CanDIG joins International Community

Cross-Canada Project CanDIG Selected to Help Drive International Genomics Standards

Making the most of biomedical research requires new ways of discovering and exchanging knowledge about genomic data; Canadian project CanDIG has been selected to help lead an effort for securely sharing and understanding such datasets.

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Orlando, Florida, 17 Oct 2017

Genomics - the study of the DNA and RNA of individuals - is moving out of the laboratory and into the doctor’s office; it is estimated that over 60 million patients in jurisdictions around the world will have their genes sequenced in a healthcare context by 2025.

But the rapidly moving field of Genomics is an international effort, even for provincial health systems. Healthcare is not used to this type and amount of data, and making the most of new clinical tests means constantly incorporating the new insights coming in from research studies performed internationally. This depends on standards for exchanging knowledge between and within these studies in a standard, interoperable, and secure way.

Today in Orlando it was announced that CanDIG will help drive the development of those standards. CanDIG is a Canadian approach to building a genomics research platform, allowing researchers to study national-scale genomic data sets while respecting provincial jurisdiction of health data and privacy.

“CanDIG has the potential to make a significant impact in Canadian life science research and health care,” said Michael Brudno, PI of CanDIG and Director of the Centre for Computational Medicine at the Hospital for Sick Children. “This partnership with the international community will accelerate our own work, and ensure the genomics community can benefit from our experiences and efforts.”

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) is an international project for building these standards and methods. It brings together over 500 leading institutions working in healthcare, research, disease advocacy, life science, and information technology.

At its 5th annual plenary meeting, the GA4GH announced its reorganization around technical streams driven by a number of projects selected based on their efforts in pushing the envelope of genomic data exchange and targeted to real-world impact.

“To fully realize the promise of genomic medicine, we must operationalize a true learning health system. This means creating tools and resources that allow the research and healthcare communities to learn from each other and share data and resources between the two,” said Peter Goodhand of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.

By contributing to this international effort, CanDIG will advance Canadian health research, building Canadian tools that are interoperable with those of international colleagues while respecting Canada’s federation. In addition, work on best practices for privacy and security will ensure the protection of Canadian patient data within the CanDIG platform.

“International collaboration is THE critical ingredient for success in harnessing lifesaving insights from the vast amounts of human genomic data produced worldwide. The GA4GH is the catalyst for the right players to come together to realize this vision,” said Marc LePage of Genome Canada.

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CanDIG is a new project funded by the CFI Cyberinfrastructure Infrastructure and connects sites at McGill University, Hospital for Sick Children, UHN Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, Jewish General Hospital and Université de Sherbrooke. It is also a collaboration with Genome Canada, Compute Canada and CANARIE.