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Canada Launches $41M Epigenetics Initiative

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Canada has launched a C$41 million (US$41.2 million) initiative to fund epigenetics research programs through collaborations between the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), Genome Quebec and Genome BC, the government of Japan, and the Fonds de Recherche Sante, Quebec (FRSQ).

The Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC) will engage in and support studies to uncover how environmental factors can affect gene expression and lead to a range of diseases, CIHR said today.

For the CEEHRC's first phase, CIHR, Genome Quebec, and Genome BC are funding a new grant program and an epigenomics research center. In a second phase, CIHR and its partners have launched two team grant programs aimed at translating epigenomics research discoveries into practice.

The funding will include support for projects at McGill University and the Genome Quebec Innovation Centre in Montreal.

"The new funding will make the Innovation Centre a focal point for epigenetics," Marc LePage, Genome Quebec president and CEO, said in a statement.

"Epigenetics research is an area that has been referred to as the 'second revolution in genetics' and promises profound new insights into the role of the environment on human health and disease," added CIHR President Alain Beaudet. "CIHR encourages the researchers funded under the epigenetics initiative to translate their findings into diagnostic tests, novel medical treatments, and health policy."

One of the new grants will provide C$6 million to the Innovation Centre's director, Mark Lathrop, to fund the creation of Epigenomic Mapping Centres with partners at CIHR and the Douglas Institute Research Centre, McGill said today. The partners will study how the genome "deploys hundreds of different programs leading to different fates in cell development," McGill said.

Lathrop and his team will use epigenome mapping to learn about how gene-environment interactions affect human blood cells, can lead to metabolic diseases, and affect the function of the brain.

The new funding announced today also includes C$1.5 million to Guillaime Bourque, bioinformatics director at the McGill center, for an Epigenomic Data Coordination Centre. Bourque and his colleagues at the EDCC will aim to develop a framework that uses resources from Compute Canada to support large-scale sharing, processing, and visualization of epigenomics data.

The full funding contributions over the six-year CEEHRC program include C$28.5 million from CIHR; C$8 million from the Japan Science and Technology Agency; C$2.5 million from Genome BC; C$1.5 million from FRSQ; and C$400,000 from Genome Quebec.

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