Mars Petcare Partners with Broad Institute to Establish Open-Access Biobank Database of Dog and Cat Genomes

Mars Petcare Partners with Broad Institute to Establish Open-Access Biobank Database of Dog and Cat Genomes
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  • The genome database will power ongoing scientific efforts worldwide and help advance individualized pet healthcare
  • Insights from this partnership will feed into the MARS PETCARE BIOBANK™, a longitudinal study to understand pet health and disease, transforming pet care for future generations of dogs and cats
  • Mars Petcare Science & Diagnostics President, Nefertiti Greene, hailed the partnership as an “important milestone” and “integral to drive scientific breakthroughs for the future of pet health”

Mars Petcare is partnering with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a world leader in the genetic and molecular analysis of diseases, to create one of the largest open-access cat and dog genome databases in the world.

Genomes from 10,000 dogs and 10,000 cats enrolled in the MARS PETCARE BIOBANK™ initiative will be sequenced over the next 10 years. Insights from the open-access database can help advance individualized pet health care for future generations of dogs and cats.

The full genome sequence and variant data of the 20,000 pets will be made publicly available via the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) Sequence Read Archive, enabling scientific investigation across a range of areas, such as in-depth dog- and cat-breed ancestry, new genetic mutations specific to certain dog and cat breeds and how they link to diseases, as well as pets’ aging process.

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Mars Petcare anticipates releasing the first raw genome sequences as soon as they become available throughout 2023, with additional, processed data to follow as pets are enrolled in the biobank study. Mars Petcare scientists will be analyzing data and publishing initial results for the scientific community throughout 2023 and beyond.

Nefertiti Greene, Mars Petcare Science & Diagnostics President, said:

“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. 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.”

By connecting the in-depth genome sequencing data to biological samples, health and lifestyle data from 20,000 dogs and cats in the MARS PETCARE BIOBANK™ study, Mars Petcare aims to find new ways to prevent or predict a wide range of conditions so that veterinary teams can provide tailored solutions to individual pets and improve health outcomes.

Jennifer Welser, DVM, DACVO, Chief Medical Officer, Mars Veterinary Health, said:

“Our latest initiative with the Broad Institute is hugely exciting when it comes to advancing preventive pet care. 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. I look forward to seeing how the open access data can enable new insights supporting individualized pet health.”

Sequencing and analysis will be spearheaded by Elinor Karlsson, director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group at Broad Institute and professor of bioinformatics and integrative biology at UMass Chan Medical School. The Broad Institute is a world leader in providing genetic information for biobank projects, creating the databases and tools that have made possible systematic studies of the genetic basis of disease.

Prof Elinor Karlsson, Director of the Vertebrate Genomics Group, Broad Institute, said:

“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. 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.”

The MARS PETCARE BIOBANK™ and genome sequencing initiatives are part of Mars Petcare’s long-standing commitment to investing in science, technology and innovation. The company has a well-established history in driving transformative pet health innovation through the Waltham Petcare Science Institute, which has focused on pet health for over 50 years; and through Mars Veterinary Health, a network of 2,500 veterinary clinics and Antech diagnostic labs across more than 20 countries.

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