Government of Canada announces more than $16.5 million funding increase for SickKids-supported research facilities
Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and several collaborating institutions are receiving a renewed investment, representing a combined increase of over $16.5 million, from the Major Science Initiatives (MSI) fund through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The MSI fund ensures Canada’s large, national research facilities have the support needed to operate and stay on the cutting edge of research.
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, made the announcement on July 7, 2020, as part of a broader investment of close to $230 million in 14 facilities across Canada.
CGEn and The Centre for Phenogenomics (TCP) are two of the national research facilities receiving funding, both of which are partly operated by SickKids. This new announcement builds on previously approved CFI contributions and represents an increase of over $11.3 million in funding for CGEn and an increase of over $5.1 million in funding for TCP.
A new era of Canadian genome research
CGEn was created in 2014 with a mission to enable genomic research across Canada. It is comprised of Canada’s three leading genome centres, The Centre for Applied Genomics (TCAG) at SickKids, The McGill Genome Centre at McGill University and Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre at the B.C. Cancer Agency.
While CGEn works primarily in medical health research, one of its flagship programs, CanSeq150, seeks to sequence 150 new genomes from genetically unexplored species with significance to Canada. Dr. Livia Loureiro, Research Fellow in the Genetics and Genome Biology program at SickKids, has worked with CGEn to sequence the genomes of various bat species and the blue whale. Her research focus is on the evolutionary information contained in the DNA of animals and humans, information she says isn’t available without sequencing the whole genome.
“We can’t properly understand the implications of genetic information if we only sequence small parts of DNA because it only gives us small parts of the story. We need to get the entire picture so we can conduct analyses that take us back in time and may be able to tell us about the health of an entire population of species,” says Loureiro. At SickKids, Loureiro is studying the evolutionary aspects of genes involved in autism.
Her previous work with CGEn has involved looking at information contained in the blue whale’s genome to determine the effect of whaling on its decrease in population. She is currently working on a proposal to sequence the genomes of mammals in the Arctic that could uncover greater insight into climate change, the Arctic food chain and these animals’ interactions with the Inuit population of Canada.
“This renewed investment from CFI will help us continue to drive genomics forward for all species, human and non-human alike,” says Dr. Stephen Scherer, Scientific Director, CGEn-Toronto, and Director of TCAG at SickKids. “Genome analysis supports all modern approaches to medical and life science research. With this investment, we can expand the genomic data we generate, which will continue to underpin Canada’s greatest scientific discoveries.”
Beginning-to-end research solutions under one roof
TCP is the largest purpose-built facility in Canada that allows researchers to investigate normal gene function and mutations in the human genome through animal model studies. Its highly specialized team provides custom services for researchers across Canada and around the world so original research projects can take place from start to finish in one facility. TCP is owned and operated by SickKids and Mount Sinai Hospital.
“The increase in funding will allow us to continue developing and implementing cutting-edge technologies to answer complicated research questions from across the country,” says Dr. Monica Justice, Scientific Director of TCP and Senior Scientist in the Genetics and Genome Biology program at SickKids. “We look forward to pushing the future of Canadian research further with bold ideas and integrity.”
TCP has been an early adopter of genome editing technology, enabling more precise and efficient research. Their staff continually look for solutions to ensure rigorous research results for their clients.