Launch of international project on cattle genome

A US$53-million international project to sequence the cattle genome, involving CSIRO, was launched today (1pm, Friday, 12 December US, 5am Saturday, 13 December AEST) in Washington, United States.

The joint sequencing effort is led by the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and also involves United States Department of Agriculture; the State of Texas; Genome Canada; and Agritech Investments Ltd, Dairy Insight Inc. and AgResearch Ltd, all of New Zealand.

“We are extremely proud to be participating in this research project,” says US Agriculture Secretary, Ann Veneman. “The results of the sequencing promise to benefit human health by contributing to its knowledge, as well as having an impact on the dairy and beef industries by advancing the health and disease management of beef and dairy cattle, and improving the nutritional value of beef and dairy products.”

CSIRO Livestock Industries’ Chief Shaun Coffey announced in July that CSIRO is contributing AU$1.5 million to the Bovine Genome Sequencing Project.

“CSIRO’s involvement places the Australian livestock industry at the forefront of international research and provides strong prospects for market advantage,” he says.

“Currently the gross value of livestock-derived products in Australia is approximately Aus$15 billion per annum and the greater part of this comes from cattle and sheep products. It is a figure anticipated to increase significantly in the future as a result of sequencing of the bovine genome,” he says.

Expected benefits include the ability to: identify genes that control growth efficiency, muscle development and milk composition; and, to breed disease resistant cattle and sheep.

According to the leader of the Australia-based research team, CSIRO’s Ross Tellam, information gained about the sequence will be made freely available to all interested researchers.

“The ’intellectual property’ rights will be derived from how we use the sequence, not the sequence itself,” Dr Tellam says.

“Australia is in a good position to capitalise on the information that will be generated from sequencing the bovine genome as we have the necessary infrastructure and expertise to maximise the gains from this sequencing,” he says.

Scheduled for completion by the end of 2005, the project is expected to drive the creation of innovative products and solutions to current production problems within the livestock industry.

The bovine genome is similar in size to the genomes of humans and other mammals, with an estimated size of three billion base pairs. Besides its potential for improving dairy and meat products and enhancing food safety, adding the genomic sequence of the cow (Bos taurus) to the growing list of sequenced animal genomes will help researchers learn more about the human genome.

NHGRI is one of the 27 institutes and centres at NIH, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at www.genome.gov [external link – new window]

More information:
Ross Tellam, CSIRO, mobile: 0409 775 044
Shaun Coffey, CSIRO, mobile: 0419 788 839

Media assistance:
Emma Homes, CSIRO, mobile: 0409 236 152

Media Contact

Rosie Schmedding CSIRO

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