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Government of Canada invests in new genomics “big data” research projects aimed at real-world challenges


“Big data” is of little value to society unless it can be analyzed, interpreted and applied toward improving our response to issues ranging from infectious disease outbreaks to managing food crops to support the growing world population. The Government of Canada recognizes the need to invest in research and partnerships that develop innovative approaches that will improve the well-being of Canadians and strengthen the middle class.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development, Karina Gould, on behalf of the Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, today announced an investment of $4 million in 16 new bioinformatics and computational (B/CB) biology research projects to be conducted at academic institutions across Canada. These projects will strengthen the development of new tools to help provide maximum value from research investments in genomics and related fields – areas that produce a massive and ongoing influx of data.

Ms. Gould highlighted the work of McMaster University’s Dr. Andrew McArthur, who is a co-leader on two B/CB projects looking to develop new software and database tools that will empower public health agencies and the agri-food sector to more rapidly respond to threats posed by infectious disease outbreaks such as, food-borne illnesses or the growing crisis of microbes resistant to antimicrobials. Dr. McArthur’s research will bolster federal action on antimicrobial resistance through stronger surveillance, stewardship and innovation. Other projects will enhance diagnosis and treatment for patients, improve crops of importance to Canada, and strengthen environmental monitoring.

The investments are being made through Genome Canada’s 2015 Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Competition, a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Quick Facts

  • In life sciences research, data is generated from a variety of sources, including biological research, data-intensive technologies such as quantitative imaging, environmental biodiversity studies, large population cohorts, plant and livestock breeding programs, multi-national clinical trials and e-health initiatives.
  • In recent years, the increase of data production has been particularly dramatic in genomics and related research fields, specifically in the area of genome sequencing. Some estimates suggest that by 2020, data will be generated at up to one million times the current rate.
  • The analysis of human genomes will provide the basic knowledge necessary to diagnose, understand and cure many diseases with associated impacts on health care.
  • Research in the agriculture, energy, environment, fisheries, forestry, and mining sectors is providing important information to guide pest management strategies, sustainable farming practices, natural resource management, crop developments and environmental monitoring in the face of climate change.


“The Government of Canada is pleased to support these important bioinformatics and computational biology projects that will maximize the return on investment in genomics research. This work will help guide research that safeguards the well-being of all Canadians and will increase our capacity to respond to important societal challenges like climate change.”

– Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science

“Bioinformatics and Computational Biology is a priority area for Genome Canada given the growing need for enhanced tools and methodologies to make sense of the huge and growing influx of data stemming from genomics research. These projects will advance the useful application of genomics across multiple sectors, harnessing the power of this technology for the benefit of Canadians.”

– Mr. Marc LePage, President and CEO, Genome Canada

“Advances in bioinformatics and computational biology are providing scientists with innovative strategies for dealing with the vast amounts of information generated by genomics and extended ‘omic’ research. These tools will change the way we interpret, store, share and use big data, in a cost-effective way.”

– Dr. Paul Lasko, Scientific Director, Institute of Genetics, CIHR

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