Ensembl was established in 1999, towards the end of the Human Genome Project, in response to a recognition that understanding the genetic code of organisms is as important as reading it. However, purely manual curation of all genome sequences is an unthinkable task, given the labour-intensive and time-consuming nature of such work. To overcome this problem, the Ensembl project team developed new software pipelines to automatically generate evidence-based annotation of genome sequences.
Since its inception, the Ensembl project has expanded from the curation of the human genome to embrace more than 80 vertebrate species. These include many model organisms central to the study of human diseases. Ensembl has participated in many genome consortia, producing annotation used in the initial genomic analyses of newly sequenced organisms.
The project provides an expanding wealth of information for a diverse list of species, including:
Intron and exon structure for protein-coding and non-coding genes
Genomic variations and somatic mutations and their consequences on genes and genotypes in populations and individuals
Cross-species gene trees and whole genome alignments
Functional genomic data - including regulatory region annotation.
To provide the data in the most useful format for researchers, Ensembl provides several means of access including the Ensembl website, which is the public face of the project. It is highly customisable, interactive and presents a track-based genome browser location view as the major entry point. Many additional displays supply specialised and highly integrated views of genomic annotation.
Rapid and open data access
Free and unrestricted access to the information held in Ensembl is one of the foundational principles of the project and supports our vision to enable genomic science and promote rapid research into all areas of human and animal disease.