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CFI's 'Omics Grants Broad in Scope

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The nearly C$670 million ($576.8 million) that the Canada Foundation for Innovation recently pumped into research projects and infrastructure will fund a range of genomics and proteomics studies and institutes spread across the nation.

The three-pronged CFI initiative is supporting disease, biofuel, and environmental studies and funding for research resources through the Leading Edge Fund, New Initiatives Fund, and the Infrastructure Operating Fund.

Including the few mentioned here, CFI sought out a wide array of biomedical and biological research grants that could provide jobs and economic benefits in Canada as well as generate knowledge and advance medicine.

The CFI granted $9.2 million to the Institute of Clinical Research of Montreal (IRCM) to fund technology purchases for a project aimed at developing a map of the human interacterome, which is defined as the complete set of interaction networks underlying the functioning of human cells.

The grant will fund the purchase of proteomics, functional genomics, and bioinformatics equipment, and will be used to integrate infrastructure across the 12 universities that are part of the interactome project.

"Canada has now a powerful tool that will allow its scientists to continue to take the lead in international research on the human interactome," said IRCM's Benoit Coulombe in a statement.

"Thanks to this C$22.9 million investment from the CFI and the other partners in this project, we will not only be able to gather detailed data allowing us to understand the interactome's dynamic organization, but also combine the areas of expertise of some of our best scientists through a very promising multidisciplinary project for our country and our respective provinces and institutions," Coulombe added.

Through the New Initiatives Fund, CFI gave C$12.5 million to the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) to support the Pancreatic Cancer Genome Project and the Data Coordination Centre for the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC). The ICGC, of which OICR is a founding member, is characterizing the genetics of cancer by studying 50 different types of cancer.

"The funds awarded to OICR by the Canada Foundation for Innovation will help improve infrastructure for genomics research in Canada," OICR President and Scientific Director Tom Hudson said in a statement. "It will allow OICR researchers to play a significant role in the ICGC and increase Canada's profile worldwide as a centre for genomics research."

These funds will go to support the ICGC and will be spent to purchase next-generation sequencers and other technologies to study the genetic origins of pancreatic cancer.

Some of the funding also will be used to build a data center for analyzing and storing data produced at OICR in the Data Coordination Center. This will store all of the data generated from the ICGC.

The University of Guelph was awarded C$7.2 million to fund the building of the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the university's Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. University of Guelph integrative biology Professor Paul Hebert will lead the program, which will use genomic technologies for biodiversity analysis, and it will serve as the scientific hub for the International Barcode of Life Project.

"Together with colleagues around the world, we are transforming biodiversity science," Hebert said. "However, we needed a facility to support and co-ordinate this revolution. By enabling the establishment of this new facility, CFI has ensured that Canada will remain the epicenter of this scientific enterprise."

The nearly 37,500 square-foot facility will include a collection space and will have a staff of 100, who will gather barcode records for a half-million species over the next five years.

The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto (SickKids) was awarded over C$4.2 million to support a genomics and a biobanking project. Janet Rossant, chief of research at SickKids and a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto, said that the grant will "maintain our position as one of the leading pediatric research institutes and centers for human genome research in the world."

One project will fund research at The Center for Applied Genomics at SickKids, including gene discovery studies and research into copy number variation, personalized genome sequencing, and applications of genomic medicine. Another SickKids project, led by Rossant, will support a joint effort with the University of Toronto and McMaster University to provide support to a disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cell biobank database.

A full list of the CFI grants can be found at its website.