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Turkey genome sequencing grant is awarded

Virginia Tech and the University of Minnesota have been awarded a 2-year, $908,280 grant by the USDA 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 2 years to put in place a gold-standard genome sequence for the turkey.”

“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,” he added.

Otto Folkerts, associate director of technology development at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, commented: “…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.”

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: “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.”

Source: Virginia Tech

Natalie Berkhout

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