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Genome Canada doles out $346 M
October 2005
by Chris Anderson  |  Email the author
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OTTAWA—In late summer, Genome Canada awarded more than $346 million in grant money to 33 different researchers and research organizations across Canada. The recent grants mark the fifth year of funding provided by Genome Canada to Canadian researchers and their international associates, and pushed total funding over that time to more than $1.2 billion.
 
While not all the money awarded will impact either drug discovery or an understanding of human disease, Martin Godbout, president of Genome Canada says more than 90 percent of the money awarded is to programs in this area. "Our grants aren't just for the direct research of human disease, we are also investing in technologies, since it is important to lower the cost of sequencing for everybody," he says. "We also fund companies that provide bioinformatics for genomic research."
 
Funding for Genome Canda comes from two sources: the Canadian government contributes half of the money with the mandate that Genome Canada develop dollar-for-dollar matching funds from other sources. This year, more than $179 million of the total granted was contributed by Canadian and international partners, according to information released by Genome Canada.
 
One notable recipient of money this year is Dr.Robert Hegele of Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario. Hegele and his research partners were awarded $15.4 million for their Human Genome Project for Disease Study.
 
Using this grant, Hegele and researchers at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, the University of Toronto, Johns Hopkins University and a number of others will focus on mapping disease information onto the human genome.
 
"What we are proposing to do is to provide annotation using new knowledge and new methods to the original draft human genome map," says Hegele. "We will annotate new types of genetic variation and then make the information freely available as soon as it is developed."
 
The basic rationale, Hegele says, are recent findings that "there are big stretches of chromosomes, almost up to half a million base pairs in some cases that have been deleted in so-called healthy people," he explains. "This occurs much more often than people used to think. In the genome these CNPs -- there maybe 12 or so per genome—and they range in size from 15,000 up to 400,000. So through those regions people are effectively working off one copy. Since this is phenomenon, people want to map it."
 
The expected end product is a "version 2" of the human genome map taking these CNPs into account. From this researchers would attempt to discern whether or not CNPs are important in health and disease.
 
Godbout says this research, like so much of what Genome Canada funds, benefits both Canada and the genomic research community at large. And while it is only its fifth year, Godbout knows that continued funding from the Canadian government may well be tied to being able to show measurable economic benefit within the country.
 
Still, Godbout is confident that the overall success of Genome Canada will continue. "We are second only to the United States in international patent applications in genomics," he says. "And when we
had the SARS outbreak, because of the strength of Canadian genomic research we were able to sequences the SARS genome in only ten days and that research was the most cited genomic paper worldwide last year."
 
Code: E100514

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