June 26, 2015, Ottawa, ON – Genome Canada (GC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)have signed a joint initiative agreement to jointly support social sciences and humanities research and related activities pertaining to genomics, with one of the first initiatives focusing on societal implications of disruptive innovation in genomics.

Next generation genomics, with its decreasing sequencing costs and significant ability to generate and analyze vast amounts of data is opening up whole new fields of exploration for life scientists as well as social science and humanities scholars passionate about advancing biotechnology in unforeseeable ways. Genomics-based innovation in fields such as synthetic biology, or agriculture to optimize farming processes, or protecting the environment through bioremediation and biofuels, provide just a few examples. The significant ethical, economic, environmental, legal and/or social challenges and opportunities of this new wave of disruptive genomic technologies and innovations can entail complex economic and social changes, and therefore represent a potentially rich topic for social scientists and humanities scholars to explore.

Genome Canada recently launched a Disruptive Innovation in Genomics funding opportunity. All applications to the Genome Canada funding opportunity must describe the potential for the proposed innovation to be disruptive, have impact within the technology space, and eventually benefits for Canada. It is expected that the deliverables realized at the end of a project will in time lead to technologies that result in benefits such as, but not limited to, facilitation of scientific research, improved diagnostics, environmental monitoring, enhanced food production or food safety, sustainable energy production, etc. The intention is that true disruptive innovation is captured and transferred to those who have the ability to translate and use it, resulting in benefits for Canada.

Rather than requiring applicants to the Genome Canada funding opportunity to include a GE3LS (the ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social aspects of genomics) research component in their projects, it is expected that a more diverse exploration of the societal implications of genomic innovations characterized as “disruptive” could be carried out through this parallel funding opportunity directly targeted at social sciences and humanities researchers.

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