Effective workshop structure: Exploiting the ties that bind

In October, I participated in a workshop hosted by Medicine by Design (MbD) in Toronto. The workshop was right up my alley – blood stem cells and clonal evolution – but I’ll spare the Signals readership the specific details.* Rather, today’s post focuses on the bigger picture of why scientists need such workshops and how critical it is to plan them properly. Discussion and collaboration are still the driving force of academic progress, and focused workshops…

Continue reading


The ASHG19 conference was all about genomics, with a scoop of science literacy and policy on the side

Earlier this month, over 8,900 individuals (including me!) headed to Houston to attend the 2019 American Society of Human Genetics’ (ASHG) Annual Meeting and learn more about cutting-edge research, science literacy and policy issues in the fields of genetics and genomics. While there were numerous findings presented at ASHG, I’ll highlight three of the more interesting issues (at least to me) – specifically poison exons, genetic exceptionalism, and DNA in the public sphere. Poison exons:…

Continue reading


Prime editor: the rise of a new gene-editing superhero

This little gene editing superhero was created by Tara Fernandez for Signalsblog.ca. H/T to Fyodor Urnov, University of California, Berkeley, for the Avengers comment that was the inspiration.   In a dark corner of the nucleus, a mutation lurks, up to no good. It stealthily swaps a DNA base – an A to a T – gleefully awaiting the catastrophic consequences on the encoded protein. A brave CRISPR molecule enters the nucleus and armed with…

Continue reading


Melanoma feels the STING with new RNA nanoparticle vaccine

Nanoparticles transfer RNA to immune cells to activate an immune response for vaccination applications. (Image: Dr. Tara Fernandez) RNA-based vaccines have been heralded as a new molecular weapon in the arsenal against cancer and infections. Five years ago, they were thrust into the spotlight following a $52 million investment by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to CureVac, a biopharmaceutical company advancing RNA vaccines to the global health care stage. Today, over two dozen clinical…

Continue reading


Sensors, the long-desired safety net for regenerative medicine

Dr. Chih Wei Teng is Chief Operating Officer for CCRM Australia and wrote this blog with colleagues Alex Barrington and Dr. Emma Gallaher. CCRM Australia is an Australian not-for-profit organization supporting the development of foundational technologies to accelerate the commercialization of regenerative medicine products and therapies. CCRM Australia’s focus is to bridge the commercialization gap through a network of scientists, entrepreneurs, academic institutions and industry partners and address bottlenecks in the industry. CCRM Australia is…

Continue reading


Right Turn: How AI is enhancing health care

credit Marco Verch, Flickr, creative commons One of the speakers invited to the Current Trends in Biotherapeutics Workshop, hosted by the Clinical Translation Education Group (CTEG),* was Alexandre Le Bouthillier, co-founder of Imagia. This Montreal-based company is harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve health care. A great deal has been written and debated about the power of AI and how it will transform society and, in particular, health care. There are lots…

Continue reading


Right Turn: SOPs, PPE and the DNA of lab life

If you have ever visited an academic or industry lab, you will be taught about the protocols for that lab. Even in high school, there are strict rules to follow and ways to behave and dress around lab materials. What you are required to wear is called Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and it is designed to protect the wearer from injury or infection. A clean room inside the Centre for Cell and Vector Production, at…

Continue reading


Summer by Design: Filling in the gap between academia and industry

Virginia Palomares Cabeza is a fourth-year PhD candidate at the Erasmus Medical Centre (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) and the University College Dublin (Ireland). Her interdisciplinary research focuses on investigating the immune responses of allogeneic stem cell implants for bone regeneration. Virginia is passionate about bringing together different scientific disciplines and improving science communication. Outside of the lab, you can find her acting, traveling or playing board games. Some of the Summer by Design students, outside the…

Continue reading


Breathing new life into gut regeneration with living bandages

E. Coli bacteria. (Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixaby) At first pass, the skin and the gut are not so different: both are lined with an outer layer of cells that serve as the first line of protection from biological, chemical and physical wear-and-tear. Accordingly, both the gut and skin are subject to tissue breakdown whether it be from invasive bacteria, rapid changes in pH, or physical injury. When it comes to treating the epithelial…

Continue reading


Right Turn: Trend watching in biotherapeutics

The field of biotherapeutics – treatments produced by, or involving, living cells – is quickly evolving with the popularity and pursuit of new cell therapies. If you’re a student or young professional working in this space, you know this already. But how familiar are you with all the new tools, trends and innovations influencing this field? On September 27 in Toronto, the Clinical Translation Education Group (CTEG*) will be hosting its third training workshop for…

Continue reading