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Preliminary cocoa genome sequence made public

Mars Incorporated, the US Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and IBM publicly released the preliminary findings of their breakthrough cocoa genome sequence last week.

The preliminary sequencing of the cocoa genome is the first step in advancing farmers’ ability to plant more robust, higher yielding and drought and disease-resistant trees.

“As the global leader in cocoa science, we understand the importance of not only investing in this research, but making it publicly available for all to benefit,” said Head of plant science and research Howard-Yana Shapiroat at Mars.

"Mars is in a unique position to drive and fund fundamental science that will support its long term focus and vision.  Although it may not benefit the bottom line in the short term, in the long run, it will ensure mutually beneficial results for the company, cocoa farmers and tree crop production in key regions of the world.”

The collaboration with Mars and the USDA-ARS leverages more than a decade of IBM Research experience in computational biology, as well as the power of the Blue Gene supercomputer, according to senior manager Ajay Royyuru at IBM Computational Biology Centre.

“By assembling the sequence fragments into the complete genome sequence and developing a detailed genetic map, we can help maximize the potential yield and income for cocoa farmers and catalyse future research and endeavours involving the cocoa tree,” Mr Royyuru said.

The results of the research are available via the Cacao Genome Database: www.cacaogenomedb.org.

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