Medical Genetics

image of Medical Genetics wall sign at west entrance


Welcome to the Department of Medical Genetics

This is a very exciting time for the field of Medical Genetics, with almost daily advances occurring in our understanding of the causes of human disease. Our department, through integration of clinical care, education, and basic research, is striving to translate these medical genetics advances into improved health for Canadians.

Our Department consists of an exceptional and dedicated group of scientists, clinicians, technical and support staff, and trainees who have come together with a shared vision of increasing the understanding of the causes and consequences of genetic disease, in improving diagnosis and patient care, and in educating other professionals and the public about medical genetics.

We offer formal courses for graduate students and train medical students in medical genetics. Graduate training is available for both Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. The Department also participates in the M.D./Ph.D. program of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.


This web site is designed to orient you to ongoing Medical Genetics degree programs, courses, faculty, staff, facilities, research and clinical activities.


Welcome to the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Alberta. Genetics underpins every aspect of life, contributing not only to our rich diversity, but also influencing health and disease. In 2020, we celebrate 17 years since the sequencing of the human genome. So much has changed in that time. Today, sequencing costs have dropped considerably paving the way for our community to realize a future rich in the benefits of genomic medicine. We, in Medical Genetics, are excited to lead the way in this endeavour.

Most of us have become acquainted with genetic testing in its many different forms: from direct to consumer testing seeking to clarify ancestry, predictive genetic testing aiming to identify healthy people predisposed to genetic disease or genetic testing offered as part of a medical diagnostic and therapeutic work up. In Medical Genetics, we understand the complexities involved in incorporating genetic information into a patient’s overall healthcare plan and we serve to provide leadership in the various aspects of genomic medicine and biology.

Collaboration is a value within our department. We are a community of scientists and clinicians who teach, research and deliver clinical care through the use of innovative techniques and discoveries. At the core of our diverse department are our people who work hard to achieve these goals with integrity.

Scientific leadership in our department focuses on several areas of genetics. Our research laboratories are equipped to study human single gene disorders utilizing a functional biology approach. We make use of state of the art genomic technology complemented by transgenic animal models to achieve this task. The mechanistic understanding gained from interrogating single gene disorders does not solely benefit a small group of people. At a genomic level, other common human diseases may share similar disease mechanisms, and therefore, any knowledge gained also serves to benefit the greater community as a whole. We play a pivotal role in developing and promoting therapeutic approaches to genetic disease. It is our goal to translate any advances made in the laboratory to the hospital setting in order to enhance health outcomes.

Our department hosts a team of highly specialized clinicians including Clinical and Metabolic geneticists, and genetic counsellors. Our clinicians provide expertise in a number of different areas of genomic and biochemical medicine, supported by a dedicated team of administrative staff. Our clinic has served the community for over 50 years and we champion diversity and center on the ability of a patient to make informed decisions about their genetic care. Our team is well aware of the hardships facing individuals and families affected by a rare disease and are skilled at identifying the available community supports which may be helpful. We are actively involved in patient centred genetic research, collaborating with like-minded groups both within Canada and internationally. The clinical service depends heavily on complex genetic tests undertaken in our diagnostic laboratories. We have invested heavily into these facilities ensuring the best services possible for the community.

At the very heart of our department are the graduate students who will one day themselves become scientific and medical leaders in our community. We celebrate the curiosity of those who are interested in learning about genomics and we invite them to join our graduate program for a journey of discovery. We are committed to training basic scientists in human genetics and educating medical students, residents and specialists in all aspects of translational genomic medicine.

The University of Alberta has recently outlined and committed to delivering a Personalised Medicine approach for our community. What does this mean for each of us? Unlocking the secrets held by ones blueprint for growth and development has tremendous potential. In addition to enabling accurate diagnosis, the data contained in our genes can also predict treatment response and side-effects. Realizing the full potential of this information will one day enable a physician to customize treatment based on the individual’s genetic make-up. This coming decade will see the advent of novel treatments for rare genetic conditions previously thought incurable. As the genetic cause of more and more diseases are solved, the hope of one day identifying a cure or treatment will materialize.

The Department of Medial Genetics at the University of Alberta has been providing leadership for our community for close to a quarter of a century. As Chair, I look forward to blazing this trail and encourage you to join with us in this exciting decade of discovery!

Peter Kannu, MB ChB, DCH, PhD, FRACP, FRCPC
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Medical Genetics
University of Alberta