Additional £25k granted to the Animal Health Trust to create larger and more powerful genome bank to improve dog health
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust has granted a further £25,000 to Give a Dog a Genome, the pioneering initiative from leading UK veterinary charity, the Animal Health Trust (AHT), to improve canine health by applying the latest genome sequencing technology to canine genetics research.
The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT, which is run by Dr Cathryn Mellersh, is world-renowned for its genetic research to better understand, and eradicate, inherited diseases in purebred dogs. This is being achieved through developing highly sophisticated DNA tests which help dog breeders find suitable mates so that fewer puppies are born with known inherited conditions, such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, a blinding condition known to affect multiple breeds.
Give a Dog a Genome aims to expedite this research by analysing the whole genome (2.4 billion letters of DNA) of dogs of different breeds to build up a canine genome bank as a permanent resource to aid future genetics research studies.
The project was launched at the beginning of 2016 with a grant of £50,000 from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. This was enough funding to sequence 25 genomes, or half the funding required to sequence the genomes of 50 different dogs. The AHT then used a crowdfunding technique to double the funding by asking breed communities to donate £1,000 to secure their breed one of the 50 places available on the project, helping to create the UK's largest canine genome bank.
Demand from breed communities to be included on the project has been extremely high. The extra £25,000 grant from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust will enable the AHT to expand the number of genomes, and breeds, to be included in the research. Now, one genome of 75 different breeds, instead of 50 breeds as originally proposed, will be sequenced via the same Kennel Club and breed community match-funded principle.
This will create an even larger and more diverse canine genome bank which will be an invaluable tool for better understanding the basis of genetic diseases. All research findings will contribute towards the AHT's ability to pinpoint changes in DNA which cause inherited disease in purebred dogs faster, to the potential benefit of all dog breeds.
Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT, said: "To be able to secure this additional funding is very exciting and means we're able to both meet the demand from breed communities for this type of research, but also the more genomes we can sequence and learn from now, the more powerful these data are going to be. And that's good news for all breeds of dog.
"The main aim of this research is to gain a much better understanding of which DNA changes are neutral and those which are likely to have a negative effect on dog health, by using whole genome sequencing technology to look very closely at all 2.4 billion letters of DNA in a dog's genome. We believe this will have profound effects on our ability to identify mutations which cause inherited diseases in purebred dogs, and the rate at which we can develop new DNA tests as tools for breeders in the future.
"We're really grateful to the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for continuing to support this project. The 75 places have already been filled for 2016 as so many breeds were keen to be included in this project when it was first launched. However, we have started a waiting list for those breeds who may want to be involved in Give a Dog a Genome next year if we're able to run a 'phase two' of the project."
Steve Dean, Chairman of Trustees at the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: "We are very excited to announce this extra funding from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust for the Give a Dog a Genome project.
"The project will revolutionise canine genetics research and is a hugely important project for the future of dog health, and is another example of the pioneering and fantastic work being carried out by the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust."
For more information on the Give a Dog a Genome initiative, please visit www.aht.org.uk/gdg.