research grants. Most of the support for basic research into domestic animal genomes, such as determining the billions of individual base pairs that make up the genetic sequence of each mammal, is likely to come from research grants, said Wyse, and most of those grants will come from the federal government. This type of funding has two important functions, Wyse said.
“We think it is very important to have the funding to increase the knowledge base,” he said. So determining the cattle genome, for instance, is valuable in itself. However, Wyse also noted the importance of securing human resources, stating that “…it is equally important to get a competitive grants program to allow us to build the human resources that are necessary for not only doing the science, but commercializing the science.” The benefits of increasing human resources in this field will be broad ranging, and spread across different types of institutions, Wyse said. “If you are a small company now in the animal genome space and you are looking to hire really good people, there aren’t very many out there. It is going to be important that we populate our universities with research funds so that we can train that next generation to do research in this area.”
The issue of which federal agencies most likely would provide the basis for research on domestic animal genomes generated a great deal of discussion at the workshop. Most of the federal funding for sequencing the human genome came from two agencies, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Energy (DOE). The NIH was interested in the human genome because of its importance to medicine and improving human health, while the DOE’s genome effort stemmed from its long interest in the threat that radiation poses to human health—particularly its ability to cause genetic mutations. From one perspective, the NIH and DOE are well positioned to oversee research into domestic animal genomes, for they already have strong support for genomics, some of which could be applied to domestic animal research. On the other hand, NIH and DOE traditionally have focused on humans and on animals, such as the mouse, that serve as traditional laboratory models for disease, and domestic animals traditionally have not been part of their domains.
By contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with its mission for improving agricultural productivity in the United States, would seem to be appropriate for initiating further sequencing of domestic animal genomes, but its budget requests and allocations traditionally have not accounted for increased genomics research. Thus, workshop participants discussed the best ways to match their research objectives to the goals and missions of these various government agencies.