Genomic Selection and Selective Biology


What is Genomic Selection?

Genomic Selection (GS) is a novel technology that uses dense molecular genetic markers (tens of thousands of DNA markers) across the genome for statistical association with traits. These associations can be used on additional individual animals or plants where the trait has not been measured to predict genetic merit for that trait for use in making selection decisions.


The challenge

GS does not require any knowledge of what the causative genetic changes responsible for the trait variation actually are. The theory of this approach was published in the early 1990s but only now is it becoming commercially affordable. GS has considerable potential for use with traits that are expensive to measure, but there are significant challenges and uncertainties about the current state of development; and clear opportunities for the technology to be improved and exploited across species, varieties and breeds.


Bringing this knowledge to commercial application

This use of dense DNA data for prediction without knowledge of function must, ultimately, be less efficient than direct prediction of consequence (performance etc.) from genome sequence. Very significant basic science research (mainly in model species) is underway to build pathways and systems models of biological process – there are opportunities for the Knowledge Transfer Network to assist in the translational research needed to bring this knowledge to commercial application in selective breeding of crops and animals.


Future opportunities

The next logical step is synthetic biology - where high-throughput tools are used to ‘evolve' molecules with properties not currently seen in nature. 

Case studies

A UK-based world leader in animal breeding is developing new selection tools for use in chicken breeding.

A UK salmon breeding company is successfully using marker-assisted selection to breed fish that have a high level of resistance to an infectious disease.