A team of international researchers has unlocked the genetic code for swine, which is expected to produce advancements in agriculture, medicine, conservation and evolution.

The milestone achievement, announced today at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England, cost about $24.3 millon, including a $10-million investment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $750,000 from the Pork Checkoff.

“This exciting scientific breakthrough can lead to new research applications and innovations at many points in the pork chain, and it’s one that the Pork Checkoff is proud to have helped fund,” says Everett Forkner, Richards, MO, pork producer and member of the National Pork Board.

The draft sequence of the genome, which is 98% complete, used a Duroc pig from the University of Illinois. The work will allow researchers to pinpoint genes that are useful to pork production or are involved in immunity or other important physiological processes in the pig. It will enhance breeding practices, offer insight into swine disease and assist in the preservation of the global heritage of rare, endangered and wild pigs.

The findings will also be vital in the study of human health, as pigs as very similar to humans in their physiology, behavior and nutritional needs.

“This is a great day for the pig research community,” says professor Alan Archibald of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. “When we launched the international pig-gene mapping project almost 20 years ago, few if any of us thought a pig genome sequence was attainable or affordable.”

Larry Schook, University of Illinois professor of biomedical sciences, has been a leader of the sequencing project. “The pig is a unique animal that is important for food and that is used as an animal model for human disease. And because the native wild animals are still in existence, it is a really exciting animal to look at to learn about the genomic effects of domestication.”

National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak observes: “Research is an important part of the mission of the Pork Checkoff. All U.S. pork producers should be proud of their contribution to this ground-breaking research that is expected to yield dividends for both producers and consumers. Unlocking the secrets of the pig’s genetic code should help secure a brighter future for all pork producers at the same time it is offering insights into human health. That’s a victory for everybody.”