Ontario Researchers Uncovering The Barcodes Of Life



    McGuinty Government Supporting Internationally Acclaimed Biodiversity
    Project

    GUELPH, ON, Feb. 14 /CNW/ - Preserving and protecting global biodiversity
is the goal of an international research initiative led by Ontario researchers
who are using a unique barcode method to catalogue DNA records of the world's
living plant and animal species.
    The McGuinty government is investing $5 million in the research
initiative - called the International Barcode of Life 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.
    Currently, scientists rely on bulky instruments to conduct time-consuming
DNA sampling. Ontario researchers are developing a groundbreaking technology
that will lead to faster DNA identification by simply scanning a specimen with
a hand-held device.
    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.
    Ontario's investment in the project comes from the McGuinty government's
Fall Economic Statement - a $3 billion plan to enhance Ontario's global
competitiveness and create the next generation of economic growth.
    "By supporting world-class research, we are attracting the best and
brightest research talent to our province and ensuring that cutting-edge
discoveries are made right here in Ontario," said Minister of Research and
Innovation John Wilkinson. "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."
    "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."
    "The potential applications for this technology are broad, touching every
aspect of our lives," said Paul Hebert, Director of the Biodiversity Institute
of Ontario at the University of Guelph and the founder of DNA barcoding.
"There will be economic benefits linked to the prevention of crop devastation
because of better surveillance of pests. Barcoding will also protect human
health by advancing our capacity to identify disease organisms and their
transmission pathways. As well, barcoding will help protect biodiversity at a
time when it is threatened by climate change."
    "The University of Guelph has a world-wide reputation for its
breakthroughs in DNA barcoding project," said Alastair Summerlee, President
and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guelph. "Today's announcement will
send a strong signal to researchers at major institutions around the world
that Ontario is home to incredible research infrastructure and a government
that supports its scientists and their tremendously valuable work."
    Learn more about the International Strategic Opportunities Program
    Read about the web-base Barcode of Life Data Systems
    Learn about invading species in Ontario.

    Disponible en français

    
    Backgrounder
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                       SAFEGUARDING GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY
    

    Ontario is investing $5 million to support a world-class research project
at the University of Guelph that aims to preserve and protect the world's
biodiversity. Through the project, Ontario researchers are developing a unique
barcode method to catalogue DNA records of the world's living things.
    The government's investment comes from its Fall Economic Statement - a
$3 billion plan to enhance Ontario's global competitiveness and create the
next generation of economic growth.

    DNA barcoding was invented in Ontario: It is the fastest, most cost
    -------------------------------------------------------------------
    effective method to preserve and protect biodiversity
    -----------------------------------------------------
    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 that is working with over 100 scientists
from 25 countries to compile the largest DNA-based species identification
system in the world.
    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 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. As an example, the technology will help 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.
    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 related costs.

    
    Key Facts:

    -   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 the Dr. Hebert's team in Guelph, 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 - and 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.
    -   The project will integrate international efforts to create a
        comprehensive and universal system for gathering, sharing,
        identifying, preserving and analyzing the world's biodiversity and
        calls for 25 nations to join the International Barcode of Life
        Project.

    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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