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About Sickkids
About SickKids

October 4, 2013

SickKids research benefits from Ontario government’s investment in personalized health

By Anne Coffey

Today, the Hon. Reza Moridi, Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, announced investments in research that will facilitate a more personalized approach to diagnosing and treating illnesses.

Personalized health uses a patient’s own genetic and personal information to customize treatment for the individual. Today’s funding brings Ontario’s support to a total of 12 projects funded since 2011. Two of the projects to benefit from today’s announcement are led by Dr. Stephen Scherer, Senior Scientist and Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in partnership with Dr. Peter Szatmari, Chief, Child and Youth Mental Health Collaborative, a joint position with SickKids and CAMH.

One of Scherer’s projects seeks a more complete understanding of the genetic properties of autism. Through the Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), Ontario is contributing $2.5 million to this $10-million project that uses the revolutionary technology of whole genome sequencing to analyze the genomes of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in order to identify genetic risk factors and facilitate earlier diagnosis, better management and personalized approaches to medical treatment.

This project is one of the 17 projects chosen from the $150-million genomics and personalized health competition, a Genome Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) partnership, announced by the Harper Government in March of this year.

"By sequencing and analyzing whole genomes we are able to better understand the genetic blueprint of autism,” says Dr. Stephen Scherer. “Results from whole genome sequencing could highlight potential targets for pharmacological intervention and pave the way for individualized therapy in autism.”

Scherer’s other noted project will receive $1 million from the MRI in infrastructure enhancement in order to increase capacity for genome sequencing at The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at SickKids. The new infrastructure will enable a massive Ontario-led international paediatric disease sequencing project, to identify genetic contributions to disorders such as autism, epilepsy, eye disorders, and childhood cancer.

“I am thrilled with the Ontario government’s investment in personalized health. At SickKids, Dr. Scherer’s pioneering work is leading the way to improvements in the way we will detect and treat autism in the future,” says Dr. Janet Rossant, Chief of Research at SickKids. “Dr. Scherer exemplifies SickKids’ mission to create groundbreaking scientific advancements that lead to improved clinical outcomes for children.”

To read more about Ontario’s announcement and the other funded projects please check out their news release.