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New genomic projects will make natural resources and environment sectors more resilient to climate change

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Ottawa, ON

Over $24 million in federal investment to strengthen environmental sustainability and protection

Canada was an early mover in advancing genomics science and is now a global leader in the field as the Government of Canada realizes the enormous potential genomics has to improve Canadians’ lives. It drives innovation in health, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, mining, energy and the environment, underpinning Canada’s economic prosperity.

Today, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced $24.4 million in federal support, in addition to a $1.5 million partnership between Genome Canada and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), for eight large-scale applied research projects in Canada’s natural resources and environment sectors. The projects announced will harness genomics research and technologies for natural resources conservation, environmental protection and sustainability. With co-funding from collaborations with provincial and other federal partners (including NRCan), universities, industry and international partners valued at $35.4 million, this represents a total investment of nearly $60 million.

The collective environmental impact of this investment is significant. Together, these eight projects will advance Canada’s biodiversity and responsible stewardship of resources, harness biomonitoring to measure changes in living organisms to assess potential hazardous exposure, and apply bioremediation to identify and remove pollutants from water, soil and other environments. Importantly, all of these projects are designed to examine relevant aspects of genomics in society and nearly all also proactively engage Indigenous communities and incorporate Indigenous knowledge systems in their research.

Today’s announcement includes research to support the world’s most endangered large whale, the North Atlantic Right Whale. A project led by Timothy R. Frasier of Saint Mary's University and Philip K. Hamilton from the New England Aquarium will use genomic data to improve conservation strategies for this endangered species, of which there are fewer than 400 individuals remaining.

Another project announced today will enable improved oil spill response in the North, co-developing a sustainable genomics-informed Community Based Monitoring program that combines social and natural sciences with Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (Inuit traditional knowledge). Led by Gary Stern and Eric Collins, both from the University of Manitoba, this research will use genomic technologies to understand the fate of oil in the Arctic and social, policy, and economic research to advance knowledge of Monitored Natural Attenuation (MNA) as a rational response strategy for oil spills.

Today’s news also includes funding for biodiversity protection through tracking the impact of global climate changes on the environment. By developing standardized methods and accessible environmental DNA (eDNA) resources to support ecological surveys, this project will help increase environmental quality standards and position Canada as an international frontrunner on eDNA standards adoption, policy development and testing. The project leads are Caren Helbing (University of Victoria), Valérie Langlois (Institut national de la recherche scientifique), Jérôme Dupras (Université du Québec en Outaouais) and Louis Bernatchez (Université Laval).

Collaborations like those announced today harness the power of genomics—applied responsibly and equitably—to build a safer, cleaner and more sustainable Canada for tomorrow.

Quotes

“Today’s investment showcases two of Canada’s competitive advantages that will play an essential role in our growth strategy—talented researchers and a vast wealth of natural resources. We already invested $400 million in support of a Pan-Canadian Genomics Strategy to maintain our global leadership. We recognize genomics research and technologies can lead to breakthroughs with real world applications from preserving our environment and driving sustainability, to improving the health and well-being of Canadians.”  
- The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“Genome Canada is proud to collaborate with NRCan to help address Canada’s resource challenges and protect our environment. The vast knowledge and innovation emerging from genomics can strengthen our resilience to climate change, drive environmental sustainability and fuel Canada’s growth, commercialization and global competitiveness. Today we are contributing to a brighter future for all Canadians.”
- Dr. Rob Annan, President and CEO, Genome Canada

“Improving our resiliency to a changing climate will increase the competitiveness of our natural resources sector. Scientists from Natural Resources Canada will work with Genome Canada on these projects to promote innovation and the responsible stewardship of resources to ensure our continued prosperity.”
- The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources

Quick Facts

  • Today’s announcement is for $24.4 million in federal funding via ISED and $1.5 million via NRCan for genomic research and an additional $33.9 million in co-funding from other provincial/federal partners, business and research partners across Canada. In total, the investment announced today adds up to $59.8 million.
  • This funding will support eight new projects within Genome Canada’s 2020 Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP) Competition: Genomic Solutions for Natural Resources and the Environment.
  • LSARP research takes an interdisciplinary approach; genomic scientists work with social scientists, conservation biologists, engineers and users to create deliverables that will have impact and help drive sustainability, growth, productivity, commercialization and global competitiveness.
  • LSARP projects must clearly demonstrate engagement with users in the development and execution of the research plan in order to help ensure receptor uptake and practical applicability of the research, creating engagement that informs the research itself and looks at the implications of genomics in society.
  • LSARP project teams and/or users of the research are expected to include underrepresented groups, as appropriate. Underrepresented groups include, but are not limited to women, Indigenous peoples, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. Incorporation of new researchers into the team is also encouraged.
  • Since 2000, Genome Canada has leveraged $1.7 billion in federal investment into a total investment of $4 billion in R&D including $2.3 billion in co-funding, supported over 5,000 talented research trainees and spun-out more than 80 new Canadian companies.

Learn more about the eight projects announced today:

iTrackDNA: Non-Destructive Precision Genomics for Environmental Impact Tracking in a Global Climate Change Era*
In partnership with Genome BC and Génome Québec

The Canadian BioGenome Project
In partnership with Genome BC and Genome Alberta

TRIA-FoR: Transformative Risk Assessment and Forest Resilience Using Genomic Tools for the Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreak*
In partnership with Genome Alberta and Ontario Genomics

Application of Genomics to Enhance Wetland Treatment Systems for Remediation of Processed Water in Northern Environments*
In partnership with Genome Alberta and Génome Québec

GENICE II: Reimagining Monitored Natural Attenuation as an Oil Spill Response Strategy in the Arctic
In partnership with Genome Prairie

BIOSCAN–Canada
In partnership with Ontario Genomics

Optimizing a Microbial Platform to Break Down and Valorize Waste Plastic
In partnership with Ontario Genomics

Conservation Genomics of the Endangered North Atlantic Right Whale
In partnership with Genome Atlantic

*These three projects include support from NRCan.

Related links

Backgrounder: Results of the 2020 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition: Genomic Solutions for Natural Resources and the Environment

Competition overview: 2020 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition: Genomic Solutions for Natural Resources and the Environment

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Media contact

Nicola Katz
Director, Communications
Genome Canada
Cell: 613-297-0267
[email protected]