In every cell, in every living organism, there is a genome – the blueprint of life. Genomics has and continues to transform our understanding of the world. As a platform technology with many cross sectoral applications, genomics has delivered impactful solutions in health care revolutionizing clinical disease diagnosis, prognosis, and prevention. It has unearthed incredible opportunities for us to see and improve our understanding of natural ecosystems within the environment. Today, scientists use genomics to map the genetic diversity of people and plants, animals, and insects. It is a diagnostic tool we can use to understand the specific genetic traits of living organisms.
Canadian researchers and industry have been integral contributors to genomic solutions for global challenges, facilitating many advancements of these transformational technologies. From discovery-based research to applied and translational research, genomics has proven to be a useful tool on many fronts — driving positive change in health care delivery and outcomes, enabling us to adapt to climate change, increasing our food safety and security, and developing cleaner energy while driving economic growth.
By fostering collaborations and partnerships between academic researchers, governments, as well as companies and organizations across many industry sectors, Canada’s life sciences ecosystem has established great capacity in translational research that has helped improve lives, strengthen communities, and drive economic growth.
As we look to the future, we must ask how we can build on our successes to drive even greater impacts through our investment in research and innovation. We can start with challenges where we know genomics can make a difference — challenges where genomics will contribute to tangible, equitable impacts for Canadians such as in health, food security, environment and climate change.
We can evolve our focus from a translational research approach to a challenge based approach and build a portfolio of projects that bring the right people to the table to generate the impacts that are going to help us solve these big challenges.
We can leverage the collaborations and partnerships we’ve made to deploy an interdisciplinary, multi-sector approach that will harness cutting edge genomics research and innovation and mobilize Canada’s genomics data and talent assets to tackle grand challenges in health, climate change and food security – effectively removing siloes with a primary focus on the outcome and potential impact of the work.
Initiatives such as CanCOGeN and All for One are examples of Canada genomic enterprise coming together in a challenge-driven approach, to make a meaningful difference in the battles toward COVID-19 and rare disease, respectively.
Genome Canada will be announcing a new challenge based initiative this spring focused on climate mitigation and adaptation, which may include projects involving resilient crops and food systems, the soil microbiome and carbon capture, bio surveillance of natural wildlife populations and tools for the circular bioeconomy — aligning with key government, societal and economic priorities for Canada.
The challenge promises to look at the issue of climate change holistically, bringing people with multidisciplinary skills and multi-sector knowledge together toward an approach that enables genomics to contribute to tangible, equitable impacts for Canadians.