Biotechnology Focus

Biotechnology Focus November 2012

Biotechnology Focus is Canada's leading authority on Canada's life science news. From biopharma and healthcare to ag-bio and clean tech, our readership includes life science professionals, C-level executives and researchers.

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By: Shawn Lawrence GENOMICS THE PROMISE AND POWER OF GENOMICS Ten years ago, the Gairdner Foundation brought together some of the world's fi nest minds for a series of signature presen- tations examining what was then a comparatively young science: genomics. That event, organized by Genome Canada and the Gairdner Foundation, was one of the fi rst to put Canada in the genomics race. In the time since, advancements in the fi eld both here and abroad have reached critical mass, so it seems fi tting that the two sides have come together once again to put on another genomics extravaganza. The special two day conference will take place on Nov. 27 and 28 in Ottawa. Many of those same scientists that attended in 2002 will be back as well as a host of new superstar scientists. Billed as "The Power and Promise of Genomics," this event not only marks 12 years of progress in the genom- ics fi eld in Canada, but also the remarkable expansion of genomics research and its applications in sciences that stretch beyond human health. "Looking back 10 years later, I think ge- nomic research has really transformed both biology and medicine," says John Dirks, president and scientifi c director of the Gaird- ner Foundation and the individual mostly responsible for putting the original event together. For Dirks, the timing for such an event couldn't be any better. "On the human health side, we've identi- fi ed over 3,000 new monogenetic inherited diseases and many genome wide syndromes, such as type 2 diabetes and so on. Overall, a lot has happened in this fi eld. Moreover not 16 BIOTECHNOLOGY FOCUS NOVEMBER 2012 enough attention has been given to genom- ics and its achievements since the Human Genome project, and this is partly why we approached Genome Canada to hold this milestone event once more." Dirks adds that what sets this forum apart from its predecessor is that it not only brings together an impressive mix of genomics re- searchers and academics, but also includes end users, as well as public and private research agencies and funding organizations. Genome Canada president and CEO Pierre Meulien adds that much thought has gone into planning this once-in-a-decade forum, which includes a remarkable compilation of speakers spread amongst panels in all areas of the life sciences. "The fi rst day is very much on the human health piece, while the second day shines a light on all the activity going in biofuels, crops, livestock, food security, forestry and fi sheries and so on," he says. The reason for including these other sectors in the event program is simple, genomics has expanded into these other fi elds and is deliv- ering results in the bioeconomy. "Genomics is evident in many areas of science and not just human health, but few people realize this. That's really the goal here, to not only try and bring together those same people from the original event, but to also bring new players in that have taken the fi nd- ings and the technology and applied it right across the spectrum," says Meulien. While the advancements on the human health side are more known, Meulien stresses "We weren't able to bring back all our winners from 2002, but in order to deal with the topics we selected there likely wouldn't have been room for them all. It's almost the nature of the beast if you will. And having all these people together could lead to other great things, future collaborations and future successes." — John Dirks

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