Koala Genome Framework Data Initiative
Access to the koala genome offers considerable research benefits.
For the first time scientists working on koala biology have access to their full genetic map of around 20,000 genes (Koala Genome Consortium). So far the data has uncovered many unique koala genes such as those related to their remarkable ability to survive on a specialised diet as well as the surprising finding that some koala genes are associated with human diseases such as bowel and breast cancer.
Most koalas living on mainland Australia (95%) are infected with koala retrovirus, which is thought to be involved in causing Koala Immune Deficiency Syndrome (KIDS), an AIDS-like syndrome that causes infected koalas to become more susceptible to infectious disease and cancer. The koala dataset genome mapping project was set up to uncover how and why koalas respond to infectious diseases. Koala retrovirus and chlamydia are decimating koala populations in NSW and Queensland and the sequencing data is providing critical information on koala immunity and vaccine development for these diseases in particular.
This Bioplatforms Australia Framework Data Initiative is led by Prof Rebecca Johnson from the Australian Museum Research Institute in partnership with the University of the Sunshine Coast and the University of New South Wales.
This project is part of a co-funding arrangement with the Australian Museum Foundation, Queensland University of Technology, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the ARC Linkage Scheme. To access the genomic and transcriptomic data sequenced by the Koala Genome Consortium please see the data availability section of the Genome paper from Nature Genetics.