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Genomics on a mission: Meeting the COVID-19 challenge


Genome Canada and its Centre partners are working proactively with governments and leaders in the research community to mobilize a coordinated response to the national – and global – emergency caused by novel coronavirus COVID-19.

We made immediate adjustments to open competitions and funded projects in order to minimize impacts on work already underway.

We partnered with federal research funders with a call to our community in the early days of the crisis. Genomics researchers answered the call. The Government of Canada has since made more research funds available through a $275M investment to fight COVID-19.

We are allocating additional funds to develop innovative new initiatives and opportunities that Canadian genomics researchers can rapidly access through streamlined, leaner processes.

We are mobilizing knowledge to keep our community – and Canadians - informed and to provide solutions-oriented leadership to navigate this crisis.

Just announced: CanCOGeN is launched

Genome Canada has launched the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN), an initiative that will generate accessible and usable genomics data to inform our public health decisions in the time of a pandemic.

Led by Genome Canada, in partnership with the six regional Genome Centres, the National Microbiology Lab and provincial public health labs, genome sequencing centres through CGEn, hospitals, academia and industry, CanCOGeN will coordinate and scale up existing COVID-19 genome sequencing activities into a national effort and interface with international sequencing networks in the UK and in the US in order to improve patient outcomes and accelerate public impact.

CanCOGeN’s core activities will include accelerated sequencing of up to 150,000 viral genomes and 10,000 host genomes across Canada while also building in-house capacity in public health laboratories across the country and a coordinated approach to data analysis and sharing. The results of this work will be accessible to researchers nationally and globally, ultimately helping the response to the current COVID-19 emergency as well as building capacity to manage future outbreaks and pandemics.

CanCOGeN is backed by $40 million in funding from Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and is not a typical Genome Canada-supported research funding competition. It is funding directed towards the key organizations that can begin delivering results in the near term.  A two-year initiative, it will help ensure a nationally and internationally coordinated response to combatting COVID-19, given Genome Canada’s long-standing investments in genomics, established partnerships, and regional reach through the Genome Centres across the country.

CanCOGeN will be supported by an Advisory Committee to ensure strategic linkages with all of Canada’s COVID-19 health and medical countermeasures initiatives across all funding agencies, as well as international efforts. Genome Canada will lead on the management and coordination of CanCOGeN to help ensure the network achieves its objectives and milestones.

For more information please contact Genome Canada at [email protected]

Immediate adjustments | New rapid response funding | Pan-Canadian network | Latest newsMobilizing knowledge | COVID-19 video series | Webinars and other videos

Bigger, bolder ideas

In these unprecedented times, we must think and work smarter in order to stay ahead of the pandemic’s disruptive path. Genome Canada’s President and CEO, Rob Annan, is staying connected to Canadians and the genomics research community on social media and other digital platforms.

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Immediate adjustments

Genome Canada assessed all our funding opportunities against the evolving realities of COVID-19. For open competitions, a customized response outlining any impact is now included at the top of each funding webpage. We will continue to assess the situation as it unfolds and make further adjustments as necessary. Please see:

Regarding currently funded projects, we are taking action to support the research teams we work with on a case-by-case basis. Please refer to our letter to the community, which outlines the initial steps we took to address changes due to COVID-19. We encourage research teams to reach out to the provincial or regional Centre through which they are funded if additional support or information is required.

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New rapid response funding

Genome Canada and its Centre partners are harnessing genomics solutions to meet the COVID-19 challenge. We have launched new funding initiatives for research projects with clear, short-term impact, accelerated timelines, and close coordination between academics and industry, not-for-profit and/or private partners. 

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Pan-Canadian network responds

Each regional Genome Centre is stepping up for greater impact right across the country…

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Genome Atlantic Genome Quebec Genome Canada Ontario Genomics Genome Prairie Genome Alberta Genome British Columbia

Latest news

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Mobilizing knowledge

Here is a list of relevant knowledge mobilization efforts across the country, updated on an intermittent basis and listed in alphabetical order by name. Please be in touch with us via [email protected] if you have additions to suggest.

  • AI Against COVID-19 Canada – A special task force aiming to map and coordinate artificial intelligence (AI) projects in Canada that can contribute to solve the COVID-19 outbreak and limit its impact on society.
  • CanCOVID - An expert community of Canadian COVID-19 researchers, clinical collaborators, and healthcare stakeholders from across the country.
  • CIHR Coronavirus page – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research page for all COVID-19 information.
  • – A site that provides access to expertise, facilities and IP at Canada's post-secondary institutions. Suggestion: search by the term “coronavirus”
  • Covid-19 Resources Canada – A resource for researchers and clinicians fighting COVID-19 in Canada.
  • Crowdhelix – A tool for COVID researchers anywhere in the world to find one another, find funding opportunities, and keep up on funding news.
  • European Commission COVID-19 research – An information source on research projects and initiatives to tackle the spread of coronavirus and preparedness for other outbreaks. 
  • Genome Alberta - COVID19 News  – The regional Genome Centre is actively publishing a series of blogs and podcasts, and curating recent news, webinars, myth-busting research and other resources related to genomics and COVID-19.

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COVID-19 video series

Genome Canada partnered with The Future Economy news platform to develop six videos for a series called The COVID-19 Rebound. Anchored in genomics, the videos help understand how to track, contain and manage the virus, and how can genomics play a role in data sharing and future preparedness.

Canada’s Research Ecosystem & The Response to COVID-19, featuring Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada (March 23, 2020)

COVID-19 Point-of-Care Testing & Canada's Ongoing Research Priorities, featuring Dr. Dylan Pillai,  Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Medicine, and Microbiology, Immunology & Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary, and funded through Genome Alberta (April 20, 2020)

COVID-19 Research: Genomics, Collaboration and Funding, featuring Dr. Natalie Prystajecky, Program Head, Environmental Microbiology & Molecular and Microbial Genomics Programs - BC Centre for Disease Control, and funded through Genome British Columbia. (April 21, 2020)

COVID-19 Research: Genomics, Rapid Execution & Funding, featuring Dr. Samira Mubareka, Professor & Expert in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and funded through Ontario Genomics. (April 27, 2020) 

COVID-19 Research: Vaccines, Genomics & Open Science, featuring Dr. Aled Edwards, Chief Executive, Structural Genomics Consortium, and funded through Ontario Genomics and Genome Quebec. (April 28, 2020)

COVID-19 Vaccine Development in Canada, featuring Dr. Volker Gerdts, President & CEO, VIDO-Intervac. (June 15, 2020)

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Webinars and other videos

Genome Canada has participated in and supported a number of online events about COVID-19 and the CanCOGeN initiative. Speakers are a selection of ambassadors from the genomics community who are partnering in some way with Genome Canada and the six regional Centres on CanCOGeN. The recordings of these events provide important insights into how genomics researchers are helping to find solutions during the pandemic.

Genomics on a mission: Probing COVID’s secrets with CanCOGeN, featuring Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO of Genome Canada and Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Director of CanCOGeN, in conversation with Jeffrey Crelinsten, Publisher and CEO of Research Money Inc. (Research Money, September 22, 2020)

Life Sciences Ontario interview, featuring Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Executive Director of CanCOGeN. (August 13, 2020)

Canadian Science Policy Centre webinar: Lifting the Curtain on CanCoGen, featuring Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Executive Director, CanCOGeN, Dr. Fiona Brinkman, Distinguished Professor, Bioinformatics and Genomics, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Simon Fraser University, Dr. Lisa Strug, Professor of Statistical Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Science, University of Toronto and Canada Research Chair in Genome Data Sciences and Senior Scientist, The Hospital for Sick Children, Dr. Gary Van Domselaar, Chief, Bioinformatics, National Microbiology Laboratory, Public Health Agency of Canada and Dr. Naveed Aziz, Chief Administrative & Chief Scientific Officer, CGEn. (July 21, 2020)

Gairdner Global Perspectives Panel: COVID-19: The Canadian Research Response, featuring Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada and a roster of leading Canadian scientists, including Chief Science Advisor Dr. Mona Nemer, CIHR President Dr. Michael Strong, among others. (June 29, 2020)

On the Trail of COVID-19, video created by Genome Atlantic. (June 2020)

The Race for a Vaccine, video created by Genome Atlantic. (June 2020)

Public Policy Forum's Policy Speaking Series podcast: Understanding a Disease – COVID-19 and Genome Canada, featuring Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada, Dr. Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO, Ontario Genomics and Edward Greenspon, President & CEO, Public Policy Forum. (June 1, 2020)

CanCOVID webinar, featuring Dr. Samira Mubareka, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and Clinician Scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute. (May 29, 2020)

A Race Against the Clock: COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment R&D in Canada, including Dr. Terrance Snutch, Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories and Director, Translational Neuroscience, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, University of British Columbia. The webinar was presented by Research Canada. (May 21, 2020)

Genomics on a mission: Meeting the COVID-19 challenge, featuring Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada in a live interview with Mehrdad Hariri. A collaboration between the Canadian Science Policy Centre and Genome Canada. (May 20, 2020)

Gairdner Global Perspectives Panel: COVID-19: The Road Forward, a webinar sponsored by Genome Canada. (May 20, 2020)

The Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network, featuring Dr. Fiona Brinkman, Distinguished Professor in Bioinformatics and Genomics in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University. A collaboration between CanCOVID and Genome Canada. (May 19, 2020)

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