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September 30, 2010

Toronto database for genomic medicine extends global reach

TORONTO – This week marks the launch of the Database of Genomic Variants archive (DGVa) – a public resource that will facilitate the translation of genetic information into new diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic tools for improved human health. DGVa was created by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) in collaboration with the University of Toronto’s McLaughlin Centre and The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). The new database is announced in the latest online edition of Nature Genetics.

The new DGVa initiative will expand operations of the Database of Genomic Variants (DGV) –known as “the Toronto Database” –the world's premier database housing copy number and structural variation data in the human genome, providing significant support for investigations in human biology, considered by Science magazine as a breakthrough story of 2007.

Dr. Stephen Scherer, Director of the McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto and Senior Scientist and Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at SickKids, remarked "DGV, which supports the interpretations of tens of thousands of clinical diagnoses each year, will expand its scope and impact through this initiative.

"We're delighted to be working with Dr. Paul Flicek's EMBL-EBI team to establish DGVa with the aim of capturing the onslaught of copy number and structural variation data coming from thousands of genome sequencing projects around the world," says DGV founder Scherer. “DGVa will also exchange data with dbVAR, a companion database at the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the USA.”

Sequencing of the human genome resulted in discoveries about the differences in our genes and their relationship to the uniqueness of the human species. Only a few years ago, scientists including Scherer's team also discovered that certain genes are present in multiple copies, with others being structurally altered, in some individuals but not in others.These structural variations have been shown to influence susceptibility to disease and response to treatments.

"Rapid advances in DNA sequencing technologies to identify genetic variations in important genes are impacting all clinical disciplines. We are poised at the brink of an era of genomic medicine and our new international initiative will guarantee equal access to all of this important data around the world," says Dr. Lars Feuk, co-founder and co-director of DGV, who is now at the Rudbeck Laboratory at Uppsala University in Sweden.

DGVa (www.ebi.ac.uk/dgva) is supported by the Wellcome Trust, EMBL and the UK Medical Research Council.

DGV is supported by the McLaughlin Centre, Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics Institute, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the SickKids Foundation. Scherer is a Scholar of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and holds the GlaxoSmithKline/CIHR Pathfinder Chair in genetics and genomics at SickKids and University of Toronto.

Scherer’s lab would be relocated to the Genetics & Genomics in Child Health neighbourhood in the new SickKids Research & Learning Tower. This will encourage interactions with colleagues from other scientific disciplines to improve our understanding of genes and other genetic conditions.

About The Hospital for Sick Children
The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is recognized as one of the world’s foremost paediatric health-care institutions and is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to advancing children’s health through the integration of patient care, research and education. Founded in 1875 and affiliated with the University of Toronto, SickKids is one of Canada’s most research-intensive hospitals and has generated discoveries that have helped children globally.  Its mission is to provide the best in complex and specialized family-centred care; pioneer scientific and clinical advancements; share expertise; foster an academic environment that nurtures health-care professionals; and champion an accessible, comprehensive and sustainable child health system.  SickKids is proud of its vision of Healthier Children. A Better World.™ For more information, please visit www.sickkids.ca

About Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning 
The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning will bring together researchers from different scientific disciplines and a variety of clinical perspectives, to accelerate discoveries, new knowledge and their application to child health — a different concept from traditional research building designs. The facility will physically connect SickKids science, discovery and learning activities to its clinical operations. Designed by award-winning architects Diamond Schmitt Architects Inc. and HDR Inc. with a goal to achieve LEED® Gold Certification for sustainable design, the Gilgan Centre will create an architectural landmark as the eastern gateway to Toronto’s Discovery District. The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning is funded by a grant from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Government of Ontario, philanthropist Peter Gilgan and community support for the ongoing fundraising campaign. For more information, please visit www.sickkidsfoundation.com/bepartofit.

About the University of Toronto

Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.  With more than 75,000 students across three campuses (St. George, Mississauga and Scarborough) and over 450,000 alumni active in every region of the world, U of T’s influence is felt in every area of human endeavour. www.utoronto.ca.        

For more information, please contact:

Matet Nebres
The Hospital for Sick Children
Phone: 416-813-6380
email: matet.nebres@sickkids.ca