Livestock Gentec Conference: A “heterosis of ideas in action”

Nov 6, 2017

Dr. Steven Jones of the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre walked the line between human health and livestock health at this year’s Livestock Gentec Conference. He spoke about personalized medicine in human cancer treatment. In a true flash of cross-sectorial insight, he suggested that in genomics, research done in one area can inform research done in another, to the betterment of both.

Livestock Gentec CEO Dr. Graham Plastow agrees. He couldn’t resist the pun, using a word often associated with genetics, describing the conference as a “heterosis of ideas in action” – the coming together of ideas for improving outcomes.

“One of the most exciting things in research is when you hear from someone investigating something completely different and you suddenly see a way to overcome a barrier in your own work. I saw several light bulbs come on at this year’s conference,” Plastow said.

This year’s Livestock Gentec Conference took place in Edmonton from October 17-18. It provided an overview of the investigation and application of genomics across many disciplines. Participants also explored the challenges, benefits and opportunities at the intersection of Alberta’s food production and human health.

There were also two panel discussions that elicited plenty of questions and feedback. The first traced the path from discovery through commercialization, distribution, and application. John Basarab, Delta Genomics’ Michelle Miller, Shannon Argent from Olds College, and rancher Doug Wray discussed the processes involved in moving EnVigour HX™, a made-in-Alberta genomics tool, from lab to pasture.

The second panel featured Alta Genetics Inc.’s David Chalack, Alberta Innovates’ Rollie Dykstra, Acceligen’s Tad Sonstegard, Cattleland’s William Torres, and moderator Stephen Morgan Jones from Amaethon Agricultural Solutions. This panel talked about moving ideas through to innovation in the province, specifically the benefit and need for additional resources dedicated to the knowledge translation and commercialization of products like EnVigour Hx™. Discussion also indicated that more support is required for entrepreneurs and communication between stakeholders needs to improve.

Students were given the chance to showcase their research with a captive audience. Sasha Van der Klein, originally from the Netherlands, was keen to highlight Alberta’s impact on the global research community. “I was attracted to Alberta because of the research of the Univertisty of Alberta’s Martin Zuidhof. It was very inspiring,” she said. “And the Conference gave me the chance to tell people about that.”

Similar stories were heard from the Gentec poster winners, such as Jiehan Lim and Mohammed Abo-Ismail, originally from Malaysia and Egypt respectively. They were pulled to Alberta because of the reputation for excellence in the application of genomics in livestock.

“This year’s Livestock Gentec Conference once again showcased how Alberta is a leader in developing genomic solutions for Canada’s livestock producers and in ensuring that every effort is made to assist producers in adopting these technologies into their production systems,” said Dr. Cornelia Kreplin, Alberta Innovates Executive Director of Sustainable Production/Food Innovation.
“The lineup of speakers not only clearly illustrated how to use tools like EnVigour Hx™ to improve the performance of their herds, but engaged participants to dig deeper in identifying ways we can continue to move forward in improving our province’s vibrant livestock industry.”

Livestock Gentec, an Alberta Innovates Centre for Research and Commercialization, is a global leader in developing genomic solutions that Canada’s livestock producers can use to improve feed, quality and resiliency of their livestock.