The Cross-Border Biotech Blog

Biotechnology, Health and Business in Canada, the United States and Worldwide

Tag Archives: Genome BC

Friday Science Review: January 15, 2010

A little sunflower power to brighten up a quiet week…

Understanding Cancer Therapy Resistance: A molecular contribution to resistance to cancer treatments is from the cellular protein Clusterin (CLU).   This cell survival protein is targeted by the antisense based OGX-011, one of OncoGenex Pharmaceutical’s leading compounds currently in phase 2 trials for prostate, lung and breast cancers.  In this recent research project, the mechanism of clusterin mediated treatment resistance was investigated by Dr. Martin Gleave’s team at the University of British Columbia.  They found that CLU enhances the degradation of two proteins, COMMD and I-kappaB, which in turn leads to an increase in the transcriptional activity of NF-kappaB to support cell survival.  These findings surely provide additional potential drug targets for Dr. Gleave, who is the founder of OncoGenex and currently serves as the Chief Scientific Officer.  The study is reported in Molecular Cancer Research.

Sunflower Genome: This is an award announcement to fund the $10.5M (USD) “Genomics of Sunflower” Project.  The contributions are from a ‘cross-border’ consortium including Genome Canada, Genome BC, the US Departments of Energy and Agriculture, and France’s INRA (National Institute for Agricultural Research).  An international team including University of British Columbia researchers and led by Dr. Loren Rieseberg will generate the reference genome that is approximately 3.5 billion bases long for the sunflower family, which includes 24,000 different species.  This agri-biotech project will support the future of the sunflower industry (its seed industry alone is worth $14B) by trying to identify genes that are responsible for agriculturally important traits such as seed-oil content, flowering, seed-dormancy, and wood producing-capacity as well as adapt to today’s changing environment and consumer tastes.

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I’ll Drink To That: Genome BC and Genome Canada Launch $3.4 million Grape and Wine Genomics Project

niagara_grape_vinesA team of researchers in British Columbia (UBC, SFU), Ontario (Guelph) and elsewhere (NRC, USDA) will be studying grapes and yeast to bring molecular techniques to bear on winemaking.  Ultimately, they aim to produce a hand-held device to “help growers monitor proteins in the vine or berry at any time” (a “vine-corder”?) that will be adapted from a detector developed by Paul Yager at the University of Washington.

Specific goals of the project are to:

  • Clarify how nitrogen fertilization affects hormone regulation of metabolic pathways important for berry ripening, chemical composition and wine quality
  • Determine the relationship between gene expression patterns and variation in amino acid composition at maturity in ripening berries
  • Develop biomarkers for vineyard monitoring of vine water stress
  • Use a systems biology approach to identify functions for each of the genes involved in the fermentation stress response and the regulation of molecular sugar and amino-acid transporters during wine fermentation
  • Deliver knowledge that leads to understanding the complex scientific, policy, industry and public issues involved in the application of genomics to the wine industry

They have a good head start, having identified 62 genes that are switched on during fermentation, so characterizing those will be a top priority.

Interestingly, the project also includes an ELSI-type component, to “help the Canadian industry and regulatory bodies better understand public concerns regarding the use of genomics technologies in the production of wine and the general food industry more generally.”

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