July 22, 2021
Vancouver, BC —Every species on Earth possesses a characteristic genome, shaped by millions of years of evolution. Through the study of genomes—the complete genetic and inheritable information of an organism—we can explore life’s diversity, better understand how species are related, how they develop together to create ecosystems, foster conservation, and uncover the biology of health and disease for all living things.
The Earth BioGenome Project aims to resolve in detail the genomes of all complex life on Earth. With new funding of approximately $6.5 million, Canada is now joining this global initiative through the Canadian BioGenome Project, led by Dr. Steven Jones, Co-Director and Head of Bioinformatics for Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre (GSC; part of the BC Cancer Research Institute) and Dr. Maribeth Murray, Director of the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary.
“Sequencing the genomes of Canada’s plants and animals is a massive proposition that requires significant scientific collaboration—one with enormous benefits not only for better understanding the evolution of life itself but in uncovering fundamental principles of health and disease, for individuals and populations,” says Dr. Jones, who is also a Scientific Director of CGEn Vancouver node. CGEn is a federally funded national platform for genome sequencing and analysis with nodes at the GSC, The Centre for Applied Genomics at Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto and the McGill Genome Centre. “We are proud to contribute Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre’s expertise and technology to this important endeavor, which has been made possible through substantial recent advances in genome sequencing technology and computational biology.”
Canada possesses significant biodiversity, having approximately 80,000 plant and animal species in environments ranging from desert to the arctic. Many of these species are under threat due to rapid changes in climate and other human-led impacts on our environment. In collaboration with scientists, Indigenous peoples and conservation groups, this project will embark on the task of determining the genetic diversity of Canada’s plants and animals through genomic sequencing.
“Genome BC recognizes the urgent need to develop and accelerate the implementation of technological innovation to monitor and protect our rapidly changing environment,” says Dr. Federica di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sectors and International Scientific Chair of the Global Earth Biogenome Project. “Applications of this data are real-time, and it builds on our strengths in genome sequencing in this province.”
Initially the project will identify approximately 400 species that would benefit from a fully sequenced genome. The species will be selected based on existing and established priorities of Indigenous peoples, federal and provincial organizations, academic scientists and other conservation and wildlife groups.
Through a case study approach, the team will also work with partners to establish priorities for genomics tools development, policy recommendations for the use of genomics to maintain biodiversity and support conservation and management, and a user-friendly platform of genomics data and information from the project specific to a particular location. The data generated will also be freely available to scientists in Canada and worldwide.
This project was funded through Genome Canada’s 2020 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition: Genomic Solutions for Natural Resources and the Environment. The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry made an announcement on July 22, 2021.
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome BC is a not-for-profit organization supporting world-class genomics research and innovation to grow globally competitive life sciences sectors and deliver sustainable benefits for British Columbia, Canada and beyond. The organization’s initiatives are improving the lives of British Columbians by advancing health care in addition to addressing environmental and natural resource challenges. In addition to scientific programming, Genome BC works to integrate genomics into society by supporting responsible research and innovation and foster an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among educators, students and the public. genomebc.ca
About Genome Alberta:
Genome Alberta is a publicly funded not-for-profit corporation which initiates, funds, and manages genomics research and partnerships. We strive to be the leading source of information and administration related to genomics, metabolomics, bioinformatics, bioethics, and other ‘omics-related research in Alberta. genomealberta.ca
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