Here at ACAD, the incredible range of rare, ancient samples we get to work with always excites us. The DNA data we are able to recover from these samples, alongside their crucial contextual information, reveals amazing insights into our history. We also realise that sharing data allows all researchers to ask bigger, broader, more detailed questions, and gives us the ability to answer them in more depth. So, with the help of the University of Adelaide Library and the Australian National Data Service (ANDS), we developed a genomic data repository for our ancient DNA data. This platform, the Online Ancient Genome Repository (OAGR), contains freely accessible data from ancient human genomes and microbiomes generated at ACAD and by our colleagues around the world, and allows researchers to download this data for any single or group of samples. Teams around the world can also submit data to OAGR, increasing its global coverage. OAGR is live, and accessible here, and was launched at the ANDS Open data showcase event in Australia’s capital, Canberra on 19th June.
Ancient human genome and microbiome data is extremely valuable. Firstly, the data is a direct record of an individual’s genetic and microbial information, allowing us to understand how historical human populations were structured, how our ancestors moved around the world, how their bodies dealt with the environment, even what they looked like. Secondly, this ancient data reveals how our genetic makeup and microbiome has evolved in response to disease epidemics, population expansions, cultural revolutions, and climate changes. This kind of information allows us to look to the future, to predict and plan for our changing world and develop new medical treatments for disease. Ancient DNA provides the baseline information about human populations covering many generations, a unique insight that modern studies cannot provide. This is why it is crucial for us to make this data available to researchers of any field (including all you citizen scientists!).
Ancient DNA researchers put a high value on the complete information about a sample (metadata), such as the condition it was found in, where it was found, and how DNA in that sample was extracted and processed. So, unlike large-scale genomic databases hosted at organisations such as the National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the US, or the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), OAGR allows researchers to store their DNA data with all of this information. Currently we have 4 studies that have been ingested into the repository that cover over 70 ancient human genomes and 80 ancient microbiomes (over 690Gb of data in total). We are currently working with our collaborators and other ancient DNA labs to expand the data collection in order to make a useable resource for the international ancient DNA community. All our code is freely available, so if you have a great idea for an expansion to OAGR, or an application to allow data interaction and visualisation, let us know. Otherwise, dive into the ancient world!
OAGR is accessable at oagr.org.au