The Honourable Terry Duguid to make important announcement on Genome Prairie’s CanCOGeN research projects
September 28, 2020
WINNIPEG, September 28, 2020 – The Honourable Terry Duguid, Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Western Economic Diversification Canada) and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Canada Water Agency) will be making a formal announcement on behalf of Genome Prairie to launch their Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN) research projects in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
"The government of Canada is proud to support the national CanCOGeN program and in particular the excellent initiative we are launching here today which showcases a real ‘Prairie powerhouse’ of expertise and ingenuity. COVID-19 respects no boundaries so the regional cooperation described today will develop solutions that don’t either – solutions to major questions such as why is COVID-19 a sniffle for some people but lethal for others and what will happen if someone is infected with COVID-19 while already sick from another infectious disease? Canada is a known world leader in genomics research, producing dramatic breakthroughs in science, and transforming our understanding of the world around us. CanCOGeN is an open and collaborative initiative that will allow for the gathering of vital scientific data required in the short-term and for the development of tools needed in the long-term to better protect Canadians' health in the face of COVID-19 and similar outbreaks in the future,” said the Honourable Terry Duguid.
First announced in April 2020, CanCOGeN is a $40 million Genome Canada-led network involving a consortium of federal, provincial and regional public health authorities, academia, and industry created to coordinate and fund SARS-CoV-2 virus and host genome sequencing efforts, as well as to support the sharing and analysis of resultant data. The network comprises two separate yet integrated projects – the Virus Genome Sequencing Project (VirusSeq) and the Host Genome Sequencing Project (HostSeq).
The virus side is primarily focused on large-scale whole genome sequencing identifying genetic variations and mutations. This provides essential information for COVID-19 surveillance, contact tracing, tracking, dispersal and management of the virus locally, nationally and internationally. The host side involves whole genome sequencing of virus-infected individuals to better understand variable clinical responses to infections ranging from mild discomfort to extremely serious respiratory complications.
“Genome Prairie has the opportunity to take advanced laboratory technology directly to where ‘the rubber hits the road’ in order to provide genomic solutions to a very complex problem, specifically, COVID-19. For us, CanCOGeN funding translates into meaningful collaboration opportunities in the health care space which, in the future, could lead to the development of significant health care projects. Manitoba and Saskatchewan residents can rest assured that Genome Prairie is addressing a global issue on a regional level, as well as building local capacity and infrastructure that did not exist pre-COVID-19,” said Dr. Gerald Brown, Interim President and CEO of Genome Prairie.
Genome Canada provided an initial $100,000 tranche of funding specifically to Genome Prairie to begin COVID-19 sequencing activities as quickly as possible and to build capacity for sequencing in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
These funds have helped the provincial health labs – Manitoba’s Cadham Provincial Laboratory (project lead Dr. David Alexander) and Saskatchewan’s Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory (project leads Alexis Hicock and Dr. Ryan McDonald) – increase local capacity and cover costs associated with sample preparation, extraction, handling and storage of clinical samples. Many of these samples are subsequently transported to the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg for whole genome sequencing. The latter costs are covered directly by separate funding from Health Canada.
“Thanks to two decades of investment in Genome Canada, including a $40 million dollar investment in CanCOGeN, Genome Canada and the six regional Genome Centres were prepared to meet the COVID-19 challenge head on. CanCOGeN is a game-changer for Canada – strengthening coordination and data sharing across regions, informing critical decision-making by public health authorities, and building national capacity to address future outbreaks and pandemics,” said Catalina Lopez-Correa, MD, PhD, Executive Director of CanCOGeN.
About COVID-19 Rapid Regional Response (COV3R)
In addition, Dr. Andrew Cameron, a microbial geneticist at the University of Regina, together with molecular epidemiologist Dr. David Alexander of the Cadham Provincial Laboratory and virologist Dr. Amanda Lang at the Roy Romanow Provincial Laboratory are leading Genome Prairie’s COV3R project. The project includes a partnered funding contribution from Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation.
The COV3R project aims to tackle the problem of detecting co-infections and, in the process, to provide powerful new tools for public health. Coinfections can allow several pathogens to work together and become deadly. Little is currently known about the impact of coinfections with COVID-19, and the identity of known viruses, or previously unknown viruses, which may cause more serious complications.
About Genome Prairie
Genome Prairie, one of six independent Genome Canada Centres, is a non-profit organization with offices in Saskatoon and Winnipeg. Genome Prairie develops and manages genomics and related bioscience research projects that address key regional priorities including agriculture, human health, the environment, energy, and mining which have regional, national and international impact and applications. These efforts play a central role in building the Prairie region’s reputation as a location of choice for innovation and commercialization. More information on Genome Prairie, and its current research projects and competitions, can be found at www.genomeprairie.ca.
For more information, contact:
Beth Ireland, Director of Communications
(306) 668-3570 ext. 7
Tammy Hildebrand, Project Portfolio Manager
(306) 668-3570 ext. 5