Fauna Bio Analyzes Largest Set Of Mammalian Genomes To Advance Biomedical Research
EMERYVILLE, Calif., Nov. 11, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Fauna Bio today announced that co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Linda Goodman, is a co-author on a study published in Nature as part of an international team of researchers with an effort called the Zoonomia Project. The study, which was led by the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Uppsala University, analyzed and compared the whole genomes of more than 80 percent of all mammalian families, spanning almost 110 million years of evolution. The dataset includes genomes from more than 120 species that were not previously sequenced and captures mammalian diversity at an unprecedented scale.
The dataset is aimed at advancing human health research. Researchers can use the data to compare the genomes of humans and other mammals, which could help identify genomic regions that might be involved in human disease. Fauna Bio is focused on using the data not only to better understand which mutations contribute to human disease but also to pinpoint genes involved in animal disease resistance. Hibernating animals are particularly good models of disease resistance because they are adapted to protect themselves from the many hazards associated with hibernating, including muscle and bone atrophy from lack of use, extreme obesity, and heart damage from dramatic changes in blood flow.
"Applying hibernation biology to human therapeutic discovery is one of Fauna Bio's primary R&D goals, and the scale of this new dataset enables a more powerful approach to identifying potential novel drug targets," said co-author Linda Goodman, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder at Fauna Bio.
The Zoonomia Project builds on a previous project, the 29 Mammals Project, which began sequencing mammalian genomes in 2006. The latest project extends the work by exploring the genomes of species that can perform physiological feats that humans can't, from hibernating squirrels to exceptionally long-lived bats. Zoonomia data have already helped researchers in a recent study to assess the risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 across many species. The researchers identified 47 mammals that have a high likelihood of being reservoirs or intermediate hosts for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
"The core idea for the project was to develop and use this data to help human geneticists figure out which mutations cause disease," said co-senior author Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, scientific director of vertebrate genomics at the Broad Institute and professor in comparative genomics at Uppsala University.
The project also developed tools that will enable researchers to look at every "letter" or base in a mammalian genome sequence and compare it to sequences in equivalent locations in the human genome, including regions likely to be involved in disease. This could help researchers identify genetic sites that have remained the same and functional over evolutionary time and those that have randomly mutated. If a site has remained stable across mammals over millions of years, it probably has an important function, so any change in that site could potentially be linked to disease. "What Zoonomia has accomplished lays the foundation for comparative mammalian biology at scale. Now, Fauna and others can begin the hard work of translating these findings into drug discoveries for patients and their families," said Carlos D. Bustamante, Professor at Stanford, former postdoc advisor to the three Fauna founders, and member of Fauna SAB.
The project was funded in part by the NHGRI, the Swedish Research Council, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Broadnext10, and others.
Adapted from a press release issued by Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and written by Namrata Sengupta.
Zoonomia Consortium. A comparative genomics multitool for scientific discovery and conservation. Nature. Online November 11, 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2876-6
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