The president of the National Research Council (CSIC) and Fundación General CSIC (FGCSIC), Rafael Rodrigo, and the president of Santander Bank, Emilio Botin, have given aid granted under the 2010 Call for Project Zero Endangered Species, which in this field has rewarded five initiatives in Spain. The project coordinator Lynxgenomics for sequencing the genome of the Iberian lynx, Jose Antonio Godoy, collected the prize money that will drive this research.
Rodrigo stated that "Project Zero is the engine of knowledge transfer, the point where public research converges and the private sector," while on the other hand Botin has highlighted the importance of subsidized initiatives, announced that Banco Santander will continue to support this program in subsequent calls.
This line of support was created with the aim of promoting research excellence, unique and extraordinary from a transdisciplinary perspective.It's goal is to promote and fund the running of high impact research projects aimed at protecting and preserving wildlife species that are threatened or endangered.
A total of 41 applications were initially received in the form of expressions of interest. After a final assessment by the evaluation and selection committees, the Foundation decided to award funding to a total of five projects. A budget of 1,085,000 euros has been pledged. Funding will provided by Banco Santander, the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), supplemented with the Fundación General CSIC's own resources.
Sequencing the genome of the Iberian lynx will yield valuable information that might be lost in the near future if the species were to become extinct. At the same time it will generate valuable resources and tools for research on the biology and evolution of the species and its conservation. The study is leaded by Jose Antonio Godoy, of the Biological Station of Doñana (CSIC), and involves a total of six research centers in Spain.
Apart from its interest from the scientific and conservation point of view, this project embraces an important innovative and strategic component. Firstly, the genome of the Iberian lynx will be the first mammal genome to be fully sequenced in Spain, drawing upon the technology potential and experience accumulated in the sequencing and analysis of the genomes of other organisms.
Secondly, it will become one of the first complex genomes sequenced de novo using only new sequencing technologies, and one of the first genomes to be obtained of an endangered species, with the object, inter alia, of aiding in its conservation. The only precedent to date is that of the giant panda, the first draft of the genome of which was published just a few months ago.
Finally, given the iconic nature and high profile of the species, this project will also contribute to disseminating the potential of Spanish science at the national and international level, and highlight the social interest of science.
The main aim of this research is to generate the first map of the Iberian lynx genome, which will provide important information on the evolution of this species and on the genetic consequences of its decline.
The lynx genomic sequence has already been identified by CNAG and is in the process of being assembled. When the process ends, in 2012, the researchers will face a new challenge: interpret it and compare it to other felid genomes.