Horse genomics experts from around the world have issued a statement regarding the application of genomics in the equine industries.

The statement outlines the values of scientists working in the broad area of horse genomics.

The statement was discussed and drafted at a recent Horse Genome Workshop meeting, which took place Sept. 12-15 in Pavia, Italy. This meeting was the latest in a series beginning in 1995 with the goal of fostering collaboration among scientists to create and use genomic tools for the benefit of the horse and the horse industry. Scientists have met regularly under the auspices of the Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation, the International Society for Animal Genetics, and the United States Department of Agriculture NRSP8 program. They have also participated in workshops leading to mapping the horse genome, development of the whole genome sequence for the horse, and development of tools for studies of gene expression in different tissues.

Since the beginning of the workshop, scientists have used the information to identify genes responsible for many simple hereditary traits and have developed prediction models for more complex traits. Breakthroughs arising from these research efforts are also revealing the fine details of the biochemical and cellular pathways that underpin performance, immunology, reproduction, and infectious disease response and could ultimately lead to novel management approaches.

“When these efforts began over 20 years ago, one of our challenges was to foster trust and collaboration among participants,” said Ernest Bailey, PhD, professor of genetics and genomics at the University of Kentucky’s Maxwell H. Gluck Equine Research Center, in Lexington. “In light of our successes, this statement underlines our commitment to work in concert with all elements of the horse industry to ensure health and success for their endeavors.”

The equine genomics research community said it recognizes there are challenges facing the translation of the outcomes from the Horse Genome Project into practice. Therefore, the scientists discussed and agreed the best approach to the application of the outcomes of their research.

They agreed the following key principles:

  • Scientific discovery should be reproducible and subject to the peer-review process;
  • Scientific research projects must conform to best practice in relation to owners’ consent for sample use and research ethics;
  • Industry stakeholders must be provided with educational opportunities so scientific developments can be communicated for translation into practice in the ways that will have the greatest potential to benefit horses;
  • Clear differentiation must be made between scientific developments, commercial opportunity, and opinion;
  • Some genetic tests can be diagnostic for the presence or absence of a trait while others can be used as a screening and selection tool for prediction of potential to develop a trait; and
  • The integration of genetic information with traditional breeding approaches will be important for the sustainability of a healthy horse population in the future.

The statement also reiterated that the genomics research community continues to welcome collaboration and cooperation with the equine industries.

The Consensus Statement on the Translation and Application of Genomics in the Equine Industries is available at horsegenomeworkshop.com/values.