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Canadian Research Organizations to Fund Development of Genomic-Based E.coli Test

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Last Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012
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This funding program aims to foster continuous improvement in the safety of the Canadian food supply.

A consortium of Canadian research organizations has combined efforts to fund development of an innovative test for the presence of pathogenic E. coli bacteria during food production. 

"Food safety is always a top priority and I am pleased to support this research initiative through Genome Alberta and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency," said Verlyn Olson, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. "We must continuously explore new technology and ideas to enhance our food safety processes to ensure we are providing consumers with the safest, high quality food products available. Improving E. coli detection methods will result in important safety enhancements for our meat processing industry."

More than $1 million is available over 18 months for one or two projects to develop a genomic-based detection methodology that is rapid, sensitive, specific, affordable and field-deployable. Current turn-around time for most testing methods is about 10 hours and is typically conducted in a laboratory. “This applied research initiative is an example of how new genomics-based technologies can be used to help detect pathogens in meat production and food processing,” said Dr. David Bailey, Chief Executive Officer of Genome Alberta.

Research teams are invited to apply to the “2012/13 Program on Research and Innovation Leading to Rapid Detection of Pathogenic E. coli.” While an investigator associated with a Canadian academic institution will lead or co-lead the project, the team may tap into the best expertise globally and engage scientists within academic institutions, provincial or federal research centres, private industry or non-profit research establishments. 

"Drawing together the brightest minds from multiple scientific disciplines in a team environment is a good way to stimulate ideas,” said Dr. Stan Blade, Chief Executive Officer of Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions. “That’s the strength of this funding initiative, and we’re confident this research will lead to a rapid test that will assist the food processing industry with real time decision-making to ensure that Canadian food products are safe.”

The deadline for submission of a letter of intent (LOI) is January 14, 2013, 2:00 p.m. MST. Forms and additional information are available at Only the most competitive LOIs demonstrating a clear benefit to the Canadian meat industry will be invited to submit a full application.

“We expect this work will provide social and economic benefits for Canadians by ensuring a safer, more secure food supply, protecting and creating new jobs in the food industry, and safeguarding a key export commodity,” said Pierre Meulien, President and CEO, Genome Canada. “This is another step forward for the Canadian bioeconomy.”

Supporting enhancements to Canada’s food safety system is an important priority for all funding partners, which include: Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions ($250,000), Genome Alberta on behalf of ALMA ($500,000), Genome Canada ($250,000) and additional support from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. New testing methods and technologies arising from this program will complement other national and international research initiatives and contribute to the development of national baselines, surveillance and monitoring of E. coli across Canada.

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