Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has received a $10 million anonymous gift from a university trustee to establish what it says is the world’s first canine genomics program.
The money will be invested in endowed professorships and faculty start-ups, DNA sequencing and the DNA Bank, an archive of DNA and medical information that defines inherited diseases.
“With this gift, we will leverage the information embedded in canine genetics—available after hundreds of years of selective breeding—for the benefit of animals and humans,” said Michael Kotlikoff, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. “We know that each breed possesses a unique and highly similar collection of genes, which confer susceptibility to certain diseases and constitute a stunning opportunity for gene association studies that cannot be performed in people. These investigations can be done non-invasively in dogs and will inform our understanding of the specific genes that result in susceptibility to some of our most serious diseases.”
The college will begin by conducting a national search for a tenure-track faculty member in biostatistics to lead the comparative genomics effort. The next step will involve recruiting for a second faculty position in cancer biology.
The gift, the largest single donation in the college’s history, will endow both positions in perpetuity and provide the opportunity for their holders to secure external research funding, according to Cornell.