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Icons of Progress

The Mapping of Humanity's Family Tree


National Geographic turned to IBM’s Computational Biology Lab to help support the work of the Genographic Project’s population geneticists, linguists and anthropologists. Researchers at IBM’s Computational Biology Lab are using cutting-edge genetic and computational technologies to analyze historical patterns in DNA from participants around the world to better understand our human genetic roots.

The core of the Genographic Project is global field research. Eleven regional centers directed by leading geneticists are each responsible for the collection and analysis of DNA samples through collaboration with local indigenous communities—with an aim to gather indigenous DNA samples. These regional teams act in a decentralized manner—organizing data collection expeditions, applying for relevant governmental and institutional approval, processing the genetic samples and transmitting the electronic data to the Genographic Project's centralized repository. The principal investigators collaborate to help one another, sharing ideas, knowledge and best practices.

IBM's Computational Biology Center (CBC) team acts as the Genographic Project's analytical arm. Led by Dr. Ajay Royyuru, the CBC team brings IBM Research's advanced life-science-oriented data mining tools and algorithms to bear on the massive amount of data provided from both the field teams and the general public.

IBM is also actively involved in the expeditions themselves. In fact, IBM's emerging technologies team has designed the Genographic Project's field collection solution, including a customized data gathering application, which was built in collaboration with the principal investigators.