News at Medicine - February 2010 - ACOA funding for Newfoundland Genealogical Toolkit

ACOA funding for Newfoundland Genealogical Toolkit
February 3, 2010

The Newfoundland Genealogical Toolkit, a state-of-the-art information technology platform, has received $1.8 million in a second round of funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunity Agency Atlantic Innovation Fund (ACOA-AIF).


The funding is for the Population Therapeutics Research Group (PTRG), a not-for-profit research team within the Faculty of Medicine. Led by Dr. Proton Rahman, professor of medicine (rheumatology), PTRG conducts and supports genetic research in the province’s population. PTRG’s research aims to determine genetic association to disease and undesirable drug reactions to ensure drug effectiveness, optimize drug dosage decisions, and enhance drug therapy.

The population of Newfoundland and Labrador largely descends from Irish and English immigrants, making it relatively homogeneous. This “founder population” is internationally recognized as an ideal resource for genetic studies on the identification of genes implicated in common diseases and research on drug effectiveness and adverse reactions. Findings from studies carried out in Newfoundland can often be generalized to the Caucasian population worldwide.

The Newfoundland Genealogical Toolkit supports PTRG’s work in three key areas.

“Through the generation of extended pedigrees PTRG is able to conduct world-class studies on the genetic contribution to disease, drug efficacy and adverse events,” explained Catherine Street, project manager. “The toolkit will link a detailed, existing Newfoundland Genealogical Database (created in Phase I of this project) to information regarding family structure, disease status, drug exposure and clinical outcomes.”

“This continued funding will also allow us to manage large data sets,” said Mitch Sturge, systems administrator.  “PTRG is currently able to store 11 tera bytes of data and through the development of parallel computational software that allows genetic analysis over multiple servers simultaneously significantly reduce computation time for complex genetic analysis from months to days.”

“The ACOA-AIF funding will also help in the development of genetic analysis tools,” said  Mohammed Uddin, genetic analyst. “PTRG’s enhanced computational abilities enables the development and testing of novel genetic analysis tools, for example new genetic association methods using Copy Number Variation.”

Dr. Rahman said through the development of these key areas of work the toolkit will provide support for new gene discoveries linked to diseases, genetic causes for adverse drug reactions (ADRs), pharmacogenetic (drug-genetic interactions) studies and personalized medicine.

“The project will create research contracts, support genetic research activities at the new $30 million Genetics Research Centre at Memorial and attract private partners to commercialize genetic tests and medical interventions.”

For further information on this project please contact Catherine Street at or (709) 777-7282.