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About Sickkids
About SickKids

March 27, 2013

SickKids co-hosts $150M funding announcement in personalized medicine

Dr. Stephen Scherer and the Honourable Gary Goodyear
Dr. Stephen Scherer explains to the Honourable Gary Goodyear how whole genome sequencing will benefit ASD research.

A $150-million federal investment in personalized medicine based on advances in gene science brought Dr. Stephen Scherer and Dr. Peter Szatmari to the podium for the announcement on March 26, 2013.

Their project is among 17 successful applicants from across Canada for the federal 2012 Large-Scale Applied Research Project.  Called “Autism Spectrum Disorders: Genome to Outcomes,” the SickKids application was awarded $10 million. Dr. Scherer is Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at SickKids and Director of the McLaughlin Centre at University of Toronto. Dr. Szatmari is Chief, Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative (at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and SickKids) as well as Director of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University of Toronto.

The competition focuses on projects that leverage scientific advances to achieve positive economic impact through cost-effective health care delivery. With their project Dr. Scherer and Dr. Szatmari aim to use whole genome sequencing to complete a gene-based diagnostic profile of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). “From the massive genomic datasets we generate, we will develop clinical guidelines and recommendations to assist hospitals, health ministries, and other research networks in how best to apply this information to help families,” Dr. Scherer explained.

“Success in the project as a whole will further facilitate earlier diagnosis of autism in families, something most critical to improved outcomes. It will also assist the development of new medicines, and personalized approaches in the treatment of autism,” he said.

The project will also contribute to an ambitious international consortium that is sequencing and analyzing the genomes of 10,000 individuals with ASD, and create a database of evidence that will inform decision-makers in Canada and internationally.

Like the other successful projects across Canada, a key component of the SickKids project is the involvement of other co-funders and partners, including McMaster University and Holland Bloorview Hospital. 

The Honorable Gary Goodyear, federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, made the announcement. Others present included Mary Jo Haddad, President and CEO, SickKids; MP Mike Lake; Dr. Pierre Meulien, President and CEO of Genome Canada; Alison Symington, Vice-President, Corporate Development and Communications; Ontario Genomics Institute; and Dr. Robert Thirsk, Vice-President, Public, Government and Institute Affairs, Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

In his remarks Dr. Meulien cited the vital importance of making whole genome sequencing technology available to research projects and cohorts across Canada. He also highlighted the significance of Genome Canada and CIHR joining forces to support partnerships and networks “to promote rational economic sustainability in a stressed health care system.”

The announcement was followed by the dignitaries’ tour of the The Centre for Applied Genomics/Scherer lab.