U of G Project Receives Genome Canada Funding

April 26, 2013 - News Release

University of Guelph researchers tackling one of the largest challenges in plant genetics received $220,000 today from Genome Canada.

A team led by Prof. Lewis Lukens, Department of Plant Agriculture, and Prof. Cortland Griswold, Department of Integrative Biology, will use bioinformatics tools to understand how organisms that are well adapted to their environments can be selected to speed up development of new plant varieties.

Their work will be funded by the Government of Canada through Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI). It was part of the 2012 Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Competition, a partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

“This research will provide vital information about how organisms adapt to harsh climates and other conditions, giving insight into how to address global challenges such as the impact of climate change on our food supply,” said Mark Poznansky, OGI's president and CEO.

“Tools to identify specific traits within the genome will help us selectively breed new plants that are well-suited to their environment. OGI is pleased to support professors Lukens and Griswold’s research, which has broad applications in plant and animal breeding.”

Kevin Hall, Guelph’s vice-president (research), added: “This is another great example of how Guelph researchers are using their minds and discoveries to find solutions to critical issues, in this case to food and plant sustainability,”

Selective breeding of plants and animals generates populations with desirable traits such as high quality, high yield and the ability to grow in difficult conditions. Selective breeding helps ensure sufficient production for food, fuel and raw materials and reduces the environmental impact of agriculture.

Factors such as climate change and population growth make selective breeding more important than ever. But researchers have faced challenges in identifying genes and other genetic material that help improve environmental adaptation, and using this information in breeding programs.

Lukens and Griswold will use novel methods to integrate genomic signal processing and genomic selection.

“We are very excited to have received this award,” Lukens said. “Widespread sequencing of genomes has revolutionized genetics. In our research programs, we have worked to develop novel approaches for the analysis and utilization of this genomic data. This work will greatly facilitate our progress, and with these funds, we hope to develop an important tool for plant and animal breeding.”

Griswold thanked Genome Canada and the Ontario Genomics Institute for their support. “It allows us to develop new approaches for crop breeding and train highly qualified personnel. I am hopeful that these trainees and approaches will bring lasting value for agriculture in Canada.”

About OGI
The Ontario Genomics Institute (OGI) is a private, not-for-profit corporation focused on using world-class research to create strategic genomics resources and accelerate Ontario’s development of a globally-competitive life sciences sector. Through its relationship with Genome Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, and other private and public sector partners, OGI works to: identify, attract and support investment in Ontario-led genomics research; catalyze access to and the impact of genomics resources; and, raise the visibility of genomics as well as its impact and associated issues. For more information on OGI, please visit www.ontariogenomics.ca.

Lori Bona Hunt
Director (News Service)
Communications and Public Affairs
University of Guelph
519 824-4120, Ext. 53338

Christine Beyaert
Manager, Corporate Communications
Ontario Genomics Institute

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1