$8 million grant to fund Rat Genome Database at MCW

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four-year, $8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to fund the Rat Genome Database (RGD), a unique, globally-accessible collection of data from ongoing rat genetic and genomic research efforts.

Howard J. Jacob, Ph.D., the Warren P. Knowles Professor of Genetics and director of MCW's Human and Molecular Genetics Center, is the primary investigator on the grant.

The RGD was established at MCW in 1999 by Dr. Jacob and Peter J. Tonellato, Ph.D., senior research scientist at Harvard Medical School, to collect, consolidate and integrate data from genetic and genomic research into rat models and make the data widely available to the scientific community. Additionally, the RGD holds complete files of rat, human and mouse genes, as well as files on specific animal strains. 

RGD contains nearly 4.5 million functional data annotations for rat, human and mouse genes and information on 500,000 disease-specific annotations. In 2014, more than 180,000 users in 190 countries accessed RGD for scientific research data.

"The rat is a model organism for investigating the biology and pathophysiology of disease," said Dr. Jacob. "Additionally, our bioinformaticians under Dr. Mary Shimoyama, assistant professor of surgery and bioinformatics, have created tools to allow users to seamlessly move from the rat genomic region to the corresponding human genomic region, and to create comprehensive summaries of information on all three species in a single report, both of which are valuable tools to genomics researchers."

Including the new grant, funding for RGD has exceeded $35 million. The information curated within is free for users. Those users include research and academic institutions, medical schools and healthcare institutions, and pharmacy and biotechnology companies.

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