December 1, 2020

Consortium secures $5.1 million to expand genomics platform for COVID research

A national consortium including the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research will expand development of a software platform for genomics and health data and apply it to COVID-19. The $5.1 million project, called COVID Cloud, is co-funded by Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster and aims to increase Canada’s capacity to harness exponentially growing volumes of genomics and biomedical data to advance precision health. The platform will be used by data scientists and domain experts to help understand, predict, and treat COVID-19 with molecular precision. With a global death count of over 1.4 million people and record numbers of cases nationally, solutions that can help Canada respond to ongoing challenges of the pandemic are urgently needed.

“We are proud to continue to support this consortium’s groundbreaking work through our COVID-19 program,” said Sue Paish, CEO of the Digital Technology Supercluster. “This project shows how Canadian partnerships across multiple organizations and sectors can drive innovation, help us address global health issues, showcase Canadian expertise, and position us well to rebuild and grow our economy.”

The project — a collaboration between BioSymetrics, Centre of Genomics and Policy at McGill University, DNAstack, FACIT, Genome BC, Mannin Research, McMaster University, Microsoft Canada, Ontario Genomics, Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, Roche Canada, Sunnybrook Research Institute, and Vector Institute — brings together Canadian leaders in software engineering, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, genomics, infectious disease, pharmaceuticals, commercialization, and policy. It leverages past work of partners to address needs of infectious disease research with guidance from domain experts.

“Tools that allow us to interrogate SARS-CoV-2 at a molecular level are essential to addressing this global health crisis, both now and in the future,” said Dr. Samira Mubareka, a microbiologist and infectious diseases physician at Sunnybrook, whose team was one of the first in Canada to isolate the novel coronavirus. “The insights we will learn by analysing integrated datasets using technology platforms like COVID Cloud can increase our preparedness for future waves and outbreaks.” Dr. Mubareka will co-chair the project’s translational science efforts along with Dr. Gabriel Musso, Chief Scientific Officer for BioSymetrics. “The infrastructure developed by this initiative will propel collaborative Canadian drug discovery efforts for COVID-19,” said Musso, whose team will lead bioinformatics and computational drug discovery for the project.

A major goal of the project is to make it easy for producers of genomic and health data to share data responsibly over industry standards, and for researchers to harness the collective power of information shared through them. The project deliverables include a suite of software products powered by enterprise-grade implementations of standards developed by Global Alliance for Genomics & Health (GA4GH), protocols that are being designed to facilitate the responsible sharing of genomic and health data, which will help advance precision medicine initiatives around the world.

“The platform is being built on a foundation of open standards that will allow for distributed networks of genomics and biomedical data to be built,” said Dr. Marc Fiume, CEO at DNAstack, whose team will lead software engineering for the project. “We are excited to see these technologies breaking down barriers to data sharing, access, and analysis and create new opportunities for genomics-based discoveries for our partners.”

This project is responding to global demand for highly specialized, scalable, distributed software infrastructure to support collaborative genomics research — a need that has surged since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID-19 has accelerated digital transformation of many industries, especially in healthcare,” said Kevin Peesker, President of Microsoft Canada. “The incredible power of Cloud applied to COVID at scale is expanding development of an information superhighway to securely connect scientists in Canada and around the world to the data and compute power they urgently need to help us overcome one of the greatest global health crises of our time.”

The platform will be used to support a series of projects in partnership with Canadian academic, clinical, and pharmaceutical collaborators, which are being coordinated by Canadian genome centres, Genome British Columbia and Ontario Genomics. These initial projects are being prioritized based on urgency and potential impact on Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID Cloud is an incredible platform that brings together resources and capacity to enable timely and comprehensive genomic analysis of SARS-CoV-2 for our province and our country,” said Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO of Ontario Genomics, whose team leads the ONCoV Genomics Coalition. “This made-in-Canada solution will immediately accelerate Canada’s response to COVID-19, while being a technological springboard for translating genomic data analysis into actionable medical insights across other disease areas in years to come.”

For more information, visit

January 10, 2019

FACIT makes follow-on investment in AI-based genomics company, DNAstack

Capital leverages Ontario’s strengths in genomics and informatics, deepens FACIT’s tech portfolio

Continue reading – FACIT makes follow-on investment in AI-based genomics company, DNAstack

November 21, 2018

The buzz about Beacon: A look into the Global Alliance’s newest standards for the Beacon API


Beacon logo resembling a lighthouse

GA4GH releases its latest standards for genomics search engines, a project co-led by OICR Associate, Dr. Marc Fiume

While we are generating genomic data at an unprecedented rate, it is collected and studied in academic and clinical settings around the world with different data privacy requirements, making it difficult to share this knowledge. Researchers must undergo a lengthy process to request access to data and until now there has been no way to know if a data set contains information that is relevant to the research being conducted.

Continue reading – The buzz about Beacon: A look into the Global Alliance’s newest standards for the Beacon API

October 23, 2018

Updates and highlights from Global Alliance’s 6th Plenary Meeting

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) held its 6th Plenary Meeting in Basel, Switzerland earlier this month. The meeting brought together more than 430 participants from 25 countries, making it the biggest GA4GH event yet. Attendees of the meeting learned about GA4GH Connect – a strategic phase focused on connecting GA4GH development work to the immediate data sharing needs of the community.

Peter Goodhand, CEO of GA4GH, introducing GA4GH Connect

At the meeting, Peter Goodhand, Chief Executive Officer of GA4GH, announced a call for new real-world genomic data initiatives – Driver Projects – with a specific focus on global collaboration and scientific merit. The Steering Committee will announce the accepted Driver Projects in February 2019.

Also at the meeting, Dr. Marc Fiume, Chief Executive Officer of DNAstack and OICR Associate, presented on the recent progress of the Beacon Project – an international collaborative initiative that has developed a realtime discovery platform for genetic mutations. The Beacon Project has released Beacon API V1.0.0 on Friday – the first genomic data interoperability standard from the GA4GH 2018 Strategic Roadmap.

“It was a fantastic meeting and an eye-opening experience to learn about how the field of precision medicine is linking genomic tools with clinical databases and patient outcomes to drive a patient-centered, learning healthcare model,” says Dr. Laszlo Radvanyi, President and Scientific Director of OICR. “GA4GH continues to play a critical role in establishing standards for genomic data acquisition, quality, interpretation, integrity, security, and sharing that many national genomic health initiatives are beginning to embrace around the world.”

Access highlights and updates from the Plenary Meeting online, or read a PDF of the meeting report here.

August 21, 2018

Leader in data access and CEO of DNAstack, Dr. Marc Fiume, joins OICR as its newest Associate

Dr. Marc Fume poses for a photo in an atrium

Formalizing his longstanding relationship with OICR, Dr. Marc Fiume joins the Institute as an Associate to turn big data into a cure

“We know there are valuable – potentially life-saving – genomics and clinical data that are locked away in the sever rooms in hospital basements,” says Dr. Marc Fiume, CEO of DNAstack, Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto, and OICR’s newest Associate. “We’re working to make these data more findable, accessible and useful to help researchers find cures for diseases faster than ever before.”

Continue reading – Leader in data access and CEO of DNAstack, Dr. Marc Fiume, joins OICR as its newest Associate