Genographic Project - First Large-scale DNA-based Effort to Trace Human Spread Across Globe       

Medical, Health Informatics and Computational Biology Accomplishment | 2005

IBM researchers: Ajay Royyuru, Laxmi Parida, Dan Platt

Where the work was done: IBM T.J. Watson Research Center

What we accomplished:The Genographic Project seeks to chart new knowledge about the migratory history of the human species by using sophisticated laboratory and computer analysis of DNA contributed by hundreds of thousands of people from around the world. In this unprecedented and real-time research effort, the Genographic Project is closing the gaps of what science knows today about humankind's ancient migrations.

Launched in April 2005, the collaboration between IBM and the National Geographic Society is creating a comprehensive knowledge base of our shared genetic heritage, a unique resource that continues to refine our understanding of human history. Although the general story of human migration was known, the Genographic Project is adding details that expand our understanding of our ancestors’ long, winding roads out of Africa. For example, there are genetic indications that the earliest humans may have split into separate population for thousands of years before rejoining. And traces of a European DNA signature found in the Middle East may date to the crusades between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. Beyond the 100,000 participants originally sought, the Genographic Project is also open to the public. More than 450,000 individuals responded purchasing a kit that enables them to submit a DNA sample for analysis to discover their own genetic heritage in anonymous results available online. Public participants were encouraged to allow their results to be added to the global database, voluntarily and anonymously. Provided us a platform to investigate and develop technologies particularly analytics for very large scale population genomics. The novel analytics (e.g. IRIS) allowed ground breaking reconstruction of ancestral recombination graphs and its application to study of X chromosome recombination in human population – a very high impact outcome that allowed Genographic to extend the project scope from non-recombining (Y, mitochondria) uniparental lineages to a full study of recombinant history of mankind.

Related links: Wikipedia Page on Genographic Project, National Geographic Page, Genographic story for IBM Centennial

Image credit: IBM