Right Turn: Goodbye NCE, hello New Frontiers in Research Fund

Big news was announced yesterday in Canada’s research community. The Government of Canada’s Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) program is being retired on the cusp of its 30th anniversary and absorbed by the New Frontiers in Research Fund. CCRM is one of 36 networks and centres currently funded by the NCE to “mobilize Canada’s best research, development and entrepreneurial talent, and focus it on specific issues and strategic areas.” CCRM, a Centre of Excellence…

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Right Turn: Improv and barnacle genitalia – not your average science policy conference

“Every day of our lives, we are surrounded by the fruits of scientific discovery.” So writes Carrie Wolinetz, Associate Director for Science Policy, National Institutes of Health. In her Why Science Policy Matters blog, she provides several examples of tools we have, knowledge we’ve gained and advancements society has made as a result of scientific research and also science policy. Dr. Wolinetz refers to science policy as supporting “lifesaving research” and since we can’t have…

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Warming up to better public relations for scientists

Canada is home to some of the world’s top stem cell scientists: we’ve led the discoveries of stem cells in the brain, retina, blood, skin and several types of cancer stem cells, and continue to push science’s understanding of these promising cells each year. But there’s a dark side associated with all the hope surrounding stem cells as the treatment for so many diseases and conditions. Many private companies continue to co-opt these scientific discoveries…

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Bioprinting tissues of the future with Dr. Stephanie Willerth

Stephanie Willerth presenting at the Till and McCulloch Meetings 2018 This year, the annual Till & McCulloch Meetings ended with a plenary session on the “next generation of regenerative medicine” to keep attendees thinking forward as they headed back home. While all of them were incredibly exciting, I was particularly struck by the futuristic techniques presented by Dr. Stephanie Willerth, who showed fantastic images and videos of her lab’s work 3D printing brain cells. Beyond…

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Tackling the talent gap in the cell and gene therapy industry

Mitchel Sivilotti, Chief Operations Officer at CCRM, leading a training session Michael May is President and CEO of CCRM. Peter Zandstra is the Chief Scientific Officer at CCRM and the Founding Director of UBC’s School of Biomedical Engineering. Zandstra and May co-founded CCRM, which launched in June 2011. This article also appears in Biotechnology Focus.  For those of us who have been following and working in the cell and gene therapy (CGT) field for a significant…

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Tiny device offers more precise online monitoring for cell manufacturing

A microfluidic exchanger Erika Siren lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she is currently a Ph.D Candidate in the University of British Columbia’s Department of Chemistry. Under the supervision of Dr. Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu, Erika develops biomaterials that can be used to manipulate the immune system. Away from the bench, Erika has a keen interest in the challenges that face the commercialization, policy development and public perception of therapies in regenerative medicine. Connect with Erika on…

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Right Turn: New approach to treating fatal skin disease that affects babies and children

It’s heartbreaking to watch this February 2018 video of Jonathan Pitre, the Canadian teen with epidermolysis bullosa (EB), who advocated for patients and fought so hard to be rid of his disease, and sadly died two months after the video below was published. He was the face of EB for many Canadians, and others around the world, who watched his struggle and prayed that a stem cell transplant would save his life. EB is back…

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How CRISPR is democratizing genetic testing

Image courtesy of Pixaby Scientists have enlisted the gene editing tool CRISPR in a hunt for cancer causing mutations, releasing into the open valuable data that could help doctors better advise their patients. A new study lists almost 4,000 individual “misspellings,” or variants, in the “breast cancer gene” BRCA1 and how likely each one is to cause disease. The vast majority of variants—3,000 of them—are new to public databases containing genetic test results from people…

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THE GENE: one reader’s reflection on a review of the history of genetics

Mukherjee, S. (2016). THE GENE: An Intimate History. New York, New York: Scribner. While it’s been years since I’ve been in school or academia, I can’t help but feel nostalgic this time of year, when fall marks the beginning of a new year (and the return of the pumpkin spice latte, mmm!). Many of you are hunkering down in your courses, starting new projects (or trying to put a fresh look on an old one),…

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Right Turn: In our own backyard: researcher catalogues stem cell clinics in Canada

The 10 percent rule usually works fairly well when estimating disease prevalence in Canada compared to the equivalent in the U.S. Our population is about 10 percent the size of the U.S. so it makes sense that we match up, to an equivalent degree, on health issues, with some exceptions. Now, it seems, we are living up to expectations when it comes to the number of unapproved stem cell clinics we have in Canada. Leigh…

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