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About SickKids

January 9, 2017

SickKids-supported research facilities receive $116 million to fund genomics and advanced computing research in Canada

Three projects supported by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) were awarded over $116 million in funding by the Government of Canada today as part of a $328.5-million investment into 17 national research facilities across the country.

The Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation, ensures Canada’s large, complex research facilities that serve communities of researchers have the support they need to operate at the cutting edge. The MSI Fund will support 17 facilities led by 12 institutions.

SickKids researchers rely on state-of-the-art labs and facilities where they can work and make ground-breaking health-care discoveries. Out of the 17 funded initiatives, three SickKids-supported projects received funding:

Canada's Genomics Enterprise - $31,975,000
Partners: SickKids (Project Leaders: Drs. Stephen Scherer and Michael Taylor), McGill University and University of British Columbia

Decoding and understanding the genome is important to basic and applied research in a range of sectors including health and disease-related sciences.

Canada’s Genomics Enterprise (CGEn) represents a nationwide platform that provides open-access whole genome sequencing and specialized genomic and informatics infrastructure for researchers. The CGEn links three existing genomics centres in Toronto (The Centre for Applied Genomics at SickKids), Montreal (Genome Quebec Innovation Centre at McGill University) and Vancouver (Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Science Centre).

CGEn has given Canadian scientists unprecedented sequencing and informatics capacity to decode genomes and has catalyzed new ideas and discoveries. In 2015, CGEn supported 1,325 laboratories from 10 Canadian provinces and from countries around the world.  

The new funding will strengthen CGEn’s infrastructure and strategic planning, and help expand sequencing and informatics capacity nationally for genomics research.

The Centre for Phenogenomics - $15,410,000
Partners: Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute and SickKids (Project Leader: Dr. Colin McKerlie)

The function of most of our 20,000 genes is unknown, and even less is known about the impact on diseases when one or several of those genes has a mutation. Mice and humans share around 98 per cent of their genes. Mouse models allow researchers to discover normal gene function, explore the genetic and molecular mechanisms that contribute to many disease areas and support the discovery and development of new approaches to prevention or treatment.

The Centre for Phenogenomics (TCP) is the largest purpose-built facility in Canada that allows researchers to investigate normal gene function and mutations in the human genome through animal model studies. TCP designs, creates and distributes mouse models for researchers and helps analyze them with the same kind of tests used on humans such as vision tests, blood samples, and medical imaging. The Centre uses the latest gene editing methods to create precise models with the same genetic defects identified in human patients. Over the past two years, the facility has provided 33,568 services to users in Canada and internationally.

The funding will help support the TCP’s highly specialized facilities, expertise and services to further advance biomedical research using mouse models.

Compute Canada MSI 2.0 - $69,455,000
Partners: SickKids (Project Leader: Dr. Michael Brudno), University Health Network (UHN)’s Princess Margaret Cancer Centre

Compute Canada is comprised of four regional partners (ACENET, Calcul Québec, Compute Ontario, WestGrid), and 35 partner institutions that collectively operate the pan-Canadian advanced research computing (ARC) platform. Together the partners provide essential ARC services for Canadian researchers and their collaborators in all academic and industrial sectors.

Compute Canada represents 70 per cent of the ARC resources available in Canada and there are no other comparable national alternative sources of ARC capabilities. In the last five years, Compute-supported investigators have reported 188 industrial R&D collaborations, 116 technology transfer examples, creation of 83 start-ups, 183 technology, product or process developments, 102 industry consultations and filed more than 2,000 patents.

The funding will enable Compute Canada to continue to support the use of advance computing for research, discovery and innovation in Canada. SickKids’ High Performance Computing for Health Sciences (HPC4Health) initiative, which provides researchers and clinicians with secure cloud-computing services, is one of the projects supported by Compute Canada.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, made the announcement in Quebec City earlier today. Learn more about the MSI Fund on the Canada Foundation for Innovation website.