Shared priority projects

A successful model for interdepartmental collaboration

The GRDI established a new way of doing research for addressing issues of importance to Canadians, through shared priority projects. These projects enable scientists in different departments to reach out to one another and combine their expertise to address issues that are beyond the mandates of single departments.

The first two large-scale shared priority research projects (2011-2016), the Quarantine and Invasive Species (QIS) project and the Food and Water Safety (FWS) project have performed beyond expectations. They received the 2016 Public Service Award of Excellence for scientific contribution in recognition for their outstanding work. They successfully demonstrated the ability of federal departments and agencies to work effectively together, leverage their research capacity and expertise, add value to existing resources, and build strong partnerships to deliver stronger results for Canadians than they could ever have had managed on their own.

Building on this success, the GRDI launched two more shared priority research projects, the Antimicrobial Resistance project (AMR) and the Metagenomic-Based Ecosystem Biomonitoring project (EcoBiomics).

Current shared priority projects

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Funding period: 2016-2021
Lead: Ed Topp, AAFC
Total GRDI funding: $9,074,991

The development of resistance to antimicrobials by bacteria that were formerly sensitive is one of the most serious global health threats facing the world today. With no action, annual worldwide human deaths attributable to antimicrobial resistance could reach 10 million by 2050. The Antimicrobial Resistance project uses a genomics-based approach to understand how food production contributes to the development of antimicrobial resistance of human health concern, and explore strategies for reducing antimicrobial resistance in food production systems. It is a component of the Federal Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada. The project involves scientists from 5 federal departments and agencies.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Ed Topp

Metagenomic-Based Ecosystem Biomonitoring (EcoBiomics)

Funding period: 2016-2021
Lead: Tom Edge, ECCC and James Macklin, AAFC
Total GRDI funding: $9,028,664

Biodiversity is paramount in water and soil to sustain diverse ecosystem services and economic activities across Canada. Genomics tools are the only tools available to comprehensively characterize this complex biodiversity. The Ecobiomics project develops advanced genomics tools to assess freshwater ecosystem biodiversity and water quality in lakes and rivers; evaluate the health of soil essential to the productivity of agricultural and forestry systems across Canada; and investigate soil remediation for the oil and mining sectors. This project will enable a more comprehensive perspective of water and soil as living systems. The project involves scientists from 7 federal departments and agencies.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Tom Edge

Past shared priority projects

Food and Water Safety (FWS)

Funding period: 2011-2016
Lead: Sabah Bidawid, HC
Total GRDI funding: $7,567,727

Bringing together 53 scientists and their teams from 6 departments/agencies and 148 collaborators, the Food and Water Safety team was the largest and most ambitious collaborative research project of federal laboratories to enhance food and water safety through genomics. The team worked to reduce the risks to Canadians from acute bacterial foodborne and waterborne illness that are estimated to cost Canada more than $12 billion annually. It developed an integrated federal system to manage, store and provide open access to genomic data of verotoxigenic E. coli and Salmonella Enteritidis for detection and characterization from a variety of food, water and environmental matrices. It also developed methods that reduce isolation-detection turnaround times from more than 5 days to less than 8 hours and improve the identification of pathogen sources. This achievement will significantly increase Canada’s ability to respond to pathogen outbreaks.

For additional information, please read success stories of the FWS project or contact Dr. Sabah Bidawid

Quarantine and Invasive Species (QIS)

Funding period: 2011-2016
Lead: Patrice Bouchard, AAFC
Total GRDI funding: $7,916,196

Bringing together 29 scientists and their teams from 6 departments/agencies and 285 collaborators, the Quarantine and Invasive Species team developed faster and more accurate ways to detect and identify the origin of species with the potential to cause millions of dollars in economic losses and irreversible environmental damage. It developed and applied innovative DNA extraction protocols and an extensive reference database of DNA barcodes for thousands of pests and pathogens that can damage food crops, including from old collection specimens. Accurate identification is essential. Different species can look remarkably alike and even experts can have difficulty saying which is which. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides over 10,000 identifications and responds to over 1,000 requests for assistance in identification annually. The innovative DNA extraction protocols and extensive DNA barcode reference database that resulted from the QIS work are invaluable to enhance Canada’s capacity for science-based decision making to secure access to global markets, avoid irreversible environmental damage, and ease the regulatory burden for Canadian producers.

For additional information, please read success stories of the QIS project or contact Dr. Patrice Bouchard

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