I founded Embark because I love dogs and science. My earliest experiences as a biologist came in the rainforests of Costa Rica and Panama studying all different sorts of tropical biodiversity, and also getting friendly with the free-ranging dogs wandering around the nearby towns (my family even adopted a dog in Panama when we lived there). Years later when I jumped at the chance to become a canine geneticist at Cornell (dream come true!), I made it a priority to study not just the amazing diversity of purebred and mixed breed pet dogs, but also these natural populations of dogs living alongside people everywhere.
Recently, my lab published the largest canine genetic mapping study to date as well as the most powerful analysis of the genetic diversity of man’s best friend. Owners, breeders and volunteers have been instrumental in the success of our science. So I have always wished we could do more to “give back” and make the science accessible to dog lovers. There is so much they want to learn about the genetics of their dogs. There is also so much information they have that would be useful for researchers. But an academic lab isn’t designed to handle all the analysis and customer service needed to realize this synergy.
The start of Embark
That’s why I started Embark. Embark will give owners and breeders the opportunity to engage in a “deep dive” into the genetics of their dogs. This will make the kind of immediate impact to help save dogs’ lives and health that I’ve always dreamed of. It will also help us learn about the history of dogs and the genetics behind what makes dogs unique.
Together, Embark will enable scientists and customers to generate the data that will fuel future discoveries. Most of the pressing questions for dogs—why are some breeds prone to some cancers, how can we reduce the prevalence of hip dysplasia in some breeds, how can we reduce the impact of autoimmune disorders and cardiac disease—will require very large numbers of study subjects, far more than can possibly be collected by one scientist or one university. It will require going beyond the ivory tower. We need to build a platform where owners have a stake in the science. They get back peace of mind and understanding while they’re giving researchers the raw data to fuel more scientific discoveries.
I’m excited by the team we’ve assembled and the product we’ve developed. I also encourage everyone interested in dogs to sign up to become an Embark owner and join us in creating the future of dog health and science.
Founder & Chief Science Officer, Embark
Assistant Professor in Biomedical Sciences, Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine