by Dr. Carol Beuchat, PhD
About a year ago I started the Global Pedigree Project. Since then, it's become clear to me and both scientists and breeders that there needs to be a central place where breeders to go where they can get whatever expertise they need to solve the many problems that many face with the management of genetic disorders. Finding the gene doesn't make the problem go away. Breeders need solutions that will produce healthier dogs, not by trying to throw out the "bad" genes, but by restoring the gene pool with the genes necessary to produce a healthy dogs. But there was no place for breeders to go to get the expertise and resources they need.
So, in a fit of frustration (and hubris), I have created the Institute of Canine Biology. I envision it as a Mayo Clinic for dogs in cyberspace, a consortium of scientists of diverse expertise and a global network of breeders. Solving the genetic problems is going to require many kinds of expertise - population geneticists to figure out what genes are where in breeds that are scattered all over the world, sometimes in isolated populations; geneticists who can do the DNA analysis necessary; animal scientists who know how to use pedigree and DNA information to devise breeding strategies to address the current problems, solve them, then help breeders meet their goals while at the same time protecting the core of the genome necessary for a healthy dog.
I'm making this up as I go along. The goal is for it to help both breeders and scientists meet their goals. When scientists need more DNA samples, we shouldn't have to depend on the members of a breed club to rustle up donors when there are thousands of pet owners the world over who would be happy to help if they knew anything about it - but they're not in the loop. Breeders shouldn't have to crowd-source solutions to their problems on Facebook, relying on anecdotes, opinions, and experiences of self-appointed "breed experts".
If you are concerned about genetic problems in your breed, let's add a page to the website and get some heads together to make a plan. It will be very useful for other breeders to see this being done. For me to keep it going, we're going to have to attract some funding - it has turned into a full time job that needs to produce some income so I don't have to rely on photography, because I can't do both. If you have skills in fundraising, I'd love to talk.
Here's the site - http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org
This website is very crude - most will need editing, much needs to be added, but it's a start. The scientists on board so far are extremely enthusiastic - they do think as I do that the present way we're doing things is inefficient for everyone, and that we need to turn the focus away from "finding the gene" and towards working on solutions to the underlying genetic problems by focusing on restoring the broken genome. They ARE doing this elsewhere in the world, and people involved in those programs can help us join the process.
Something we need ASAP is somebody who can help us establish non-profit status - either somebody who knows how to do the paperwork and will donate some time, or somebody who can support some funds to have it done. Once that is done, we can accept donations through the website from anywhere in the world that will be tax-deductible (at least in the US).
I'd love your thoughts. I'd love your help. If you want to get your breed page started, let me know.
Dr. Carol Beuchat, PhD