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EmbryoGENE Network


The EmbryoGENE Network was created in order to address important issues concerning embryo development in livestock; mainly cattle and swine. This concerted pan-Canadian effort is devoted to understanding the Genome and Epigenome of the competent embryo. It also aims to determine how maternal Nutrition, and the Environment of the embryo, or the application of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), influence developmental competence of the early embryo and, as a consequence, the future health of offspring derived from such embryos.

The EmbryoGENE Network has been developed through partnering and discussions with representatives of industry and diverse governmental agencies sharing a common interest in building Canada’s leadership position in the production of safe, wholesome food.

Network Structure

The Network is led by two major research groups at the forefront of research in cattle (Laval) and swine (Alberta) reproduction. The network project was initiated by the Principal Investigator (PI) (Marc-André Sirard) in close collaboration with the three co-PIs (George Foxcroft, Claude Robert, and Michael Dyck). Through their broad research programs, the two senior scientists, Drs. Sirard and Foxcroft, have maintained active research collaborations with many of the other co-applicants and thus have a good understanding of their individual expertise and research goals. The scientific activities of the Network are overseen by an International Scientific Advisory Committee (ISAC) consisting of experts in the area of livestock genomics. The administrative and financial activities of the Network are guided by the decisions of the Network’s Board of Directors. These individuals represent a knowledgeable cross-section of industry and governmental leaders in the field. The day-to-day operations of the Network are overseen by having a Network Manager at each node.

Initial Network membership includes 17 researchers from across seven Canadian academic institutions, eight industry partners, and two governmental institutions. The combined efforts of all member institutions will result in the training of more than 30 highly qualified personnel, including an estimated 27 graduate students.

Research Objectives

The Network will address three very important questions:

  1. What defines a normal, competent embryo at the molecular level?
  2. How, and to what extent, do routine assisted reproductive technologies affect normal development?
  3. How does the metabolic state of the dam, and nutritional availability to the embryo in vivo, drive phenotypic plasticity?

To answer these questions, two unique microarray slides will be produced for transcriptome analysis. These embryo specific slides will cover the entire transcriptome, including isoforms, and will enable us to draw a global picture, at the gene expression level, of the alterations caused by both ART and the metabolic status of the female on the early embryo of cattle and swine.  The transcriptomics platform, in combination with the epigenetics tools that will be developed, will enable the comparative analyses to be carried out under the four research themes of the Network (Bovine ART, Porcine ART, Bovine nutrition and Porcine nutrition).


  • The creation of platform technology that can be used to access the gene expression profiles of embryos exposed to various factors of interest.
  • Benchmarks of normalcy for bovine and porcine embryos.
  • The generation of data to be used by Canadian regulatory agencies in the development and implementation of a regulatory framework for the application of ART in the livestock sector.
  • The generation of information as to how the nutritional status of the female creates “lost opportunities” for the pork, dairy and beef industries.


Bovine Node (Université Laval)

Marc-André Sirard, DMV, PhD
Tel.: 418-656-7359

Julie Nieminen (Network Manager)
Tel.: 418-656-2131 Ext. 11465

Porcine Node (University of Alberta)

George R. Foxcroft, PhD
Tel.: 780-492-7661

Tracy Gartner (Network Manager)
Tel.: 780-248-1159

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Contact us at 1-877-767-1767