Dr. Meulien recently answered some questions about his perspectives on GE3LS
and its relative importance in today's "global bioeconomy", and which emerging genomics-related
issues he thinks could impact society.
Q: As you know, Genome Canada is somewhat unique in its requirement to 'integrate' social
science research within most funded scientific projects. Why do you think this integration
is important? How does this integrated GE3LS research position Canada internationally?
A: Society's acceptance of new technologies has had a checkered history, especially when one
considers, for example, the continued resistance to growing genetically modified crops in
Europe. The wide range of potential genomics applications is so great (across all life
science–based sectors) and the initial investment so high that we need to consider and
address the wide range of societal aspects very early on in the conception, development and
implementation of new and innovative solutions – so the future bioeconomy can thrive.
This is why we ask our project teams to integrate social science and humanities research in
the scientific research programs, so that specific aspects regarding economic, ethical,
environmental, legal and social considerations can be co-developed by scientists and social
scientists, such that the whole project is more valuable to potential end-users.
In this regard, Canada is considered a world leader and has attracted the attention of many
scholars interested in the role of science in society.
Q: You've made the statement that Canada is operating in a "global bioeconomy". What does
this mean for GE3LS?
A: So many of humankind's global concerns have their roots in the life sciences: food
production and safety, alternative energy sources such as biofuels, environmental
concerns and conservation of the planet's biodiversity, and the rampant and seemingly
uncontrollable rising costs of healthcare in the developed world. If integrated properly,
GE3LS research could be a key success factor in Canada's ability to contribute
to the future bioeconomy, estimated by the OECD to reach nearly 3% of global GDP by 2030.
Through these activities, we will be able to smooth the path to successful application
and implementation in society. How will Canadians benefit from these new technologies?
Will their implementation be economically feasible and accepted by payers, consumer and
Because of Canada's natural resources – its land mass dedicated to food production
(livestock and crops), the importance of its oceans providing a clean environment for both
wild fisheries and a thriving aquaculture industry, its extensive forests and its publically
funded healthcare system – its role in the global bioeconomy will be disproportionally
high. Studying the regulatory, ethical and economic environments into which we will be moving
genomics technologies will help us mitigate risks of failure.
Q: What were your first impressions as you moved from a regional centre to the national scene?
The main challenge is no surprise: how can we position the genomics enterprise in Canada –
a recognized world leader in several niche areas – as an engine of innovation in the next
wave of the bioeconomy, so Canada and Canadians benefit optimally from the government of Canada's
investment over the past decade and into the next phase, which is being termed the "Century of
Canada's press release announcing Pierre Meulien as Genome Canada's new President and CEO]