BLACKSBURG, Va., November 24, 2009 - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded a 2-year, $908,280 grant to Virginia Tech and the University of Minnesota to complete sequencing the genome of the domesticated turkey, Meleagris gallopavo. The funding will be used by the Turkey Genome Sequencing Consortium to complete the genome sequencing using next-generation sequencing platforms, assemble the genome sequence, and identify genes and functions in the final genome sequence by use of a sophisticated annotation pipeline. The award will also help put in place a bioinformatics and comparative genome resource for both chicken and turkey.
Rami Dalloul, Assistant Professor of Poultry Immunology in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech, remarked: "We are very pleased that the USDA has recognized the value of this strong community-driven effort to fully sequence the turkey genome. The award supports our continued research effort over the next two years to put in place a gold standard genome sequence for the turkey." He added: "The work funded by this grant will take us a long way towards our longer-term goal of discovering ways to improve the immune competence of the turkey. It will also provide invaluable information that will help develop new, more effective strategies for disease prevention."
Otto Folkerts, Associate Director of Technology Development at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech, commented: "A year ago we announced the start of this project, and since then we have expanded our original consortium by addition of other community stakeholders and experts. Most importantly, two groups, one at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Beltsville Agricultural Research Center led by Curt van Tassell and Julie Long, and the other at the University of Maryland Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology led by Steven Salzberg and Jim York, have made substantial contributions to this project. As a result of this combined effort, we have now generated about 90% of the genome sequence and we plan to release the preliminary data to GenBank at the earliest opportunity to make it available to the scientific community."
Turkey is the fourth most economically important source of meat for consumers in the United States. The genome sequence and genomic resources should provide turkey breeders with the tools needed to improve commercial breeds of turkey for production traits such as meat yield and quality, health and disease resistance, fertility and reproduction.
Ed Smith, Professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences at Virginia Tech, commented: "Over the years, the USDA has funded several projects that have been instrumental in establishing a framework for the complete sequencing and assembly of the turkey genome. The new award provides the crucial support needed to put in place a definitive genetic map of the turkey genome, a map that will serve as a vital resource for the poultry community and other interested scientists around the world."
Kent Reed, Associate Professor of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at The University of Minnesota, commented: "An exciting prospect of this sequencing effort is the ability to compare the turkey genome with those of other species. Results from the initial sequencing are already making an impact on our research. The new sequence will not only provide information on the turkey genome, but will also help refine the chicken genome sequence."
The original participants in the Turkey Genome Sequencing Consortium include: Dave Burt (Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh), Roger Coulombe (Utah State University), Rami Dalloul, Audrey McElroy, Ed Smith, and Eric Wong (Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Virginia Tech), Jerry Dodgson (Michigan State University), Oswald Crasta, Clive Evans, and Otto Folkerts (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech), Rick Jensen (Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science, Virginia Tech), Kent Reed (University of Minnesota), Steven Salzberg, James Yorke, Aleksey Zimin (University of Maryland), Curt van Tassell and Julie Long (USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center).
About Virginia Tech
Founded in 1872 as a land-grant college, Virginia Tech (http://www.vt.edu/) is the most comprehensive university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is among the top research universities in the nation. Today, Virginia Tech's nine colleges are dedicated to quality, innovation, and results through teaching, research, and outreach activities. At its 2,600-acre main campus located in Blacksburg and other campus centers in Northern Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, Southside, and Roanoke, Virginia Tech enrolls more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries in 180 academic degree programs.
About the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of host-pathogen-environment interactions in plants, humans and other animals. By successfully channeling innovation into transdisciplinary approaches that combine information technology and biology, researchers at VBI are addressing some of today's key challenges in the biomedical, environmental and plant sciences. www.vbi.vt.edu
November 22, 2009