In August, Ralston Purina Company announced the establishment of the Purina Pet Institute in St Louis. One of the chief endeavors of the institute will be support and study of the canine genome mapping program and molecular nutrition through the Purina Genome Laboratory.
Recently Purina funded a postdoctoral fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where canine geneticists from Cornell University's Baker Institute are also involved in canine genome mapping (see story, page 1451).
Stephen Hannah, PhD, senior nutrition scientist in Ralston Purina's Pet Nutrition and Research Department, believes good nutrition for a pet starts with an understanding of its genetic background. The molecular biologic approach to the field of nutrition allows scientists to characterize metabolic pathways, diseases, and the growth and development of an animal. It also allows them to monitor the modulation of gene expression in response to nutrition.
The Purina Genome Laboratory also houses the Purina Canine Reference Family DNA Distribution Center, which provides reference family DNA samples to canine gene mappers from around the world. Researchers working with the same reference family DNA can merge their individual findings into a single, more complete map, which is useful for identification of specific genes. Concurrently, Purina is working with the National Institutes of Health to assist in the feline genome mapping effort.
Pet welfare initiatives are another vital part of the Purina Pet Institute, and include the Healthy Pets 21 Consortium, a think tank of some of the leaders in the pet health and welfare community, designed to improve the health and well-being of dogs and cats and the quality of their relationships with people.