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Ontario Genomics Institute Seeks to Improve Competitiveness in the Region


The Ontario Genomics Institute, a private, nonprofit organization, is funding two new programs to improve the region's competitiveness in technology and in genomics, proteomics, and related fields. One program aims to improve access to technology and the other plans to help the scientific community in Ontario get in touch with international leaders in the field.

"There's often this sort of division between people who've had a lot of experience with those kinds of projects … and, on the other hand, these people who would be great scientifically to get involved in some of the genomes projects who haven't really been using those technologies or putting together a large international collaboration," says Christian Burks, the CEO of OGI. "The motivation for this was, in general, capacity building both with access to technology … or access to international collaborators and funders."

The Genomics Technology Seeding program has signed up its first recipient, the Centre for Applied Genomics at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, to develop its capacity for genotyping FFPE samples. According to Stephen Scherer, director of the center, the team receives a lot of requests from potential users — often cancer researchers — who want to do that sort of genotyping but don't have samples to waste. "There are just no good protocols in place. SNP call rates are typically around 40 to 60 percent on FFPE samples so that's not sufficient for doing experiments," Scherer says. "We want to further develop the technology." This funding, he says, will allow technologists to spend time and reagents to develop a protocol. "I think it has quite a bit of impact for comparatively small investment," he adds.

The Genomics Capacity Building program is also underway, having hosted two workshops last fall on bacterial pathogenesis and environmental microbiology. University of Toronto professor Aled Edwards says these two workshops were an effort to get the right and left hands of genomics and proteomics together. "We invited people from both domains, as it were, to try to get a sense if there could be some interesting synergistic collaborations among the two disciplines," he says. For the bacterial pathogenesis meeting, they invited experts and discussed with them their labs' capabilities for making and characterizing proteins; after that, some visitors suggested proteins for the genomics-oriented labs to pursue. "The link has been made," Edwards says.