13 January 2006

U.S. Agriculture Dept. Awards $10 Million To Sequence Pig Genome

United States, United Kingdom, France, Scotland collaborate on two-year project

The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) is awarding $10 million to the University of Illinois to obtain a draft sequence of the swine genome, Secretary Mike Johanns announced January 13.

The two-year project will lead to the development of new DNA-based tools to identify and choose genetically superior pigs that resist infectious diseases, yield larger litter sizes and produce leaner cuts of meat for consumers.

"Pork is the major red meat consumed worldwide," Johanns said. "With more than 61 million pigs in the nation, the sequence of the pig genome will have a significant impact on U.S. agriculture."

The University of Illinois will collaborate with other U.S. organizations and with the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the United Kingdom; and INRA Cellular Genetics Laboratory in Toulouse, France.

The pig genome is similar to the human genome in size, complexity and organization. Because of these similarities, understanding the pig genome could lead to future biomedical advances, such as pig-to-human organ transplants.

More information on USDA animal breeding, genetics and genomics is available on a USDA Web site.

Text of the USDA press release follows:


U.S. Department of Agriculture
Press release 0005.06, January 13, 2006

USDA AWARDS $10 MILLION TO SEQUENCE THE SWINE GENOME

WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2006 Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced today that USDA is awarding $10 million to the University of Illinois to obtain a draft sequence of the swine genome.

"Pork is the major red meat consumed worldwide," Johanns said. "With more than 61 million pigs in the nation, the sequence of the pig genome will have a significant impact on U.S. agriculture."

The two-year project will lead to the development of new DNA-based tools to identify and select genetically superior pigs that resist infectious diseases, yield larger litter sizes, and produce leaner cuts of meat for consumers. "By decoding the sequence of the pig genome, scientists can explore new ways to improve swine health and to increase the efficiency of swine production," said Joseph Jen, USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics.

The pig genome is similar to the human genome in size, complexity and organization. Because of these similarities, understanding the pig genome could lead to future biomedical advances, such as pig-to-human organ transplants.

The USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) administered the grant through the National Research Initiative. The NRI is the largest peer reviewed, competitive grants program in CSREES. It supports research, education and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture.

Additional funding to sequence the pig genome was provided by the National Pork Board, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa State University, North Carolina Pork Council and North Carolina State University.

Several other institutions are collaborating with the University of Illinois, including: Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, Scotland; University of Nevada, Reno; Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, United Kingdom; INRA Cellular Genetics Laboratory, Toulouse, France; USDA Agricultural Research Service Meat Animal Research Center, Clay Center, Neb.; and Iowa State University.

CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.

For more information, visit http://www.csrees.usda.gov.


(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)