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Canada Directing $4.3M to Forest Pathogen Research

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Genome British Columbia and Genome Canada today announced nearly C$4.3million (US$4.3 million) in funding for the development of genomic diagnostics aimed at forest disease.

The funding will be for a research project called "Genomics-Based Forest Health Diagnostics and Monitoring," led by Richard Hamelin, a professor at the University of British Columbia and senior research scientist at Natural Resources Canada. The research will be directed at developing DNA-based diagnostic tests to detect and monitor pathogens that destroy trees.

Currently, efforts at battling forest pathogens cost Canada C$2 billion annually, GBC and GC said.

"Prevention is a large part of managing forest pests. In fact, once we see the damage caused by a pest, it's often already too late," Hamelin said in a statement. "With earlier and faster pest detection methods, we can act much more quickly to eradicate infections, determine where the pests originated and where they are going."

A number of benefits are expected to result from the project, GBC and GC said, including the prevention of potentially damaging pathogens from spreading; "assisting the forest and nursery industries with plant and product certification;" and encouraging the purchase of Canadian products and materials in the international markets.

The economic benefits, they added, could reach into the tens of millions of dollars.

In addition to Hamelin, Jeremy Hall at Simon Fraser University will direct the social science research component of the project. He and his colleagues are studying current public policies and societal issues surrounding the use of genomics in the management of Canada's forests and will recommend commercialization opportunities stemming from the research.

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