January 13, 2017

Decoding the beaver genome

Jared Simpson

What does a beaver’s genome look like? And how can understanding the beaver genome help us to improve human health? A group of Canadian researchers led by Drs. Stephen Scherer and Si Lok at The Centre for Applied Genomics and The Hospital for Sick Children today published the sequenced genome of the Canadian beaver in order to answer these questions and others (and just in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary, no less).

Dr. Jared Simpson led a team at OICR who provided their bioinformatics expertise on the project. We spoke to Simpson about his team’s role in the study and how their findings could contribute to a better understanding of cancer.

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January 10, 2017

Partnership to expand genomic data sharing in Europe

Global Alliance for Genomics and Health

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health’s (GA4GH) Beacon Project has partnered with ELIXIR, the body that organizes Europe’s infrastructure for life science data, to make genomic data in that continent more easily discoverable by researchers. The Beacon Project is a demonstration project that enables genomic data centres to make their data more easily discoverable to users by allowing them to use simple queries to explore a dataset’s contents.

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January 9, 2017

Pan-Canadian research team uncovers ‘signature’ to reduce overtreatment of prostate cancer

Dr. Paul Boutros

A team of researchers and clinician-scientists from across Canada have discovered a signature of 41 mutations that are common in prostate cancer and will help to prevent patients with non-aggressive disease from being overtreated. Dr. Paul Boutros, a Principal Investigator in OICR’s Informatics and Bio-computing Program and Co-Lead of the Canadian Prostate Cancer Genome Network (CPC-GENE), answered a few questions about how the signature was developed and its potential impact on patients.

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December 1, 2016

Expanding the DNA alphabet to understand cancer

Dr. Michael Hoffman poses for a photo at his desk.

The base components of DNA – adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine (commonly referred to as ATCG) are so fundamental to the study of genetics that they are probably familiar to anyone who has taken a high school biology class. Now, one team of researchers has expanded the ‘DNA alphabet’ to help aid in efforts to learn how cancers develop.

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October 21, 2016

OICR-led study finds four unique genomic signatures in pancreas cancer, uncovers potential of immunotherapies

The pancreas cancer puzzle

Pancreas cancer is one of the most aggressive and deadly forms of the disease. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, only 8 percent of pancreas cancer patients survive more than five years after diagnosis. OICR’s PanCuRx Translational Research Initiative has recently published the results of an international collaboration that increases understanding of this complex disease and how to treat it based on a patient’s unique profile.

Continue reading – OICR-led study finds four unique genomic signatures in pancreas cancer, uncovers potential of immunotherapies

October 18, 2016

Reactome releases 10,000th annotated human protein, a major milestone that will benefit research community

Reactome - Graphic announcing the 10,000th human protein annotated

Open source tools like Wikipedia and Google Maps help us get things done faster in our daily lives. In the same way, researchers rely on a variety of open source tools to help them make discoveries faster. Reactome (www.reactome.org) is one such tool. Researchers use it because it relates human genes, proteins and other biomolecules to the biological pathways and processes in which they participate, helping to facilitate new cancer research breakthroughs. Earlier this month Reactome reached a major milestone when it released its 10,000th annotated human protein to the research community. We spoke to OICR’s Dr. Robin Haw, who is Project Manager and Outreach Coordinator at Reactome, about the history of the project, the importance of this particular milestone and where the project is headed next.

Continue reading – Reactome releases 10,000th annotated human protein, a major milestone that will benefit research community

October 12, 2016

OICR’s Natalie Fox awarded Philip Feldberg Studentship by Prostate Cancer Canada

Natalie Fox and supporters

Prostate cancer is a complex disease. In a clinical setting it can be hard for doctors to accurately predict outcomes for prostate cancer patients, especially for those deemed to be at an intermediate risk of recurrence. With intermediate risk cancers, unlike those that are high or low risk, it is unclear how the cancer will develop. This makes it difficult to choose exactly the right therapy and avoid unnecessary treatments and their associated side effects.

Continue reading – OICR’s Natalie Fox awarded Philip Feldberg Studentship by Prostate Cancer Canada

September 19, 2016

Open resource: How we’re making our research resources more accessible to the community

OICR Researcher in the lab

Dr. Rebecca Tamarchak discusses the launch of OICR’s new Collaborative Research Resources Directory, how it works, and plans for its development in the future.

Over the past decade, OICR has established state-of-the-art Technology Programs in molecular pathology and diagnostic development, genomics, informatics, medicinal chemistry and imaging, which are translating promising cancer discoveries into products, services and policies that improve cancer prevention and care for patients.

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September 15, 2016

Canadian government makes big investment in big data research

OICR's server room

On September 13 the Government of Canada, through Genome Canada, made a $4 million investment in Canadian big data research to help improve real world challenges such as infectious disease outbreaks, managing food crops and combating cancer.

Of the 16 projects funded across Canada, three are based at OICR. Led by OICR Principal Investigators Drs. Paul Boutros, Vincent Ferretti, Jared Simpson and Lincoln Stein (Stein is also OICR’s Interim Scientific Director and leader of the Institute’s Informatics and Biocomputing Program), the projects are developing ways to make genomics and health data more manageable, securely accessible and easily understood. Together these projects will help to facilitate cancer research and assist in the adoption of more precision medicine. As well, they have applications in other fields of genomics research beyond cancer, such as agriculture and energy.

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July 14, 2016

OICR informatics researchers play key role in newly launched Genomic Data Commons

Screenshot of GDC website

Researchers have been given a powerful new tool to search for the mutations behind the development of cancer, leading to a better understanding of the disease, and ultimately, better care for patients. On June 6, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden announced the launch of the Genomic Data Commons (GDC), an ambitious new project that is making a staggering amount of data available to scientists for analysis while also allowing researchers to share their own data with the wider research community.

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May 3, 2016

Tracking Ebola with portable sequencers

Could this technology be the key monitoring the spread of Zika?

Jared Simpson with MinION sequencer

As West Africa was dealing with a massive outbreak of the Ebola virus, a group of researchers answered the call for assistance with a palm-sized device. Dr. Nick Loman and Mr. Josh Quick from the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham in the U.K., together with the help of OICR Investigator Dr. Jared Simpson, developed a ‘genome sequencing lab in a suitcase’ based around the tiny MinION sequencer. It was deployed to Conakry, Guinea in April of 2015 to test Ebola samples in the field.

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