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Genome Quebec launched
| Buried in a press release two days ago from the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology was $10 million worth of good news: the government wants genome research in Quebec to have its own centre.
Coming from the $190 million allocated to Valorisation-Recherche Québec, the newly created agency designed to encourage the commercialization of Quebec university research, the money will be used to establish "Genome Quebec" so that it may "be eligible to receive moneys from other funding agencies, Genome Canada, in particular."
Furthermore, the press release continues, "Quebec, with its strengths in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, already has what it takes to be a leader in the field. What it lacks is the state-of-the-art infrastructure to maintain researchers and to reap the economic benefits of the research."
Thomas Hudson couldn't agree more. A leader in human genomic research — Hudson was chair of the science committee of Genome Canada until last November when he was called upon by Quebec City to put together a proposal for a Quebec genome centre - Hudson wants to see Quebec take its place on the international map of genomic research. Human genetics, pharmacogenomics and agricultural and forestry genomics are but a few of the areas where Quebec excels, he notes. "Most [40 per cent] of the country's biotechnology is done in the Montreal area."
Hudson, who splits his time between being director of the Montreal Genome Centre at the Montreal General Hospital and assistant director of the Centre for Genome Research at MIT, notes that the Quebec genome centre would "not be expected to do everything; groups of scientists would have to compete to have sites for various projects.
"There is a process of project evaluation in place that was agreed upon," says Hudson, explaining that his proposal for the centre was written after widespread consultation with all the vice-principals of research, and with scientists representing research institutions in the province.
He's satisfied with this initial announcement by the government. "My feeling is that the commitment is there."
What isn't yet known is how the $10 million in start-up funds will be distributed and whether the genome centre can expect similar amounts annually for the next four years (to match roughly what Genome Canada is making available to provincial centres).
As far as McGill is concerned, the chances are good that at least one of a likely two hubs (one in Montreal, the other in Quebec City) of the centre will be located at McGill and that Hudson will be director.
Beyond Hudson's work, the University has strengths in genomic research concerning yeast (Howard Bussey), rice (Tom Bureau), biostatistics and the genomes of populations (Ken Morgan), animals (Daniel Malo) and in the development of genomic resources (Gerry Pelletier).
Still, says Hudson, nothing may be taken for granted. "McGill, like any other institution, will have to apply to the ministry."
Hudson isn't too concerned about being recognized for his role in pulling the project together. "I don't care who gets the credit for the plan as long as the science gets done."