54 million for an innovative genomics project led by Jerome

$5.4 million for an innovative genomics project led by Jérôme Comte – reseau.uquebec.ca

Climate change and increasing urbanization are affecting the world. In Quebec, lakes and waterways are not spared and there is a need for monitoring, including with the increase in reports of cyanobacterial blooms.

Professor Jérôme Comte from the Center Eau Terre Environnement (ETE) received a grant of 5.4 million dollars for the RosHAB project: rapid detection of harmful algal blooms in the field, funding spread over 3 years. The announcement was made on April 18, 2023 by the Minister for Innovation, Science and Industry, the Honorable François Philippe Champagne, as part of Genome Canada’s Genomics Applications Partnership Program (PPAG).

“Exposure to toxins produced by certain cyanobacteria can lead to acute and chronic health problems in humans and animals. There is an urgent need for rapid diagnostic tools to effectively detect and identify these cyanobacteria,” explains Jérôme Comte, a researcher specializing in microbial diversity and function.

An innovative field monitoring tool

Led in partnership with the Department of Environment, Climate Change Mitigation, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) and the team of Professor Roger C. Levesque of Laval University, this project enables the development of an innovative metagenomics tool for field monitoring of cyanobacteria in Quebec.

It will implement on-site sampling and analysis procedures that enable rapid detection in water bodies. A bioinformatics platform will also be established at MELCCFP, which will include an easy-to-use database of cyanobacteria sequences from lakes in Quebec.

Implementation of this tool at the MELCCFP will reduce the time required to identify cyanobacteria in water bodies in Quebec. Results that can take up to 4 days to be available can now take less than 24 hours. The overall goal of the project is to expand its use to other administrations.

“Blooms of cyanobacteria are sensitive to various environmental changes, including nutrient input or climate change. Even before the flowers are visible, toxins can affect the potability of the water in the affected water bodies,” explains Louise Hénault-Ethier, director of the Center Eau Terre Environnement and associate professor at the INRS. “The development of molecular tools to see what is invisible to the naked eye is a major advance for the protection of water and people in Canada.”

A comprehensive and timely information system to monitor and predict harmful cyanobacteria blooms could be worth at least $130 million a year to Canada.

Génome Québec is pleased to recognize the achievement of Québec researchers in a pan-Canadian competition. This funding will help accelerate the commercialization and application of the genomics.

About the PAG

The Partnership Program for Genomics Applications (PPAG) aims to foster partnerships between industry, public users and academic research. This program stimulates the potential of genomics to increase the competitiveness of key sectors of Quebec’s economy. The PPAG focuses on solutions, demonstrating the maturity of the technology and the desire of users to accelerate its adoption. This program is subject to a cyclical process that is started twice a year.

Communication and Public Relations Department
INRS, April 19, 2023