Global Scientific Partnership to Safeguard World's Biodiversity



    McGuinty Government Promoting International Collaboration

    SYDNEY, Australia, Feb. 18 /CNW/ - On the heels of announcing $5 million
in the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project, the McGuinty government
is investing another $150,000 to support international collaboration on this
research initiative through the International Strategic Opportunities Program
(ISOP).
    Minister of Research and Innovation John Wilkinson made the announcement
today in Sydney, Australia, where he participated in an event to celebrate the
international research in the iBOL project - including a new commitment of
$1.2 million by the State Government of New South Wales.

    
    Today's investments will:

    -  Enable researchers at the University of Guelph to work with over
       100 researchers from 25 countries to create the world's largest
       reference library of DNA samples.

    -  Create new opportunities for training and international exchanges
       between researchers to strengthen expertise of DNA barcoding and
       develop new applications and commercial uses.
    

    Ontario researchers based in Guelph are developing a groundbreaking
technology that will lead to faster DNA identification by simply scanning a
specimen with a hand-held device.
    Australian researchers will record DNA samples of Australia's living
species and add these to the world catalogue housed at the University of
Guelph.
    In addition to creating an unprecedented body of scientific knowledge to
help preserve and protect the world's biodiversity, there are many additional
commercial applications for this technology such as helping to reduce the
threat of global epidemics. By simply scanning DNA, scientists will be able to
quickly identify if a bird is carrying an infectious disease such as avian
flu.
    "The University of Guelph's Canadian Centre for DNA Barcoding is an
international hub and global leader in this area of scientific expertise,"
said MPP for Guelph, Liz Sandals. "And because it offers health, science and
economic benefits for Guelph -- and all of Ontario -- the opportunities for
commercialization and future job growth in this area are very exciting."
    "Supporting world-class research is part of the McGuinty government's
strategy to ensure Ontario can compete and win in the global knowledge-based
economy," said Wilkinson. "Ontario is proud to be the Canadian hub for the
International Barcode of Life project: This world-renowned research project is
enhancing Ontario's global reputation as a beacon for research and innovation,
while at the same time helping to lay a foundation for future jobs and
economic prosperity."
    Minister Wilkinson is in Australia representing Premier Dalton McGuinty
as part of a Canadian delegation attending the Australian Council of the
Federation Summit where he will lead a discussion on innovation.
Representatives from six Canadian provinces are meeting with their Australian
counterparts to build stronger relations and future collaboration.
    "We're anticipating that DNA Barcoding will be the standard by which we
identify, observe and protect life on Earth," said Paul Hebert, Director of
the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph and the
founder of DNA barcoding. "At this stage, what we need most is to bring this
approach to the world and gather barcoding data on millions of species. The
Ontario government is helping to make this a reality."
    "This is cutting-edge technology and I am pleased the New South Wales
Government is committing $1.2 million towards this important international
project," said Ian Macdonald, Minister of Primary Industries, New South Wales
Government. "This co-operative research effort with Ontario will bolster our
State's capacity to respond to and diagnose pests and diseases - this research
is particularly important for Australia where it's critical we protect our
biological diversity."

    
    Backgrounder
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

                       SAFEGUARDING GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY
    

    Ontario is investing $150,000 to support an international collaboration
on a research initiative - called the International Barcode of Life project.
The goal of the project is to help preserve and protect global biodiversity by
cataloguing DNA records of the world's living plant and animal species.
    Ontario's support comes from the McGuinty government's International
Strategic Opportunities Program, which encourages world-class research
partnerships between Ontario research institutions and the global research
community. This latest investment is in addition to $6 million the government
has already invested in the project.
    The investment will enable researchers at the University of Guelph to
work with over 100 researchers from 25 countries to create the world's largest
reference library of DNA samples - consisting of 500,000 species.
    Through the project, Ontario researchers are partnering with scientists
from around the world to develop a unique barcode method to catalogue DNA
records of the world's living species.

    DNA barcoding was invented in Ontario by Dr. Paul Hebert

    Dr. Paul Hebert, a researcher at the University of Guelph, invented DNA
barcoding in 2003. Dr. Hebert was researching a fast and efficient method to
identify plant, insect and animal life.
    Dr. Hebert leads a team of researchers at the University of Guelph's
Biodiversity Institute of Ontario. The research team is developing a
technology they hope will allow for virtually instant DNA identification by
simply scanning a specimen with a hand-held device, similar to how groceries
are scanned at a supermarket. Currently, scientists rely on sending samples to
a lab to conduct DNA sampling - a much slower process.
    This made-in-Ontario barcoding system will revolutionize how biological
information is accessed.
    Better access to species information will impact many aspects of society
including disease and pest control, food safety and resource conservation.
This technology can also be applied to help reduce the threat of global
epidemics. For example, by simply scanning DNA, scientists will be able to
quickly identify if a bird is carrying an infectious disease such as avian
flu.
    DNA contains the genetic instructions used in the development and
functioning of all known living organisms. The growing amount of barcode data
will also lead to major advances in our ability to identify and discover new
species.
    The health of the world's biodiversity has many critical impacts on the
economy. Today, with global trade on the rise and the increasing risk of
climate change, all jurisdictions face unprecedented exposure to invasive
species that threaten agriculture, forestry and fisheries. DNA barcoding will
allow for faster identification of species, making it easier to take decisive
action sooner and minimize the costs associated with invasive species.

    
    Key Facts:

    -  In addition to Ontario's investment, today the State Government of New
       South Wales in Australia announced a commitment of $1.2 million
       towards the International Barcode of Life project.
    -  DNA barcoding was invented in Ontario, by Dr. Paul Hebert -- it is the
       fastest, most cost effective method to identify, preserve and protect
       biodiversity.
    -  Dr. Hebert has published more than 270 papers on the subject of DNA
       barcoding. His current efforts to establish the International Barcode
       of Life Project will barcode 500,000 species within five years.
    -  Led by Dr. Hebert's team in Guelph, Ontario was the first province
       to build a specialized facility dedicated to gathering barcode records
       and to the creation of an informatics platform for their storage and
       analysis.
    -  As a result, Canada was the first country to establish a national
       research network focused on the acquisition and analysis of DNA
       barcode records for new and existing plant, insect and animal species.
    -  The project will integrate international efforts to create a
       comprehensive and universal system for gathering, sharing,
       identifying, preserving and analyzing the world's biodiversity.
    -  There are currently calls for 25 nations to join the International
       Barcode of Life Project.

    The International Strategic Opportunities Program (ISOP)

    The goal of the International Strategic Opportunities Program is to
improve Ontario's long-term economic potential by attracting and retaining the
best and brightest research talent. The program seeks to:

    -  Facilitate research of scientific importance
    -  Increase Ontario's long-term economic potential
    -  Attract and retain top international research talent
    -  Enhance Ontario's profile in the international research community.

    Learn more about the International Strategic Opportunities Program:
    http://www.mri.gov.on.ca/english/programs/isop/program.asp

    Read about the web-base Barcode of Life Data Systems:
    http://www.barcodinglife.org/views/login.php

    Learn about invading species in Ontario:
    http://www.invadingspecies.com/

    For more information about the programs and funding of the Ministry of
Research and Innovation, please visit www.ontario.ca/innovation.

    Disponible en français

                          www.ontario.ca/innovation
    





For further information:

For further information: Perry Blocher, Ministry of Research and
Innovation, (416) 326-7717; Sandra Watts, Minister's Office, (416) 314-7067

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ONTARIO MINISTRY OF RESEARCH AND INNOVATION

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