Unlock lineage to drive longevity for all dogkind.
Every dog in our database brings us closer to realizing our mission of ending preventable disease in dogs. Our decision to develop a proprietary research-grade DNA genotyping platform at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine was rooted in establishing technology that enabled us to have the greatest potential to make future genetic discoveries.
Our pact to make an impact
We’ve already made genetic discoveries, and we’re just getting started.
Why do Huskies have blue eyes?
In a single year, we collected enough data to conduct the largest canine study of its kind, and publish the first-ever genetic discovery from a non-human genetics company. We discovered a mutation, specifically a duplication of DNA sequence near ALX4 (a gene on dog chromosome 18 involved in craniofacial, skin, and hair follicle development) that explains why some dogs have blue eyes. Find the study here.
Accurately measuring inbreeding
Pedigree-based inbreeding estimates only go so far. Embark is the first commercial dog DNA test that looks for inbreeding tracts over the entire genome and can detect inbreeding from dozens and dozens of generations back. Not only is Embark the most powerful test for detecting inbreeding tracts that can potentially harbor harmful mutations, but it can also compute relatedness between dogs so breeders can know the COI (Coefficient of Inbreeding) of any potential litter before they make the decision to breed.
Inbreeding depression in Goldens
One of the most popular breeds in America, Golden Retrievers, suffer from a host of diseases, including cancer. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is a ground-breaking longitudinal study by the Morris Animal Foundation, following a cohort of over 3,000 Golden Retrievers throughout their lives, aiming to understand genetic and environmental factors that affect health and lifespan. Embark genotyped a cohort of study participants and discovered that inbreeding is also a concern for the breed. Every 10% increase in COI leads to a litter decreasing by one puppy.
Red pigment intensity in coat color
Embark recently discovered that red pigment intensity — found in breeds like German Pinschers and Irish Setters — is a phenotype controlled by at least five genetic loci across dog breeds. This discovery allows Embark to explain 70% of the variation in hair coat pheomelanin intensity across purebred and mixed breed dogs.
By leveraging phenotype data from 3,000 dogs submitted by owners and breeders, Embark now has the ability to predict coat color intensity with high accuracy based on dogs’ genetic information, including in breeds like Golden Retriever, where the phenotype is highly variable.
What causes roaning in dogs?
Embark scientists made the unique genetic discovery that the patterned coat known as “roaning” in dogs is strongly associated with a genomic region on chromosome 38 and likely regulated by the usherin gene (USH2A).
This study may also provide a clue to the genetic origin of the Dalmatian’s unique spots. Up until now, the spots on Dalmatians have been considered genetically and visually distinct from roaning. However, all Dalmatians in the Embark study carried the duplication associated with roaning. This suggests that Dalmatians and dogs who have roaning may share a common ancestry (although more research is needed).
We’re hard at work on others, to name a few:
Gastric Carcinoma (stomach cancer): In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Elaine Ostrander, the Belgian Sheepdog Club of America and the American Belgian Malinois Club, Embark is working to identify the genetic basis of gastric carcinoma.
Wobbler Syndrome: In collaboration with the Doberman Diversity Project and ProjectDOG, we are working to identify genetic variants that might increase risk for developing this condition.
Osteoarthritis and Obesity: These are highly complex conditions impacted by medical history, environment, and nutrition. In collaboration with the scientists at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, we are working to understand the role of genetics in risk for these traits.
Hearing loss in Rhodesian Ridgebacks
Embark scientists discovered a genetic variant associated with early-onset adult deafness (EOAD) in Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs. This variant is a 12-base pair deletion in the EPS8L2 gene, which plays an important role in the inner ear hair cells in humans and other mammals.
Embark is now the first dog DNA test that will inform Ridgeback owners, breeders, and veterinarians of a dog’s risk for this type of EOAD. This discovery was made possible with help from the Rhodesian Ridgeback Club of the United States, projectDOG, and dedicated dog owners and breeders.
Building a brighter future for animals with the brightest of (human) minds
Leading canine health, breed, and industry organizations collaborate with us. By bringing together some of the brightest minds, we accelerate impactful research focused on identifying genetic associations to health-related conditions.
When we set out to improve Doberman Pinscher health and longevity, we knew we needed the best DNA test available and the brightest minds in veterinary genetics.
How It Works
When you create an Embark account for your dog, in addition to sending in their swab (which unlocks their genetic data!) you’ll have the opportunity to answer survey questions online. By answering survey questions about your pup, we can combine your dog’s genetic data with millions of other data points to help fuel future scientific discoveries.Get your DNA test today
Leaders of our pack
Embark has world-leading canine geneticists on-staff to make genetic discoveries to help us reach our mission of ending preventable disease in dogs.
Adam is an associate professor in Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, focused on the genomic investigation of dogs. His research has addressed fundamental questions of dog evolution and history, disease and trait mapping, and advancing genomic tools for canine research. Adam has coauthored over 40 peer-reviewed scientific papers, including research in Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and received an MS in Computer Science along with a PhD in Biology from Purdue University before completing his postdoctoral work at Cornell and Stanford.
Aaron is a Senior Scientist at Embark. As a broadly trained evolutionary and computational biologist, he leads research projects to better understand the distribution and impact of inbreeding in dogs. Prior to joining Embark, his research on using computational methods to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of population admixture and the evolution of complex traits, such as immune-related disease in humans. He is thrilled to now be applying those skills to advance canine genomics and health. Aaron is a graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and received both an MS and PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Subsequently, he worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow in Biological Statistics and Computational Biology at Cornell University.
Andrea is a Bioinformatics Scientist at Embark, where she works on discovering new genetic variants underlying canine traits and disease using her background in population genetics, genomics, and computational biology. As an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she studied genetics and anthropology. While earning a PhD in Genetics, Genomics, and Development from Cornell University, she researched the evolution of gene content and expression on the mammalian X chromosome along with the genetics of human complex disease. Of all the species she’s worked with, dogs are definitely her favorite.
Sam is a product developer at Embark. Prior to joining the company, Sam studied computer science at the University of New Hampshire as both an undergraduate and master’s student, where he focused on scientific computing and bioinformatics. He went on to earn a PhD in biomolecular engineering and bioinformatics from University of California, Santa Cruz. As a doctoral student, Sam joined the UCSC Paleogenomics Lab, where he contributed to several projects involving the analysis of genomic sequences from both ancient and modern individuals, including examining the evolutionary histories of archaic and modern humans along with the development of novel computational methods for forensic identification. He has also collaborated with fellow researchers studying the genomes of bacteria, archaea, ancient barley, wolves, and the extinct passenger pigeon.
Takeshi (Taki) is a Senior Research Scientist at Embark. He is an evolutionary geneticist with broad experience in deciphering demographic history and trait evolution by applying cutting edge genomics technologies. Taki’s research has been published as more than 30 articles in scientific journals, including Nature and Nature Communications. Having worked on various wild animals and plants across the globe, he is applying his fundamental knowledge in genomics to understand why dogs are so awesome.
Meghan is a research scientist at Embark focused on discovering genes linked to canine disease, body traits, and behavior. Prior to joining the Embark team, Meghan applied genetic and genomic techniques to the conservation and management of various wildlife species including giant salamanders and birds of prey. She also worked in the field of immunology for 2 years, researching immune response to infectious disease in mouse model systems. She has a strong interest in animal behavior and is heavily involved in a veteran service-dog training non-profit based in south-central New York. She received a BS in biology and a BS in wildlife sciences from Paul Smith’s College, an MA in biology from SUNY Buffalo State, and a PhD in Forest Resources Science from West Virginia University.
Brett is a Bioinformatics Research Associate at Embark, investigating the genetics of village dogs- the largest and most diverse group of dogs- and developing tools to measure relatedness and manage inbreeding. Before joining the Embark team, Brett received a BS in biology from St. Lawrence University and an MS in biology from the University of British Columbia. During his education and throughout the interim, he studied the genetics of various organisms including porcupines, ants, rattlesnakes, badgers, and wetland plants. Brett has long been interested in the genetics of canines and is excited to apply his varied experience to discover more about man’s best friend.
Alison serves as scientific liaison to our widespread dog community. Alison studied both biology and English literature as an undergraduate and master’s student at the University of California, Davis, and transitioned to veterinary genetics research at the UCD School of Veterinary Medicine with a focus on both equine and canine genetics. Alison’s and colleagues’ previous work contributed to a number of discoveries included in Embark’s current platform and she has a keen interest in the genetics of behavior. Alison also has extensive experience within the dog fancy – as a dog breeder, trainer, judge, and successful dog sport competitor. Alison’s aim is to combine both her professional and personal interest in canine genetics and dog biology to contribute to new discoveries with the Embark team.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I don’t want my dog to participate in your research?
Your dog’s participation in research is completely optional. When you create your dog’s profile, and at any point after that, you can opt in or out of our studies.
Do you do breed-specific research studies?
Yes! In fact, many of our genetic health studies are breed-specific, in partnership with breed organizations.
Where can I see a list of all of the publications from your scientists?
Click here for a list of the papers published by our science team and leadership.