximately $4 billion.
A major impediment to identifying contaminated food is that current surveillance methods rely on sick people to seek medical help instead of public health mechanisms detecting foodborne outbreaks.
The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the University of Guelph, and Université Laval, are developing a novel, integrated approach to improved foodborne outbreak detection, beginning with genomic detection of foodborne pathogens in raw sewage and monitoring of social media for keywords associated with enteric illness.
The tools, methods, and datasets generated through this project will be translated for downstream operational use into the network of Canadian foodborne surveillance programs through collaborations between PHAC and its federal, provincial, and territorial partners.
Implementation will reduce the number of illnesses and hospitalizations and increase economic savings due to decreased food recalls through faster detection of outbreaks. Another advantage is that this project can be scaled-up for rapid detection of other pathogens and is currently being utilized to monitor levels of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wastewater, as an early indicator of changing case numbers before clinical presentation.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are seeing increasing emergence of variants of concern (VOCs) and variants of interest (VOIs) which threaten the health and wellbeing of Canadians. The funding provided by Ontario Genomics and Genome Canada is helping my team to develop a genomics-based surveillance platform based on analysis of wastewater, providing a customizable tool for use in controlling the spread of infectious diseases, whether they be food or waterborne, or respiratory borne like COVID-19.”
– Dr. Lawrence Goodridge, Director at Canadian Research Institute for Food Safety, University of Guelph.
“The ability of this research to effectively incorporate COVID-19 related work speaks to the agility and transferability of genomics. From food/agricultural production, including new production methods such as cellular agriculture, to environmental solutions, and public health crisis interventions, Ontario Genomics is ready at the helm to support the applied research that can have an incredible impact.”
– Dr. Elaine Corbett, Director, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
Congratulations to all our other successful project leaders.
(This project was funded by Large Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) Competition) Over 29,000 tons of plastic leak into the Canadian environment and oceans annually, creating severe environmental problems, including killing 100,000 marine mammals annually. Another 2.8 million tons of plastic are sent to Canadian landfills, which creates a latent problem for future generations, with only 9% of plastic being recycled.
With growing awareness of the detrimental impacts of plastic, governments and manufacturers are working towards a zero-plastic waste future. Under this paradigm, plastics will be made with recycled or biodegradable components. In this project, a Canadian-led team consisting of multiple universities, governments, and industries will drive a shift to a zero-plastic waste future by harnessing genomics technologies to create a circular economy for plastics.
This team will identify and engineer bacteria and enzymes that can break down plastics into recyclable components or valuable fine chemicals more effectively than chemical conversion-based technologies. Additionally, they will conduct a holistic investigation into the impact of these new plastic biotechnologies on society, the economy, and the environment.
Preliminary estimates indicate recycling could save Canada $500 million annually in costs and create 42,000 jobs in new industries. The market for recovered waste plastic in the textiles sector alone is over $600 million per year. We could also save 1.8 million tons of CO2 equivalents per year in greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring that plastics continue to contribute to the economy without adversely impacting the environment.
“To reach zero plastic waste in Canada by 2030, the Open Plastic consortium will develop novel microbiological technology to support the breakdown of plastic waste into marketable recycled products. Our open science framework will empower trainees of the program and existing companies to build ventures for Canada and export.”
– Dr. Laurence Yang, Assistant Professor, Queen's National Scholar in Systems Biology, Queen’s University.
“With the intensifying effects of climate change already seen in Canada and worldwide, it is paramount to invest in creative solutions to address the impacts of waste on our environment. The Large-Scale Applied Research Project program brings much-needed investment into collaborative research endeavours like this project that seeks to reduce plastic waste.”
– Dr. Michael Dorrington, Advisor, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
“The Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) competition provides support for high-impact research projects using genomic approaches to provide solutions and drive innovation in Canada’s main economic sectors. The recently funded projects demonstrate the application of genomics to address real-world challenges.”
– Dr. Laura Riley, Manager, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
Congratulations to all our other successful project leaders.
|SECTOR||PROJECT TITLE||ORGANIZATION(S)||LEADER(S)||TOTAL FUNDING|
|GENOMICS APPLICATIONS PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM (GAPP)|
|Sector: Environment||Caribou Genomics: a national non-invasive monitoring approach for an iconic and model species-at-risk*||Trent University, Environment and Climate Change Canada||Paul Wilson, Micheline Manseau||Total Funding: $4,072,887|
|Sector: Agriculture and Agri-food / Health||Stopping Enteric Illnesses Early (Sentinel)*||University of Guelph, McGill University, Public Health Agency of Canada||Lawrence Goodridge, Roger Levesque, Chrystal Landgraff||Total Funding: $6,490,662|
|Sector: Agriculture and Agri-food||CLEan plAnt extractioN SEquencing Diagnostics (CLEANSED) for Clean Grapevines in Canada||Brock University, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian Grapevine Certification Network||Sudarsana Poojari, Mike Rott, Bill Schenck||Total Funding: $1,832,007|
|Sector: Health||Development of an epigenomic profiling tool to facilitate Precision Medicine in Early Breast Cancer||Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Thermo Fisher Scientific||John Bartlett, Melanie Spears, Jeffrey Smith||Total Funding: $2,400,000|
|Sector: Health||Cardiovascular Biomarker Translation Team 2 - Atrial Fibrillation||University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Roche Switzerland||Peter Liu, Andre Ziegler||Total Funding: $5,955,141|
|LARGE-SCALE APPLIED RESEARCH PROJECT COMPETITION (LSARP)|
|Sector: Environment||TRIA-FoR: Transformative Risk Assessment and Forest Resilience Using Genomic Tools for the Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak||University of Alberta, Carleton University||Janice Cooke, Catherine Cullingham||Total Funding: $3,185,638|
|Sector: Bioproducts & Environment||Optimizing a microbial platform to break down and valorize waste plastic||Queen's University||Laurence Yang, David Zechel, George diCenzo, P. James McLellan||Total Funding: $7,777,332|
|Sector: Environment||BIOSCAN-Canada||University of Guelph||Paul Hebert||Total Funding: $6,999,588|
|INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM INITIATIVES (ICI)|
|Sector: Health||Target 2035: WDR Proteins as a Technology Testbed for Illuminating the Dark Proteome*||Structural Genomics Consortium||Cheryl Arrowsmith||Total Funding: $23,449,998|
|GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR GENOMICS AND HEALTH (GA4GH)|
|Sector: Health||2020 Global Alliance for Genomics and Health: Operations Support||The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health||Peter Goodhand||Total Funding: $230,000|
|CANADIAN COVID GENOMICS NETWORK (CanCOGeN)-V TRANCHE (1 TO 3)|
|Sector: Health||Whole Genome Sequencing for COVID-19 Positive Specimens||Public Health Ontario||Nahuel Fittipaldi||Total Funding: $87,720|
|Sector: Health||Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) Virus Genome Sequencing Project||McMaster University||Andrew McArthur||Total Funding: $195,000|
|Sector: Health||OICR CanCOGeN Phase 1 Sequencing Service||Ontario Institute for Cancer Research||Jared Simpson||Total Funding: $241,126|
|Sector: Health||CanCOGeN Tranche 2 Funding - McMaster Virus Sequencing Activities||McMaster University||Andrew McArthur||Total Funding: $776,752|
|Sector: Health||CanCOGeN Tranche 2 Funding - OICR Virus Sequencing Activities||Ontario Institute for Cancer Research||Jared Simpson||Total Funding: $513,677|
|Sector: Health||CanCOGeN Tranche 2 Funding - Public Health Ontario Virus Sequencing Activities||Public Health Ontario||Nahuel Fittipaldi||Total Funding: $136,376|
|Sector: Health||CanCOGeN Tranche 2 Funding - Sunnybrook Virus Sequencing Activities||Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Research Institute||Samira Mubareka||Total Funding: $232,346|
|CIFAR-GENOME CANADA PARTNERSHIP|
|Sector: Health||Modeling the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between zoonotic sources on a gene level||University Of Montreal||Guillaume Rabusseau||Total Funding: $15,000|
|Sector: Health||Rapid, automated assembly of SARS-CoV-2 phylogenies||University of Toronto||Quaid Morris||Total Funding: $15,000|
|Total Funding for 2020-2021||$64,822,422|
As the world continues to turn to science to address some of our most pressing and difficult challenges, we continue to dedicate ourselves to the earnest task of advancing genomics and engineering biology in Ontario and beyond. In this year’s Annual Report, Ontario Genomics aims to highlight the tremendous efforts and advancements made by the people behind the science.
Behind every innovation, technology, and ground-breaking discovery are the passionate people that devote themselves to this impactful work. Ontario Genomics is honoured to have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of frontline researchers, industry leaders, and their supporting teams over the last two decades.
As the scientific community continues to grapple with human health crises, food security, and climate change, we value the human contributions that take lab-bench ideas and turn them into tangible solutions for a better world today and for the next generations.
This year specifically, the team at Ontario Genomics partnered and collaborated to support the creation of almost 652 jobs, raising $28.8 million in new funding and maintaining an active portfolio of $367 million.
We are proud of our work to advance the ONCOV coalition in Ontario and pave the way for a comprehensive framework for viral COVID-19 sequencing in Ontario. Through this initiative, our team successfully connected experts from across Ontario to create agile and dynamic relationships that support Ontario’s public health response.
Our work in engineering biology was another highlight this year. Pivoting to an online platform, we held a four-part Canada SynBio webinar series on topics that included CRISPR and cellular agriculture, as well as biomanufacturing in Canadian and international contexts. During the series, we launched Ontario Genomics’ inaugural white paper: Engineering Biology – A platform technology to fuel multi-sector economic recovery and modernize biomanufacturing in Canada. This publication was written in collaboration with the National Engineering Biology Steering Committee to offer perspective on the national opportunity to advance Canada’s knowledge-based economy, and create high-quality jobs, training opportunities and ensure we are competitive in this growing global market.
This year, Ontario Genomics has strengthened our commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA) principles, striving to incorporate these into our strategic actions. As part of our commitment to IDEA, Ontario Genomics has taken the following first steps:
As genomics transforms our lives, we continue to value the relationships at the heart of our work. I want to thank everyone who continues to help realize our vision of healthy people, a healthy economy, and a healthy planet for all.
This year’s annual report theme, “Genomics on the Frontlines,” underscores the ongoing role of genomics-related research and technologies in solving some of the greatest challenges of our day. We are making progress, thanks to incredible people working behind the scenes and on the frontlines to advance science and innovation in Ontario.
Last year, Ontario Genomics worked to bring Ontario and Canada’s leadership potential in engineering biology to the forefront and to crystallize our opportunity in the bio-revolution. At the same time, Ontario Genomics continued to build the community and networks that are so vital in our fight against COVID-19. As an example, the ONCoV (Ontario’s COVID-19 Genomics Coalition) was formed and supported Ontario’s public health genomics sequencing response.
Over the years, Ontario Genomics has wholeheartedly committed itself to leading across sectors, seeking impact in every corner of the province. The relationships we’ve built along the way continue to allow Ontario Genomics to nurture and harness the very best research and innovation and catalyze it to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
I am incredibly proud of the entire Ontario Genomics team. Your dedication, passion, and ingenuity are a pleasure to observe. I also want to recognize our research community, our many stakeholders and partners, as well as my fellow board members for their unwavering efforts and commitment to bring the benefits of genomics innovations to life. It has been a privilege to serve as Chair for the past three years.
I look forward to many more impactful and ground-breaking years ahead.
As we usher in our 21st year, Ontario Genomics has been reflecting on the impactful and rich history of our early beginnings. At a time when genomics and scientific innovations are playing a pivotal role in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 global pandemic, it is incredibly fitting that we highlight Dr. Louis ‘Lou’ Siminovitch, a great and influential molecular biologist, genetics pioneer, and scientific leader.
Among his massive contributions, Dr. Siminovitch especially valued his impact on the careers of others, imparting his advice and wisdom to hundreds of trainees and colleagues and thereby providing life and career-changing guidance to at least two generations of young scientists. Asked about his career, Dr. Siminovitch commented, “I’ve had a ball – an odyssey of lifetime satisfaction that certainly did not occur in a vacuum but occurred in environments that provided almost complete degrees of freedom. But the greatest satisfaction has come from observing the successes of many of the young people who I’ve trained or recruited into staff positions.”
Dr. Siminovitch’s leadership (Ontario Genomics’ Board Member, 2001-2012) and vision were instrumental in helping Ontario Genomics lay the groundwork for transformative biomedical research in Ontario and beyond. “The better the science, the better the patient care,” he used to say.
“I’ve had a ball – an odyssey of lifetime satisfaction that certainly did not occur in a vacuum but occurred in environments that provided almost complete degrees of freedom. But the greatest satisfaction has come from observing the successes of many of the young people who I’ve trained or recruited into staff positions.”
– Dr. Louis Siminovitch (1920-2021)
He made impactful contributions in virology, studying the genetics of bacterial and animal viruses, as well as human genetics and cancer research, publishing over 200 papers during his remarkable five-decade career.
“What distinguishes Lou… was that he has had no tolerance for compromise on excellence in science," said Calvin Stiller, a colleague of Dr. Siminovitch’s for 50 years in an interview.
His pathbreaking research helped uncover the genetic bases of muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis and laid the foundation for the discovery of stem cells and genetic connections to cancer. He profoundly influenced medical and genomics research development across Canadian universities and research institutions.
Siminovitch was distinguished as a researcher and mentor, but he was also celebrated as a scientific builder. He played instrumental roles in establishing leading international scientific journals and developing multiple national and provincial research funding agencies.
“It’s hard to find the words that adequately capture my father’s breadth of vision and profound impact on every facet of biological science in this country. Even as he approached the age of 101, my father remained a fierce advocate for discovery research.”
– Kathy Siminovitch
Asked about her father, Dr. Kathy Siminovitch commented: "It’s hard to find the words that adequately capture my father’s breadth of vision and profound impact on every facet of biological science in this country. In the words of one of his very close colleagues, the late Dr. Ernest McCulloch, my father was ‘a warm person in a cold world – one of the most original thinkers in the world of biological sciences.’ Even as he approached the age of 101, my father remained a fierce advocate for discovery research. I can't do him justice without referencing his own words here: “Discoveries cannot be planned – to drive the engine of innovation requires that we select the best, fund them to the hilt with minimal shackles and let the flowers bloom.”
As we fondly reminisce his countless contributions to genetic research in Canada, we hope to continue his legacy and leadership in the scientific and academic community, upholding his determination to seek out and steward the next generation of scientists and leaders.
Ontario Genomics-supported Empirica Therapeutics, an innovative biotechnology University of Toronto start-up, has been acquired by Century Therapeutics, a U.S.-based company developing off-the-shelf cell therapy products for cancer. Century will develop Empirica’s proof-of-principle treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, into therapy that can be tested on patients.
“Glioblastoma is a particularly aggressive, often treatment-resistant form of adult brain cancer with an average survival time of under two years. We hope that by combining our unique patient-based cancer models with Century’s platform, we will create promising treatments for the patients who need them most.”
– Dr. Sheila Singh, Co-founder & CEO, Empirica Therapeutics.
Researchers leading an Ontario Genomics project on proteomics and metabolomics received awards at the Canadian National Proteomics Network Awards 2020-2021. Dr. Anne-Claude Gingras was awarded the Tony Pawson Award 2020 for her impactful contribution to proteomics in Canada, while Dr. Hannes Röst won the New Investigator Award 2021 for his pathbreaking computational approaches to understand clinical phenomena on a personalized level.
The University of Toronto-led and Ontario Genomics-supported project, “Synbiomics” focuses on enzyme discovery from micro-organisms that can modify and upgrade the key components of wood to create biopolymers and materials of higher value. They are now in the process of upscaling this technology, market assessment, and demonstration of the most promising pathways.
The “FISHES” project is developing and applying genomic approaches to address critical challenges and opportunities related to food security and commercial, recreational and subsistence fisheries of northern Indigenous Peoples in Canada. This team recently completed the genome of the lake trout, a highly diverse species, for conservation of native fish populations.
Cyclica, a drug-discovery biotechnology company, raised over CAD$23M Series B round of financing. Funding from the round will support continued innovation in the pharma industry and expansion into adjacent sectors, such as agro-chemicals. Cyclica has added over 50 drug discovery programs to its pipeline and has grown its team to over 50 employees as well.
CReSCENT, a scalable and standardized set of novel computational tools and data portal, was launched and is available for use to researchers on any computing platform. This system allows for the comparison of cells in cancerous and healthy tissues using single-cell genomic data, increasing researcher productivity by accelerating execution.
Developing a new module to integrate a wide variety of plant ‘omics data, including ecosystem data, phenotypes, and genotypes, researchers launched a new course, “Plant Bioinformatics Specialization,” on Coursera, with nearly 9,000 students already enrolled. Ontario Genomics is proud to support this project in its endeavour to provide open access resources to the research community to build a larger ePlant ecosystem of information.
We partnered with the Gairdner Foundation to bring one of their Global Perspectives Panels as our first webinar in this series. Editing our Economic Future: The Power of CRISPR, showcased a conversation between Gairdner Foundation laureates and leading Canadian researchers on using the opportunities and applications of gene editing, specifically by using CRISPR/Cas9, to transform multiple sectors, from therapeutics to diagnostics, agriculture, and low carbon manufacturing, all of which have a profound impact on our economy and wellbeing.
This discussion centred on the development of these molecular tools and their applications, and potential challenges to adoption. In addition, Canadian researchers spoke about applying gene editing to address problems like cancer treatment and fungal resistance for crops.
This webinar was moderated by Dr. Janet Rossant, President and Scientific Director, Gairdner Foundation, featuring expert speakers:
Additionally, Dr. Bettina Hamelin, Ontario Genomics, President and CEO, shared her remarks about the importance of CRISPR in shaping our economic future.
"The advent of CRISPR technologies has been a game-changer for genome editing applications in therapeutics and agriculture. It is important to note the speed at which this disruptive technology has been adopted by industry, and how fast start-ups were created to commercialize various editing applications."
– Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou, Associate Professor, Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, North Carolina State University.
In partnership with the Global Institute for Food Security and the Growing Stronger initiative from Arrell Food Institute and Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute, we showcased the second webinar of our series, New Frontiers in Food Production: Growing Stronger with Cellular Agriculture.
The panel focused on the future of Canada's food system and how it can benefit from new technologies, including cellular agriculture (using cells to make food products and ingredients) and the role they can play in creating "made-in-Canada" solutions for a more resilient food supply chain in a post-COVID world.
“Cellular agriculture allows us to grow animal products like meat, milk, and eggs from cells instead of animals. If we want to keep eating the foods we love through the uncertain climate conditions ahead, then Canada, like the rest of the world, needs to be proactive about developing this technology and diversifying our food system.”
This much-needed conversation presented diverse voices and perspectives from across the value chains of leading Canadian experts - researchers, industry, funders, and advocates, to generate collaboration and amplify new ideas.
We partnered with the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) for the Canadian Engineering Biology Roadmap panel ‘Building our Biomanufacturing Future’ moderated by our President and CEO, Dr. Bettina Hamelin.
This panel explored the power of converging genomics and molecular biosciences with engineering biology, automation, and artificial intelligence to support economic recovery and transform Canadian manufacturing.
During this insightful panel, members of the Canadian Engineering Biology Steering Committee and the broader community discussed the urgency to support Canadian-made engineering biology solutions to remain globally competitive and promote economic growth and stability in a pandemic and post-pandemic world.
“Using engineering biology as a technology platform, Canada can capitalize on existing industry capacity, align academic expertise, and lead in three vertical pillars: circular bioeconomy for biomaterials and minerals; protein manufacturing; and advanced biologics.”
– Britney Hess, Manager, Sector Innovations and Programs, Ontario Genomics.
Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President & CEO, Ontario Genomics and Chair, National Engineering Biology Steering Committee, featuring:
Along with Policy Horizons Canada and SynBio Canada, we presented a panel as part of Canada’s Bio-Revolution Webinar Series, Next Generation Biomanufacturing for the Bio-Revolution: An International Opportunity.
The panel examined engineering biology-driven manufacturing opportunities from an international perspective. This panel explored prioritizing engineering biology through significant investments into public-private partnerships and industry in the USA, U.K., and Canada.
This conversation brought together diverse voices and perspectives from across the value chains of leading experts - researchers, industry, funders, and advocates, to generate collaboration and amplify new ideas.
The inaugural video of this series features Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President & CEO of Ontario Genomics and Dr. Rob Annan, President & CEO of Genome Canada. They discuss the role of collaboration and the transformative power of genomics, bioengineering, and biomanufacturing in the Canadian bio-revolution that will reshape economies, societies, and our lives.
“Bioengineering and biomanufacturing are new ways of making products that we need and use every day, but they are built on old principles. We are using the world’s most sophisticated manufacturing machine—biology, specifically cells—as mini factories to make proteins, enzymes, and a whole host of materials.”
– Bettina Hamelin,
President & CEO of Ontario Genomics
“Solving complex problems such as a worldwide pandemic and climate change requires transdisciplinary approaches across the life sciences. Genome Canada, together with Ontario Genomics and Canada's other regional Genome Centres, is on a mission to deliver genomic solutions for pandemic preparedness, biomanufacturing, and our developing bio-economy.”
– Dr. Rob Annan,
President & CEO of Genome Canada
Dr. Keith Pardee, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, discusses the intersections of synthetic biology, bioengineering, and biomanufacturing and how Canada can benefit from its innovations and solutions, from health to food security and environment.
“Synthetic biology and bioengineering have the potential to meet a lot of global challenges. For instance, recent advances in cell-free synthetic biology have enabled my team to develop SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics, leveraging widely available point-of-care sensing devices such as glucose meters, to serve as nucleic acid sensors for variants of concern detection; for which international technology transfer efforts are now underway with researchers in Latin America and Asia.”
– Dr. Keith Pardee,
Assistant Professor - Faculty of Pharmacy,
University of Toronto
Dr. Vardit Ravitsky, Professor of Bioethics, Université de Montréal and President of the International Association of Bioethics, speaks to the importance of bioethics and social science research in the fields of bioengineering and biomanufacturing, to ensure that breakthroughs in the field of genomics can be applied successfully and ethically in Canada.
“Exploring the ethical, social, legal, economic and environmental implications of advances in genomics and bioengineering is critically important to ensure a responsible governance of these technologies so that they are implemented for the benefit of Canadians and the world.”
– Dr. Vardit Ravitsky, Professor of Bioethics and President - Université de Montréal and International Association of Bioethics.
Dr. Steven Webb, Executive Director and CEO, Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS), talks about Canada’s biggest opportunities in using biomanufacturing and bioengineering in agri–food production and how their applications are critical to the development of value-added food products made throughout Canada.
“GIFS is building out its biomanufacturing platform to scale up research, development, and production in agriculture and food. We’re pleased to be a member of the Ontario Genomics-led National Engineering Biology Steering Committee, driving Canada’s strategy for biomanufacturing that’s projected to have a huge impact on agri-food over the next decade.”
– Dr. Steven Webb, Chief Executive Officer, Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS).
Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan, Professor, University of Toronto, shares insights on how multi-disciplinary research, that utilizes biology, robotics, machine learning, and AI, is key to technological developments to advance bioengineering.
“Most chemicals are made from petroleum feedstocks and replacing them with sustainable feedstocks is essential for moving to a zero-carbon emissions economy. Bioprocesses operate at lower temperatures and pressures and have high specificity. These benefits combined with recent computational advances (e.g., structure prediction) and experimental developments (e.g., genome editing) in engineering biology motivates the application of bioengineering for sustainable chemicals production.”
– Dr. Radhakrishnan Mahadevan, Professor - University of Toronto.
In the last video of ‘The Future of Biomanufacturing’ series, Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Vice President, Life Sciences, National Research Council (NRC), shares the importance of increased investment in early-stage R&D to develop Canada’s bio innovation pipeline.
“Bioengineering and biomanufacturing are revolutionizing drug development through increased automation, miniaturization, and precision in the way we analyze and manipulate biological systems. It is exciting to see the successful use of such advanced health technologies in accelerating the development of highly effective vaccines, cell and gene therapies, and more.”
– Dr. Lakshmi Krishnan, Vice President, Life Sciences - National Research Council (NRC).