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New international wine genomics project launched

August 26, 2008  By Marg Land


New international wine genomics project launched

Genome B.C. recently announced the launch of WineGen, a unique
international wine genomics research and development program with an
investment of $5 million.

August 26, 2008, Penticton, B.C. – Genome B.C. recently announced the launch of WineGen, a unique international wine genomics research and development program with an investment of $5 million.

winegrapesThe multi-national project is led by Dr. Hennie van Vuuren and Dr. Steve Lund of the University of British Columbia Wine Research Centre and Dr. Richard Gardner from the University of Auckland, and Dr. Michael Trought of the Marlborough Wine Research Centre in New Zealand. Other participants include Dr. Chris Owens, U.S. Department of Agriculture; Dr. Terrence van Rooyen, Niagara College, and B.C. wineries Calona Vineyards and Poplar Grove Winery.

Genome BC is very pleased to support this new initiative that builds on knowledge gained in a previous Grape Gen project, which was a collaboration with Genome Espana,” said Dr. Alan Winter, president and CEO of Genome BC. “Wine production in B.C. has expanded significantly over the last decade and has become one of the province’s leading agri-businesses, with the B.C. Wine Institute reporting an overall increase in sales of 149 per cent in the period 1998-2008. We look forward to the results the team will bring forward that will contribute to overall innovation of viticulture and enology and the advancement of Canadian wines on the international market.”

The three countries represented in the project are growing contributors to global wine production and by combining this global expertise the team expects to identify changes at the molecular and biochemical level that effect three important aspects of wine making: grapevine cultivation, grape processing and fermentation by yeasts.

“The process of producing superior wines is a complex process involving many varying factors such as the inherent characteristics of the grape, the effects of environmental factors on berry ripening and flavour and the nature of yeasts as part of the fermentation process,” said Jeff Del Nin, winemaker at Burrowing Owl Estate Winery in the South Okanagan. “Therefore, we are looking forward to participating in various aspects of the project and to the development of new biomarkers that will assist all New World wine growing areas.”

A unique aspect of the WineGen project is that it will include social science research, led by Dr. Michael Howlett at Simon Fraser University. The project will evaluate the existing interactions within the Canadian wine industry in the context of adopting and regulating innovative technologies and interactions between industry, science, policy-makers, and the general public.

Genome BC is a research organization that invests in and manages genomics and proteomics projects and platforms focused on areas of strategic importance such as human health, forestry, fisheries, agriculture and the environment. By working collaboratively with all levels of government, universities and industry the organization is the catalyst for a vibrant, genomics-driven life sciences cluster with far reaching social and economic benefits for the province and Canada.

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