Canada

The Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC)

In 2011, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) established a national collaborative research funding strategy to coordinate epigenetics research in Canada.  The overall goal of the Canadian Epigenetics, Environment and Health Research Consortium (CEEHRC) - a $50M initiative over 7 years -is to position Canada for the rapid translation of epigenetic discoveries to improve human health. By supporting and applying epigenetics research on a national scale, CEEHRC hopes to harness the great potential for major breakthroughs in understanding the origins of health, as well as the etiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of many chronic and complex diseases.

Epigenomic Platform Program

Through its Epigenomic Platform Centre program, CEEHRC is leveraging Canada's extensive existing genomic sequencing infrastructure to develop dedicated epigenetic research capacity focused on human health and disease. CEEHRC is supporting two Epigenomic Mapping Centres (EMCs) and two Epigenomic Data Coordination Centres (EDCCs), for a total investment of $15M over 5 years. 

The CEEHRC-funded EMCs are the Centre for Epigenomic Mapping Technologies (CEMT), led by Drs Marco Marra and Martin Hirst, at the University of British Columbia/BC Cancer Agency, and the Multidimensional Epigenomics Mapping Centre at McGill (MEMCM), led by Drs Mark Lathrop and Tomi Pastinen, at McGill University. The funded EDCCs are led by Dr Steven Jones at Simon Fraser University/BC Cancer Agency and Drs Guillaume Bourque and Alan Evans at McGill University.

As a major component of Canada's contribution to IHEC, the EMCs are focusing their activities on the systematic high-resolution mapping of human epigenomic marks in appropriate cell/tissue types available in sufficient quantity and with acceptable quality. The CEMT group (Marra/Hirst) is focusing on a number of cancer and stem cell types, including studies on peripheral and lymphoid B-cells, T-lymphocytes, primitive hematopoietic cells, patient derived iPSCs, as well as thyroid cells and mammary, endometrial, fallopian and colonic epithelium. The MEMCM group (Lathrop/Pastinen) has three initial focus areas: autoimmune and inflammatory disease (using various blood cell types), cardio-metabolic disease (including cardiac and skeletal muscle, liver, adipose tissue and pancreatic islets) and neuropsychiatric disease (including targeted brain areas in post-mortem suicide human tissue and animal models of HPA axis dysfunction). In addition, MEMCM specifically addresses population variation in epigenomes within these focus areas.

The EMCs together expect to provide 200 reference epigenomes, complete to IHEC standards, over the next 5 years.

Supporting Team-based Research

In early 2012, CEEHRC launched the second major phase of the initiative, with a series of Team grant funding opportunities totaling $24.5M over 5 years.  The major goal of this Team grant program is to support collaborative research that has the capability to transform epigenetics research and foster the application of knowledge gained to the clinic and/or to populations. 

General objectives of this program include understanding how the physical and social environment, along with gender, interacts with the genome across the life course; understanding the origins and mechanisms of disease, especially complex human disease, chronic disease and cancer; understanding the basis of gene-environment interactions, and their implications across populations and generations; and identifying new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for human disease.

In collaboration with the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) - an IHEC partner – the Canada-Japan CEEHRC Teams in Epigenetics of Stem Cells funding opportunity has recently been launched.  This targeted multi-national research program seeks to achieve high-impact scientific results in the epigenetics of stem cells, including the transcriptional control of differentiation and the induction of pluripotency.

Further CEEHRC research funding programs are currently in development/planning stages. For more information on CEEHRC, please see: http://www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/43602.html