NEW YORK — On Jan. 9, Mars Petcare announced a partnership with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to develop an open-access cat and dog genome database. According to Mars, the database will be one of the world’s largest, building upon the company’s BioBank initiative to help advance pet health care and nutrition.
Broad Institute is one of the world’s leaders in genetic information, providing biobanks with data and creating databases and tools to further the study of genetics and disease.
“The opportunity to better understand cat and dog genetics through specifically designed gene sequencing studies is an important milestone that will help us deliver on our purpose: A Better World For Pets,” said Nefertiti Greene, president of Mars Petcare Science & Diagnostics. “Together with our partners at the Broad Institute we hope to find several key ways to provide clinically focused, real-world data. This is essential for developing more effective precision medicines and that lead to scientific breakthroughs for the future of pet health.”
Genomes from 20,000 dogs and cats in the MARS PETCARE BIOBANK™ project, which launched June 2022, will be sequenced during the next 10 years and included in the database to provide insights on pet health and helping to further individualized health care. The data will be publicly available via the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Sequence Read Archive, offering detailed pet breed ancestry, genetic mutations linked to pet diseases and pets’ aging process.
“Our latest initiative with the Broad Institute is hugely exciting when it comes to advancing preventive pet care,” said Jennifer Welser, DVM, DACVO, chief medical officer at Mars Veterinary Health. “This project could help us further understand how we can build individualized pet care solutions for each unique dog or cat, which has the potential to become part of routine healthcare practice.
“As veterinarians, we’re always looking to improve patient outcomes and for new ways to solve some of the most pressing pet healthcare challenges such as obesity, skin conditions, dental disease, infectious and zoonotic diseases, orthopedic disorders and, of course, cancer,” she added. “I look forward to seeing how the open access data can enable new insights supporting individualized pet health.”
Mars will release the first genome sequence in 2023 with additional pet data to follow as more pets are enrolled in the project. Sequencing and analysis will be led by Elinor Karlsson, director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at Broad Institute and professor of bioinformatics and integrative biology at UMass Chan Medical School. Data will be published in 2023.
“We’re excited to partner with Mars Petcare to establish an open access resource of full-genome sequences for thousands of pet cats and dogs living in homes across the United States,” Karlsson said. “Making this data fully accessible to the global scientific community will provide new insight into the ancient origins of dogs and cats — who have lived by our sides for thousands of years — and support research projects focused on improving healthcare for pets living today.”
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