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Canadore College participating in Ontario’s effort to identify COVID-19 variants

Mar 16, 2021 | Cindy Males, Public Relations and Communications Specialist

Canadore College is part of an Ontario-wide coalition that is sequencing and characterizing coronavirus strains that are affecting people in the province.  The world-leading research team, ONCoV Genomics Coalition ( was brought together by Ontario Genomics, an organization funded by the Ontario government. Canadore, through its Genomics Lab, is the only college in the coalition.  

“The Genomics Lab and the Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation program has been working to train post-graduate students from colleges and universities about how to conduct and analyze the triple gene qPCR test for COVID-19, and how to perform sequencing on the viral genomes as part of the curriculum,” said David Villeneuve, coordinator of Canadore’s Genomics Lab.

“This provides tremendous learning opportunities for the students and provides the community with specially trained graduates who can assist in the battle against the pandemic,” said Tara McGoey, coordinator of Canadore’s Biotechnology and Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation programs.

“It’s a rewarding feeling and a very big privilege to be able to work closely to address COVID-19 and still be a student,” said Tyler Lawless, a graduate of Canadore’s Biotechnology program, and now currently enrolled in the Functional Genomics and Clinical Consultation program. 

“Not only is this experiential learning opportunity beneficial to the students but to the province of Ontario as well, in the fight against COVID-19,” said Canadore College President and CEO George Burton. 

The sequencing of the viral genomes allows the Ontario government to not only detect the variants of concern (VOCs), but also to determine the potential point of origin of the virus as it enters a community.  The College lab is looking forward to the opportunity to sequence samples to support province-wide efforts.

“The Genomics Lab at Canadore College is excited to be a part of the ONCoV Genomics Coalition.  We look forward to being able to support the sequencing of positive patient samples in northern Ontario,” said Villeneuve. “The results of such sequencing would support the work of partners who are experts in genomic analysis to determine if there are any variants of concern circulating in our communities.”

“There is also an initiative to sequence the positive patients as well as to find out if there’s a particularly deadly combination of human genes and viral genes that make people more sensitive to that viral infection,” said Villeneuve.

Canadore’s participation in the ONCoV Genomics Coalition provides tremendous exposure to the College and its partners for the investment in the Genomics Lab.

“It establishes Canadore as an innovative and capable northern Ontario partner in the fight against COVID-19 and provides an incredible platform for the training and recruitment of current and future students interested in this field,” said Letitia Nadalin Penno, Canadore’s Dean of Environmental Studies and Health Sciences. “It links Canadore College to some of the most significant research-based organizations in Southern Ontario.”

“It is phenomenal to see such quick capacity building at Canadore College to support our province-wide efforts for increased sequencing to identify COVID-19 variants of concern,” said Bettina Hamelin, President and CEO at Ontario Genomics. “These training opportunities are essential for a sustainable pandemic response that reaches all parts of Ontario. Colleges, like Canadore, have a real opportunity to become the biotech training hubs we need right now and for decades to come.”

The project is in full swing in southern Ontario, while capabilities are just beginning to ramp up in the north. 

Canadore College expects to be at full capability before the end of this semester.

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