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About SickKids

February 14, 2018

Call for researchers across Canada to sequence the genomes of 150 genetically unexplored species

CanSeq group photo
Left to right: Dr. Stephen Scherer, Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at SickKids, Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Senator Kevin Ogilvie, Board Member of CGEn, Naveed Aziz, Chief Administrative & Scientific Officer of CGEn, Dr. Michael Salter, Chief of Research at SickKids

A new initiative from Canada’s Genomics Enterprise (CGEn) is inviting researchers from across Canada to sequence 150 new genomes from species that have never had their genomes sequenced before. Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, was at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) on February 13, 2018 to announce the initiative, which commemorates Canada’s sesquicentennial and hopes to lay the foundation for the country’s next 150 years of science.

CGEn is funded primarily by the Canada Foundation of Innovation (CFI) and is comprised of Canada’s three leading genome centres, The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at SickKids, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the B.C. Cancer Agency and The McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre.

In line with its mission to enable Canadian genomic research, CGEn is selecting the species to be included in the initiative by inviting the Canadian scientific community to nominate their species of choice in a competition that will be judged by the CanSeq150 evaluation committee. The chosen species will all be of significant scientific, cultural, societal or economic impact to Canada and the goal of CanSeq150 is for the new genomes to serve as a foundation for many future biological research projects throughout the country.

“We believe CanSeq150 will set the stage for the next generation of science in Canada,” said Dr. Stephen Scherer, Executive Committee member of CGEn, Director of TCAG and Senior Scientist at SickKids. “We see a time when all biological and medical studies will be enabled by an accompanying genome sequence. It’s crucial for us to build on our infrastructure and expertise by giving this opportunity to Canadian science.”

As part of the announcement, Scherer, who is also the Director of the McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto, presented Nemer with a special commemorative book detailing 15 significant Canadian genome sequencing manuscripts from all three of CGEn’s partner institutions. The 15 studies ranged from the genome sequencing of the SARS virus in 2003 to the identification of candidate genes for autism spectrum disorder in 2017.

“I think this is a wonderful birthday gift to Canada. The production of high-quality sequencing information will help scientists understand the genetic bases of many species’ responses to diverse Canadian environmental pressures,” said Nemer at the event. “This initiative will enable future research and decision-making with respect to biodiversity, conservation, breeding and biomedicine.”

The initiative is already underway and sequencing has begun on the genomes of three species significant to Canada: the gray jay, lynx and snowshoe hare. CGEn will announce additional species to undergo whole genome sequencing on its website (www.cgen.ca) and Twitter (@CGEnseq). The results from CanSeq150 will be made available to researchers worldwide through public databases.

“The Canseq150 initiative will serve as CGEn’s contribution towards achieving the common global goal of sequencing as many of Earth’s species as possible, while enhancing and showcasing Canada’s capabilities in genomic science,” said Naveed Aziz, Chief Administrative and Scientific Officer of CGEn.

Researchers can submit their proposals to CanSeq150 by emailing CanSeq150@cgen.ca for application forms and further information.