The Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill University is formally named as a fifth Host Institution of GA4GH

20 Jun 2024

The Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill University joins the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI) as a fifth host institution of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH). 

GA4GH logo and McGill's Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine logo, with a sentence saying "Announcing GA4GH's Fifth Host Institution"

By Jaclyn Estrin, GA4GH Science Writer

The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) is pleased to welcome the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill University as a fifth GA4GH Host Institution.

The Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill University was founded in the Fall of 2022, with a vision of “applying genomic innovation to pave the way towards a healthier, more sustainable, and informed future.” 

McGill University is a significant contributor of innovations in the field of genomics, including through its recent ground-breaking research initiative DNA to RNA (D2R), supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, that will contribute to developing revolutionary genomic-based RNA medicines.

McGill’s Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine joins the ranks of the four existing GA4GH Host Institutions: the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR), the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, and EMBL’s European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). Host Institutions help enable the work of GA4GH by providing services, staff, space, and grant management.

GA4GH has established a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) among its five Host Institutions. While the MoU is not a binding agreement, it outlines the understood expectations, roles, and responsibilities Host Institutions have in supporting the achievement of GA4GH’s strategic vision. This agreement shapes how the Host Institutions engage with GA4GH Inc., the GA4GH not-for-profit organisation based in Canada, and with each other.

Since its inception, GA4GH has benefitted from a long-standing collaboration with the Centre of Genomics and Policy (CGP) at McGill University, now housed within McGill’s Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine. The CGP is an interdisciplinary research centre at the crossroads of law, medicine, bioethics, and public policy. It has been pivotal in supporting the work of the GA4GH Regulatory & Ethics Work Stream (REWS), which develops guidance on the ethical, legal, and social issues that arise within genomic research and international data sharing.

CGP Director Yann Joly said, “The collaboration between the CGP and GA4GH led to the development of the Framework for responsible sharing of genomic and health-related data [Framework], a human rights landmark for the international genomics and biomedical research communities.”

Founding Director of the CGP Bartha Maria Knoppers, who was fundamental in leading the development of the GA4GH Framework, added, “This unique international endeavour is founded on the human right of everyone to benefit from science. It needs to prospectively provide the policies and tools for sharing and linking genomic and health data.”

The Canadian Centre for Computational Genomics (C3G), also part of the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine, has been another significant contributor to GA4GH over the past years. C3G is actively involved in the Discovery Work Stream and Clinical & Phenotypic Data Capture (Clin/Pheno) Work Stream, developing technical standards aiming to facilitate data sharing across initiatives.

Mark Lathrop, Director of the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine at McGill, said, “GA4GH is the most important initiative for responsible use of genomic data to benefit everyone worldwide. We are very proud of the contributions being made by the McGill CGP and other Institute investigators to its success.”

The establishment of the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine provided an opening for a more formalised relationship with the CGP, C3G, and McGill, through a Host Institution designation. Chief Executive Officer of GA4GH and President of GA4GH Inc. Peter Goodhand said, “CGP has been the home and the heart of our REWS efforts from the very beginning. The formal relationship will open doors to building strong relationships with McGill’s bioinformatics teams and engage them more directly in technical standards development.”

The addition of this new Host Institution will help accelerate and expand the work of REWS, as well as tap into several technical communities, including two GA4GH Driver Projects: The Pan-Canadian Genomic Library (PCGL), which aims to facilitate responsible genomic data sharing across Canada, and EpiShare, an open science project that makes epigenomic datasets more accessible.

Goodhand said, “From the beginning, CGP has been integral to everything we have done over the last ten years, and we are happy to formally recognise the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine as the fifth of our Host Institutions.”

Joly added, “This new arrangement will allow the Victor Phillip Dahdaleh Institute of Genomic Medicine’s CGP and C3G to work in an even more integrated manner with GA4GH, which bodes well for the future of genomic data sharing.’’

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