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Three Prairie projects provide a $23.8 million boost for crops and animal health research and development in Saskatchewan

July 22, 2015

Projects offer food security solutions through lentil and wheat improvement and infectious disease prevention in cattle.  


Results of the Genome Canada Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition Genomics and Feeding the Future, in funding partnership with the Western Grains Research Foundation (WGRF), were announced at the University of Saskatchewan yesterday.  Three projects developed with and supported by Genome Prairie received funding from Genome Canada, with a total combined investment of $23.8M ($9.4M from Genome Canada and WGRF).

“On behalf of Genome Prairie’s Board of Directors and staff, we extend congratulations to project leaders Drs. Kirstin Bett, Andrew Potter and Curtis Pozniak.  Together with their teams and funding partners, they were successful in a particularly challenging national competition.  The University of Saskatchewan was awarded three of the 11 funded projects, more than any other university in Canada. This is an exciting time for Genome Prairie and our partners.” – Chris Barker, Chief Scientific Officer, Genome Prairie.

Prairie-led Projects

  • Application of genomics to innovation in the lentil economy (AGILE).  Project leaders: Kirstin Bett and Albert Vandenberg, University of Saskatchewan. Total Funding: $7.9M. The goal of the AGILE project is to provide Canadian farmers with faster access to better lentil varieties that will excel under Canadian growing conditions.
  • Reverse vaccinology approach for the prevention of mycobacterial disease in cattle. Project Leaders: Andrew Potter, VIDO-Intervac, University of Saskatchewan and Robert Hancock, University of British Columbia, co-lead with Genome British Columbia. Total Funding: $7.4M. The goal of this project is to develop vaccines for two common diseases of cattle, bovine tuberculosis and Johne’s Disease, a gastrointestinal disease.
  • Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2).  Project Leaders: Curtis Pozniak, University of Saskatchewan and Andrew Sharpe, National Research Council Canada. Total Funding $8.5. The goal of the CTAG2 project is to create tools and strategies for wheat breeders to develop improved cultivars that are more productive and resistant to diseases and pests, and resilient to heat and drought stresses.

The national news release is below.  For more information please contact Quyen Van, Communications Officer, Genome Prairie,

News Release

For Immediate Release

Minister Ritz announces major investment in research to boost Canadian agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, create jobs and opportunities

Eleven genomics research projects including four at the University of Saskatchewan, will better position Canadian agriculture and agri-food, and fisheries & aquaculture industries, to feed hungry world markets

July 21, 2015, Saskatoon, SK

The world’s increasing population, the corresponding growing demand for food, and climate variability will have profound impacts on the productive capacity of both oceans and agricultural lands. The knowledge of the genomic make-up, function and interaction of plants, livestock, fish and other species, has been rising, but its application to agricultural and aquatic productivity and food safety has been largely untapped until today.

Today, Minister Ritz and the Chairs of Genome Canada and Western Grains Research Foundation, on behalf of the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), announced a $93-million investment in 11 new genomics research projects that address challenges and opportunities for Canadian agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture.

Minister Ritz made the announcement at the University of Saskatchewan.

The projects selected for funding under Genome Canada’s 2014 Large-Scale Applied Research Project Competition Genomics and Feeding the Future – each valued at between $5 million to $10 million – will be led by leading academic institutions based in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, and involve researchers from across Canada.

Canada is already a global leader in several areas of genomics as applied to agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture. The projects being announced today span an array of topics, each using genomics to achieve applied research goals including: sustaining and securing Canada’s honey bees; improving disease resilience and sustainability in pork production; increasing varieties and production of lentils; and, making northern fisheries sustainable. Innovations resulting from this research are expected to drive economic benefits including exports and job creation in sectors critical to Canada’s economy.

Quick Facts

  • The University of Saskatchewan is receiving $8.5 million to support the Canadian Triticum Applied Genomics (CTAG2) team, led by Dr. Curtis Pozniak in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Sharpe of the National Research Council of Canada.  The emphasis of CTAG2 is to conduct research to better understand the wheat genome and to apply this research to develop genetic markers and predictive genetic tests to improve selection efficiency in Canadian wheat breeding programs.
  • In addition to CTAG2, the University of Saskatchewan is receiving $15.5 million to help two more research teams that will develop vaccines against infectious diseases of cattle and develop lentil varieties that will excel under Canadian growing conditions. The University is also a co-lead on an Alberta-based $9.8 million project developing new tools to fight disease in pigs and improve Canada’s pork industry.
  • Total investment in the 11 projects is $93 million, including $30.8 million in federal funding through Genome Canada, $5 million in support for three of the projects from the Western Grains Research Foundation, and $57.2 million from project co-funding partners, including provincial governments, private sector partners, non-profit organizations and others.
  • Canada’s agri-food and agriculture sector accounts for more than eight per cent of Canada’s GDP and directly employed 2.1 million people in 2011. The sector is a major driver of exports, valued at $40.3 billion in 2011.
  • Commercial fisheries, aquaculture and processing employed more than 80,000 jobs and contributed $6.4 billion in economic activity, $3.9 billion in exports and a positive trade balance of $1.5 billion to the Canadian economy in 2010.


“Our government is committed to moving ideas from the lab to the marketplace more quickly, strengthening Canada’s economy while creating jobs for Canadians. Today’s investment will harness Canada’s strength in genomics research to provide a boost to our agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture industries in Saskatchewan and across Canada in order to compete and win in the global marketplace.”

– Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food


“Under our government’s updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, our government continues to make record investments to strengthen Canada’s economy, create jobs and improve the quality of life of Canadians. Through Genome Canada’s Large-Scale Applied Research projects, we are positioning Canada’s agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture industries to seize a growing market opportunity to feed a hungry world while creating jobs at home.”

–Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology)


“With its privileged supply of fresh water, unpolluted oceans and productive farm lands, Canada is ideally suited to play a leadership role in presenting solutions to major global challenges in the agri-food and fisheries & aquaculture sectors.  Genome Canada is pleased to make these strategic investments that allow our genomics research community to innovate in these sectors for the benefit of all Canadians and people worldwide.”

–Lorne Hepworth, Chair of Genome Canada


“WGRF is excited about the impact these projects will have for producers. Support of genomics for crop research is important for the development of improved crop varieties. WGRF’s partnership with Genome Canada has allowed producers to invest in world class genomics research programs.”

–Dave Sefton, Chair of WGRF


“The outstanding success of our researchers in this competition builds on our signature area of agriculture and demonstrates that the U of S is building significant capacity in areas where national and global food security solutions are required. This new knowledge is critical to help address the projected doubling of world food demand by 2050.”

–Dr. Karen Chad, Vice-President of Research, University of Saskatchewan

“In collaboration with a team of research scientists from across Canada, we are working to develop genomic tools and tests to improve our ability to select for desired characteristics such as yield, disease and pest resistance, and heat and drought stress resilience.  The end result will be more productive, profitable and environmentally-sustainable wheat varieties for farmers.”

–Dr. Curtis Pozniak, U of S plant scientist


Associated links

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Scott French

Director of Communications and Parliamentary Affairs
Office of the Minister of State (Science and Technology)

Andrea Matyas
Director, Communications
Genome Canada
Office: 613-751-4460 x 231

Cell: 613-790-0106


Genome Canada is a not-for-profit organization that acts as a catalyst for developing and applying genomics and genomic-based technologies, to create economic and social benefits for Canadians. Genome Canada connects ideas and people across public and private sectors to find new uses for genomics, invests in large-scale science and technology to fuel innovation, and translates discoveries into applications and solutions across key sectors of national importance, including health, agriculture, forestry, fisheries & aquaculture, energy, mining, and the environment.


WGRF is a farmer funded and directed non-profit organization investing in agricultural research that benefits western Canadian producers. For over 30 years the WGRF Board has given producers a voice in agricultural research funding decisions. WGRF manages an Endowment Fund and the wheat and barley variety development check-off funds, investing over $18 million annually into breeding and field crop research. WGRF brings the research spending power of all farmers in Western Canada together, maximizing the returns they see in crop research.

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