New funding to boost animal genome analysis

BBSRC grant will establish infrastructure to probe DNA sequences of already decoded domesticated farm animals.

Scientists at The Roslin Institute in Scotland are aiming to unlock the vast amounts of information held within farmed animal genomes with the help of a 1.9 million British pound boost from the U.K.'s Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

The new funding will establish infrastructure to probe the DNA sequences from domesticated animals that have already been decoded.

It will provide an important framework for the discovery of genetic variation in domesticated animals and how that influences their characteristics. For example, it will help to uncover genes that are responsible for disease resistance in chickens or greater milk production in cows.

Today, technology to sequence DNA is both rapid and relatively cheap, resulting in vast quantities of available data to make new discoveries.

"Our knowledge of the functional elements and, in particular, of the regulatory sequences within these animal genomes is limited," the institute said. "Identifying the functional elements within the genome and the consequence of variation in these functional sequences is essential for understanding the consequences encoded in the sequences and how we can influence characteristics in breeding programmes, for example."

Genome sequences are available for many domesticated animals, including poultry (chicken, turkey and duck), livestock (cattle, pig, goat and sheep), fish (cod, tilapia and salmon) and companion animals (dog and horse).

The new grant will establish hardware and computer capacity at The Roslin Institute, The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), together with software, to enable the functional annotation of animal genomes, the announcement said.

This BBSRC grant will provide key infrastructure for the participation of Roslin, TGAC and EMBL-EBI in the recently launched international collaborative Functional Annotation of Animal Genomes (FAANG) initiative.

The FAANG initiative is concerned with addressing the need for high quality annotated genomes as key sources of information and critical for contemporary research in the biological sciences. It is valuable not only to academic researchers, but also to scientists working in animal breeding, animal health and pharmaceutical industries. This project is concerned with the infrastructure for delivering high quality annotated reference genomes to enable research on economically important animals.

BBSRC chief executive Jackie Hunter said, "This recent funding is one example of BBSRC strengthening investment in big data infrastructure so that scientists can access vast quantities of data to create the knowledge that will be needed to tackle the challenges of tomorrow."

Professor Alan Archibald, head of genetics and genomics at The Roslin Institute, added, "Research on domesticated animals has important benefits, including improvements in agriculture, animal health and welfare and medical research.

"Improving our understanding of the functional elements of farmed animal genomes will help us to understand how we might be able to influence characteristics such as disease resistance, through breeding programs, for example," Archibald concluded.

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