Lab Canada

$2.3M funding for genome projects in BC

Vancouver, BC – Genome British Columbia has announced the results of its first Science Opportunities Fund competition in which nine awards have been made to researchers with a total approved budget of $2.3 million. The nine teams of researchers are launching peer-reviewed, short-term research projects.

“We are proud of the scientists whose curiosity has created these targeted projects designed to have a positive impact on the collective well-being of the province and look forward to seeing the results in the near future,” said Dr Alan Winter, president and CEO of Genome BC.

The nine projects are as follows:

(1) Flow-sorting facility at the BC Cancer Agency
– Field of Activity: Equipment, Cancer Immunotherapy
– Project Leaders: Drs Brad Nelson, Peter Watson, John Webb, Christoph Borchers, Julian Lum
– Involved Institutions: BC Cancer Agency & The University of Victoria
– Approved Project: $609,950
– Summary: The cell sorter obtained using Genome BC funds will allow identification of many more different tumor specific cell types that can then be studied using both genomic and proteomic research platforms and will allow more accurate biobanking of different tumor and cell types. This is important in the development of increasingly specific treatments based on the vast differences found between cancerous cells.

(2) Development of a Health Assessment Tool for Marine Mussels (Myt-OME)
– Field of Activity: Aquaculture, marine ecosystem health
– Project Leaders: Drs Helen Gurney-Smith and Stewart Johnson
– Involved Institutions: Vancouver Island University (formerly Malaspina University-College) & Fisheries and Oceans Canada
– Approved Project: $399,092
– Summary: The team will develop a sensitive genomic tool for multiple marine mussels, known keystone species, enabling more accurate health assessments of coastal zones including aquaculture operations, thus facilitating the ability to monitor the effects of the changing environment.

(3) Mycorrhizal Fungal Ecology: A Genomic Approach for Improved Forest Management
– Field of Activity: Forest management, fungal ecology
– Project Leaders: Drs Suzanne Simard and Richard Hamelin
– Involved Institutions: University of British Columbia
– Approved Project: $85,265
– Summary: The team will be investigating the symbiotic association between fungus and plant roots with a view to assisting better establishment of cedar and hemlock seedlings during forest regeneration.

(4) frogSCOPE (frog Sentinel species Comparative “Omics” for the Environment)
– Field of Activity: Aquatic ecosystem health
– Project Leader: Dr Caren Helbing
– Involved Institutions: University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, Environment Canada
– Approved Project: $402,000
– Summary: The wild bullfrog will be studied to determine how it reacts to effluents in municipal waterway with a view to developing methodologies and tools that can be applied to other species.

(5) Conifer Genome Exploration
– Field of Activity: Genome sequencing, forestry
– Project Leader: Dr Kermit Ritland
– Involved Institutions: University of British Columbia
– Approved Project: $471,696
– Summary: The goal of the project is to explore the genome organization, structure and sequence of two conifer species in order to use sequence information for molecular breeding of conifers, tailoring future plantings in response to climate change and improving conifers as a potential feedstock for biofuels, as well as providing preliminary evidence to understand the potential uses derivable from an eventual conifer whole genome sequencing project.

(6) Sablefish Genomics
– Field of Activity: Aquaculture, Fishery Management
– Project Leader: Dr Ben Koop
– Involved Institutions: University of Victoria
– Approved Project: $140,000
– Summary: The Sablefish Genomics project aims to develop a preliminary suite of genomic tools that can provide important information for both aquaculture and management of wild fish stocks.

(7) Development of Efficient Algorithms and Technologies for Structural Variation Detection by Single Molecule Sequencing
– Field of Activity: Mathematical modeling, genetic variation
– Project Leaders: Drs S. Cenk Sahinalp and Inanc Birol
– Involved Institutions: Simon Fraser University & BC Genome Sciences Centre
– Approved Project: $68,000
– Summary: Sequence differences between individuals are much more prevalent than previously thought and may explain molecular mechanisms underlying differences in biology; the project will develop novel algorithms and software to process single molecule DNA sequencing data which will allow more efficient and accurate analysis of this variation.

(8) BC BioLibrary/CAE (Centre for Applied Ethics) Project:
Guidelines, Protocols and Policies
– Field of Activity: Governance, Biobanking
– Project Leaders: Drs Peter Watson and Kieran O’Doherty
– Involved Institutions: University of British Columbia
– Approved Project: $90,000
– Summary: The goal of the project, using a unique public deliberation model, will be to determine the dominant values that underlie the concerns which can be integrated into future policy discussions about biobanking.

(9) Building the Genomics Toolbox for Lavenders
– Field of Activity: Agriculture
– Project Leader: Dr Soheil Mahmoud
– Involved Institutions: University of British Columbia Okanagan
– Approved Project: $156,000
– Summary: The project will identify traits which will assist lavender farmers to improve yield and quality of the resulting essential oils thereby strengthening the industry in the province.

This funding competition was created based on feedback from genomics researchers in BC. Genome BC is involved primarily in large and medium size project and platform competitions, but scientists pointed out a funding gap for smaller and short-term research projects which could enable BC-based researchers to compete for larger national or international opportunities. Therefore the Science Opportunities Fund was created to meet these needs. The organization says it to launch another Science Opportunities Fund competition in the coming weeks.

A full description of the competition and its requirements is available at