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BioNet Alberta

Regional Priorities Partnership Program (RP3)
Genome Centre(s):
Genome Alberta
Project Leader(s):
Athanasios Zovoilis (University of Lethbridge)
Fiscal Year Project Launched: 
Project Description: 

Bioinformatics and computational biology (B/CB) is a rapidly evolving area of the life sciences that utilizes diverse approaches to interrogate and interpret large, complex data sets. These analytical approaches are critical to the field of genomics to derive understanding from otherwise unwieldly data. Canada has a strong foundation in genomics and B/CB, supported in part by Genome Canada Genomics Technology Platforms in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Alberta is home to substantial expertise genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics, but the underlying capacity in B/CB is less defined, resulting in a disjointed provincial research community as it pertains to the analysis of big data. In response to stakeholder consultations across the province, recommendations from post-secondary institutions, and support from the broader research and end-user community, Genome Alberta has developed BioNet Alberta for Genome Canada’s Regional Priorities Partnership Program (RP3). BioNet Alberta is a diverse network-based approach to building provincial capacity in the area of B/CB. The Network is structured around four key pillars: (1) Network Management, Outreach, and Knowledge Exchange; (2) Training and Development; (3) Computational Solutions and Tool Development, and (4) Implementation of Pan-Alberta Service Platform. This multi-tiered approach will provide a distributed platform to develop a more cohesive genomics and B/CB community that is expected to enhance research and development capacity. Fostering relationships between unconnected groups will yield novel collaborative opportunities that will improve the success rate of Alberta researchers in national level B/CB competitions. Additionally, a current limiting factor for capacity in the province is the lack of skilled trainees that are competent and comfortable with bioinformatic approaches. Dedicated workshops and support for new training opportunities will provide the next generation of Alberta trainees with the tools needed for a competitive job market in genomics and bioinformatics. BioNet Alberta will also support the implementation and launch of pan-Alberta core services in genomics and bioinformatics that is expected to be critical to developing the B/CB footprint in the province. Lastly, the development of computational tools that can be readily adapted and adopted by provincial end-users will allow researchers to take better advantage of previous investments in genomics and result in better translational outcomes for Alberta sectors. To execute on the BioNet Alberta strategy, Genome Alberta has partnered with the provincial government entities (Economic Development and Trade, Alberta Innovates), post-secondary institutions (Universities of Calgary, Alberta, and Lethbridge), national B/CB stakeholders (Canadian Bioinformatics Workshop, Compute Canada) and sector-specific end-users in Alberta (Alberta Public Laboratories, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada). Preliminary discussions for additional industry partnerships in the agriculture and information technology sectors are underway. The diversity of partners and stakeholders that have come forward in support of BioNet Alberta highlights the regional importance that exist for increased capacity in B/CB in the province.