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Cornell Receives $10M Donation for Dog Genomics Program

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Cornell University has announced the establishment of the world's first canine genomics program with a $10 million gift from an anonymous university trustee.

The donation to Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine is the college's largest single gift ever, Cornell said in a statement, and will support investments in three areas — endowed professorships and faculty startups; DNA sequencing; and the DNA bank.

The money will be used initially to conduct a national search for a tenure-track faculty member in biostatistics to lead the comparative genomics efforts, "a position that will enhance genetics research throughout the College," the university said. Afterward, the school will recruit for a second faculty position in cancer biology.

The gift will endow both positions in perpetuity and provide for opportunities for their holders to secure external funding, Cornell added.

The announcement comes a month after researchers from Stanford University, the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the University of California at Los Angeles published a study on the genetic architecture of dogs that provides insight into physical differences between dogs. The findings also could serve as a reference tool for research into disease in animals and in humans.

According to Michael Kotlikoff, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell, the $10 million donation to the school will allow it to leverage canine genetics for the benefit of man as well as his best friend.

"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," Kotlikoff said. "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."

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