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Ontario Genomics Institute Gets $25M in Funding

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Ontario Genomics Institute said today that the province has netted C$23.8 million ($24.7 million) in new funding to support genomics studies that will seek to identify drug targets and to understand the functioning of genes and proteins for use in biomonitoring.

“The range, scope, and crucial areas these projects are impacting on is clear proof of the power of genomics in creating new medicines, new approaches and new tools to combat disease, climate change and create a healthier world for all Ontarians and Canadians to live in,” OGI President Mark Poznanksy said in a statement.

The funding includes C$11.3 million from Genome Canada and C$12.5 million in co-funding from other sources.

One of the OGI research projects will use high-throughput, next-generation sequencing for genomic analysis of biomonitoring samples to be used in assessing the health of ecosystems.

The C$3 million project, conducted by the University of Guelph, will be based in the Wood Buffalo National Park. The park is a potentially vulnerable ecosystem that could be under threat from mining, oil sands operations, or hydro-electric dams, OGI said.

"The funding we have received will not only help improve methods to monitor environmental change, but will have a significant impact on helping prevent catastrophic habitat loss," University of Guelph Assistant Professor and the project's leader, Mehrdad Hajibabaei, said in a statement.

In another project, researchers led by the Hospital for Sick Children will use C$11 million to develop the North American Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Project (NorCOMM2), which will use mice as model systems to identify the roles different genes play in human disease.

The research team will work with researchers in the UK over the next three years to study developmental problems and diseases that occur in 280 mouse models. Each of these mouse models contains one abnormal or mutated gene, and the team will study how each mutation identifies the function of the gene, and if it could be a drug target or used in a diagnostic test.

"NorCOMM focused on developing and distributing a library of mouse embryonic stem cell lines carrying single-gene trapped or targeted mutations across the mouse genome," explained Colin McKerlie, a senior associate scientists at the Hospital for Sick Children.

"This new NorCOMM2 project will let us put that resource to work to understand the function of those genes in normal biology and disease," McKerlie said.

Another project will use a budget of nearly C$10 million and will work to develop a process and infrastructure for the large-scale production of synthetic antibody reagents to target cancer and other diseases. The research aims to develop candidate therapeutic antibodies for commercialization by targeting more than 100 proteins associated with cancer.

"This funding will allow our team, consisting of leading cancer biologists from the Toronto research community, to generate and validate hundreds of antibodies against a host of cancer-associated targets," Sachdev Sidhu, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

Another project, also led by the Hospital for Sick Children, will focus on genome-wide approaches to study medulloblastomas, the most common form of brain cancer, in order to develop markers that could be used to classify the tumors for treatment.

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