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Vertebrate Genomes Project produces first set of 16 animal reference genomes

These genome assemblies can help researchers learn more about biodiversity, human health and disease.

The Vertebrate Genomes Project, part of the Genome 10K Community of Scientists, today announced their flagship study and associated publications focused on genome assembly quality and standardization for the field of genomics. Researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) led the informatics component of the studies. The team organized and assembled sequencing data into the eventual diploid genomes of organisms such as the echidna and the platypus. 

With the publication of 16 high quality reference genomes from across vertebrates, the project establishes standards for the new era of biodiversity genomics, and demonstrates how these enable comparative biology, conservation and health research. 

Numerous technological improvements have been made to improve genome assemblies, especially for reference human genomes. As a result, researchers can now use advanced methods such as better long-read sequencing to achieve high-quality near-complete genomes for the nearly 71,000 living vertebrates.  

The papers set the stage for making extensive strides in comparative genomics, with implications for how to address fundamental questions in human biology and disease. These projects are in line with the larger goal of using comparative genomic datasets to improve our understanding of genome function, as laid out by the NHGRI Strategic Vision. 

NHGRI researchers available for media interviews: 

  • Arang Rhie, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow in the Genome Informatics Section at NHGRI and first author of the flagship paper in Nature.  

  • Adam Phillippy, Ph.D., is chair of the Vertebrate Genome Project’s genome assembly and informatics working group, and head of the Genome Informatics Section at NHGRI.  

About NHGRI and NIH

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)  is one of the 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health. At NHGRI, we are focused on advances in genomics research. Building on our leadership role in the initial sequencing of the human genome, we collaborate with the world's scientific and medical communities to enhance genomic technologies that accelerate breakthroughs and improve lives. By empowering and expanding the field of genomics, we can benefit all of humankind. Additional information about NHGRI can be found at https://www.genome.gov.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit https://www.nih.gov.

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Last updated: April 28, 2021