16th December 2008

£3M funding to decode genomes of 17 mouse strains

Genome Boost for Genetics Researchers


The new £3 million programme will sequence the genomes of 17 mouse strains most commonly used in biomedical research.

Leading research funders are boosting genetics research by awarding £3 million (US$4.4M) to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute to sequence the genomes of 17 mouse strains widely used in biomedical research. The award is made by the UK's Medical Research Council (£2.3M, US$3.4M) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (£0.6M, US$0.89M). The sequences will be made openly available to the research community.

The three-year project will use next-generation sequencing technologies to produce high-quality sequence for each of the strains. Mouse models are important for research into many human diseases. The DNA sequences of these 17 strains will help to identify and characterize many human disease-related genes.

Dr David Adams, Investigator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, who will lead the project, says: "This award is a great boost for researchers around the world working to understand the genetic components of disease. We have already carried out pilot studies to guide our approach and can now move forward swiftly to deliver these new resources."

Within the next 18 months, the team will use next-generation sequencing technologies to produce draft sequences of each strain. In order to maximise the benefits of this work, the draft sequences will be freely released to the research community through the Ensembl genome browser. Once these draft sequences are complete the team will then move towards a final draft of each strain.

" This award is a great boost for researchers around the world working to understand the genetic components of disease "

Dr David Adams

Importantly, all groups who use these strains globally will be able to move quickly from knowledge of the often large genomic regions that contribute to variation to precise analysis of specific variants. The genome sequences will help them to home in on the gene or genes of interest, spending less time on finding the variant and more time and resources understanding the biological mechanisms.

"Mouse strains differ from each other in a wide range of medically important characteristics, and these differences are a result of complex genetic variations between them," says Professor Ian Jackson, Senior Scientist at the MRC Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh. "By obtaining the complete genome sequences of each strain, we can identify all these genetic differences and these will allow us to discover the fundamental biological processes that result in these models of common human disease. The new sequencing technologies now allow us to deliver this sequence quickly and at a reasonable cost."

The team have already carried out a pilot to guide this major effort, producing sequences from a region of mouse chromosome 17 that contains many of the genes involved in the immune system. These results reveal the amount of sequence data they must generate in order to provide high-quality genomes to the community.

Capitalizing on complementary skills, the new programme is a collaboration between the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, MRC Mammalian Genetics Unit (Oxford), MRC Human Genetics Unit (Edinburgh), the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (Oxford), the European Bioinformatics Institute and the Jackson Lab in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA. An international scientific advisory board of leading mouse researchers will also support this project.

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute played a pivotal role in the genome reference sequence of the mouse strain called C57BL/6J: this sequence and its gene collection are available through the Ensembl genome browser and continue to be one of the most-used genomic resources.

Notes to Editors

Mouse strains

More than 400 mouse strains have been used in research. The vast majority of researchers study one or more of the 17 strains to be sequenced during this project.

A draft of the genome sequence of a mouse strain called C57BL/6J was produced in a two-year, private-public programme that started in October 2000. The new project will produce genome sequences of 17 strains in three years.


The UK Medical Research Council has awarded £2.3M, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation £0.6M for the sequencing project. Additional in-house support will be provided by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Medical Research Council

The Medical Research Council supports the best scientific research to improve human health. Its work ranges from molecular level science to public health medicine and has led to pioneering discoveries in our understanding of the human body and the diseases which affect us all.

The Jackson Laboratory

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, U.S.A., with a facility in Sacramento, California. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human diseases, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community. The Laboratory is the world's source for more than 4,000 strains of genetically defined mice, is home of the mouse genome database and is an international hub for scientific courses, conferences, training and education.

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

JDRF is a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide, and is the largest charitable funder and advocate of type 1 research. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Type 1 diabetes is a disease which strikes children and adults suddenly and requires multiple injections of insulin daily or a continuous infusion of insulin through a pump. Insulin, however, is not a cure for diabetes, nor does it prevent its eventual and devastating complications which may include kidney failure, blindness, heart disease, stroke, and amputation. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than £870 million (US$1.3 billion) to diabetes research, including more than £104 million (US$156M) in the financial 2008. In the financial year 2008 the Foundation funded more than 1,000 centres, grants and fellowships in 22 countries.

Participants and Websites

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute

The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, which receives the majority of its funding from the Wellcome Trust, was founded in 1992. The Institute is responsible for the completion of the sequence of approximately one-third of the human genome as well as genomes of model organisms and more than 90 pathogen genomes. In October 2006, new funding was awarded by the Wellcome Trust to exploit the wealth of genome data now available to answer important questions about health and disease.


The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. We support the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. Our breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. We are independent of both political and commercial interests.


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