Projects supported by the innovation centre

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Genome canada projects

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  • Synthetic Biosystems for the Production of High Value Plant Metabolites

    Principal Investigators : Vincent Martin and Peter Facchini (Génome Québec and Genome Alberta)

    The main outcomes of this project are: (1) a public resource of genomic and metabolic information for 75 plants that produce a huge number of important natural products; (2) yeast strains that produce high-value natural plant products; (3) a catalogue of new enzymes for use as catalysts in synthetic biology applications; (4) the invention of functional-genomics methods for describing metabolic pathways and identifying unknown biosynthetic genes from plants; and (5) an analysis of regulatory, ethical, and economic subjects, which will help to ensure sound and responsible plant-technology development.

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  • Genozymes for Bioproducts and Bioprocesses Development

    Principal Investigator : Adrian Tsang (Génome Québec)

    To move from a fossil-fuel based economy to a bioeconomy based on converting plant material into energy, researchers need to isolate the proteins involved in the process that converts woody biomass (lignocellulose) into simple sugars. Those sugars are the basic blocks required to build the advanced biofuels and biochemicals that can turn agricultural and urban waste into products and energy. Once developed, those new enzymes will become the cornerstones for the development of large-scale industrial biorefineries that process biomass into biofuels and biochemicals. We also plan to develop enzyme supplements to use in cattle feed, reducing the amount of grain necessary to ensure a nutritious feed product. That development would stabilize the cost of feed for farmers and could cut food costs overall. The enzymes we develop will also help the pulp and paper industry reduce the amount of energy it requires and the pollution the pulping process generates.

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  • Bridging Comparative, Population and Functional Genomics to Identify and Experimentally Validate Novel Regulatory Regions and Genes for Crop Improvement

    Principal Investigator : Thomas Bureau (Génome Québec)

    The team will determine the whole-genome sequence of several close relatives of Arabidopsis and canola, using this information for within species and between species comparative studies. Non-coding DNA regions will be identified by computer-based predictions and will be validated by experiments that use population genetics and genomic methods. Important findings will be protected for further exploitation. The project will identify non-coding DNA regions that will have proven potential for crop improvement and also generate valuable data, expertise and trained personnel that will provide the basis for future crop-improvement applications.

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  • Genomics of Sunflower

    Principal Investigator : Loren Rieseberg (Genome BC)

    The sunflower family (Compositae; so-called because their flowering heads are made up of many tiny flowers), is the largest plant family on earth, with over 24,000 described species, roughly 10% of all flowering plant species. They include economically important crops (sunflowers, lettuce, artichokes), beautiful wildflowers (daisies), common allergens (ragweed, goldenrod), valuable medicinals and costly invasive plants and rangeland weeds (thistles, dandelions). Despite the wide diversity and economic importance of plants in this family, there is no genome sequence for any of these species, or even any plants from closely related families. This has delayed genetic research and crop breeding. The project will increase the speed and precision of sunflower-breeding programs by identifying molecular markers for beneficial genes that encode important agricultural traits such as seed-oil content and flowering time. We will exploit Canada's strong genomics infrastructure and leadership in Compositae genomics and use this infrastructure and expertise to full advantage in collaboration with experts world-wide.

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  • Total Utilization Flax Genomics

    Principal Investigators : Gordon Rowland and Sylvie Cloutier (Genome Alberta)

    Flax is becoming a very popular food ingredient. For example, flax seed is rich in omega-3, which is implicated in human brain functions, reducing "bad" cholesterol, and moderating the risk of heart disease. Flax seed is also a rich source of plant-estrogens, which are associated with reduced risks of some cancers. Flax seeds are used in many industrial processes, including linoleum, solvents, paints, car panels and composites. Flax is an unusual crop in that it yields two different kinds of product?seed and fibres. The straw produces a strong and longlasting fibre that is used to make linen cloth, one of its ancient applications; flax fibre is also used to replace fibre-glass in composites, and in the manufacture of fire logs, paper and other similar products. This research project will create information and genomic tools that will accelerate flax research and create opportunities for advancements on flax yield and applications that were undreamt of only a short while ago.

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  • Metagenomics for Greener Production and Extraction of Hydrocarbon Energy: Creating Opportunities for Enhanced Recovery with Reduced Environmental Impact

    Principal Investigator : Gerrit Voordouw (Genome Alberta)

    Canada recognizes the necessity to transition global energy production towards renewable resources. But until the technologies exist to make it economically feasible to do so, Canada's oil, gas and coal must be extracted in the most environmentally friendly way possible. This project is designed to minimize the environmental impact of oil sands production, by decreasing its use of water and emission of greenhouse gases and by enhancing the extraction of clean burning gas from coal beds. By designing new biotechnologies that decrease the energy and water required currently for oil sands extraction and by enhancing methane production from coal beds this project will help to ensure that both Canada and the world's current energy requirements are met with the smallest environmental impact possible. The accomplishment of this aim will help Canada's energy production become an environmentally sustainable enterprise.

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  • Genomics-Enhanced Forecasting Tools to Secure Canada's Near-Term Lignocellulosic Feedstock Supply for Bioenergy using the Mountain Pine Beetle System

    Principal Investigators : : Jorg Bohlmann and Janice Cooke (Genome BC and Genome Alberta)

    The recent mountain pine beetle outbreak in British Columbia, now spreading into Alberta, has caused unprecedented damage to the Canadian forest industry. The current infestation has affected more than 14 million hectares of pine forests and is the largest such epidemic in recorded history. Conifer forests are Canada's largest renewable source of ligno-cellulose, used for energy production, paper and wood products. Understanding the biology of the mountain pine beetle in order to use that knowledge for anticipating and helping to control future outbreaks is an important contribution to Canadian forest economics, particularly related to energy production. Although massive amounts of dead timber from the mountain pine beetle epidemic have created an unexpected surplus of potential energy feedstock, this will not necessarily provide a sustainable feedstock supply in the future. Before strategic investments are made in the forest industry, current methods of predicting feedstock need to be improved. The overall goal of the project is to generate new genomics-based information and tools for improved prediction of renewable energy feedstock supply from conifer forests, using the current mountain pine beetle epidemic as an example of an important hostpest-pathogen system.

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  • Microbial Genomics for Biofuels and Co-products from Biorefining Processes

    Principal Investigators : David Levin and Richard Sparling (Genome Prairie)

    As the world faces the reality of peak oil, serious efforts are being made to develop renewable energy sources that can displace our dependence on fossil fuels. One promising alternative fuel source is biological production (biofuels), in which fuels such as ethanol are produced from a wide variety of agricultural feed stocks. Current production of ethanol involves microbial fermentation of the sugars derived from sugarcane (in Brazil) or the starch from grain (predominantly corn in the US and eastern Canada, and wheat in the prairie provinces of Canada), followed by distillation of the ethanol from the fermentation broths. However, the long-term prospects of grain-based ethanol production is in question because the cost of the feed stocks makes up a large fraction of the total costs of production, and the use of food grains has very negative implications for food prices. Thus, abundant, low-cost feed stocks from other sources are essential for the commercial viability of biofuel production. We will carry out a full genomic characterization of known and new bacteria that are selected for their ability to contribute to a variety of metabolic processes. On the basis of this information, the project will produce metabolically engineered bacteria with enhanced fuel and co-product synthesis characteristics, and will combine appropriate bacterial strains to create communities (or "consortia") of microorganisms for industrial application. The aim is to enable biorefineries to generate products (ethanol, hydrogen, and co-products) from relatively low-cost feed stocks of ligno-cellulosics, thus increasing their economic-viability. The goal is to help establish Canada as a leader in the production of biofuels and bioplastics.

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