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Genomics research gets $10.7 million boost

Three cutting-edge University of Guelph research projects in genomics –  one of today’s most rapidly developing and powerful areas of science and technology – have received $10.7 million in support to improve crop yields, animal health and welfare and food production.


May 29, 2017
By University of Guelph
Kate Young Three cutting-edge University of Guelph research projects in genomics – one of today’s most rapidly developing and powerful areas of science and technology – have received $10.7 million in support to improve crop yields

The investment comes from Genome Canada’s Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP), which supports university-industry research and development collaborations with social and economic benefits.

Guelph researchers received three of five GAPP awards granted this year. Funded projects include the following:

  • A $3.4-million initiative headed by plant science professor Peter Pauls will adapt technology developed with Guelph’s molecular and cellular biology professors Michael Emes and Ian Tetlow to improve crop productivity and boost canola yields. Pauls and his team will translate traits from other plant species to canola to increase yields while maintaining seed quality and soil conditions. Annual benefits are estimated to be $3 billion to $4 billion. The improved plants will also be commercialized. The industry partner is Benson Hill Biosystems and its Canadian subsidiary, CanolaCo.
  • Animal biosciences professor Christine Baes received $6 million to head a project with Hybrid Turkeys based in Kitchener, Ont. She is the holder of the Semex – Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) – Holstein Canada Professorship in Dairy Genomics. Adapting technology she developed in other livestock species, Baes will identify genes for traits to improve turkey health, welfare and productivity. Early research suggests that this genomic selection technology will help the turkey industry grow by some $39 million in the next five years. Selecting more feed-efficient birds will also help the environment through less manure and fewer greenhouse gases.
  • Food scientist Gisele LaPointe will work with Parmalat Canada on a $1.3-million project using innovative ways to increase production of aged cheddar cheese. LaPointe, who joined the university in 2015 as the Dairy Farmers of Ontario Professor in Dairy Microbiology and holds the NSERC/DFO (Dairy Farmers of Ontario) Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Microbiology, will use genomic tools to improve manufacturing capacity.

Kate Young, parliamentary secretary for science, made the announcement on campus along with officials from Genome Canada, Ontario Genomics, industry partners and other government and university officials.

The five GAPP projects will receive a total of $17 million — $6 million through Genome Canada and $11 million from other sources, including the private sector and provincial governments.

“This is wonderful news for the university, highlighting our great strengths and capacity in research, innovation, and partnerships,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research). “It also speaks to our reputation for translating knowledge and discoveries into applications that have the potential to improve life.”

All three University of Guelph projects will provide novel opportunities for Canada’s agri-food industry through cutting-edge technologies, strategies and products, Campbell added.