The grant will enable the Ancient DNA Atlas of Humanity initiative to create a database of the DNA of some ten thousand individuals from around the world spanning the past fifty thousand years. Led by Harvard Medical School genetics professor David Reich, the project seeks to improve understanding of the origins of disease and will work to more than quintuple the number of published ancient human genomes. The gift includes $500,000 to create academic forums focused on emerging challenges in the field of ancient DNA leading to the publication of white papers detailing best practices.
In addition to funding from the Templeton Foundation and the medical school, the initiative has received commitments from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Broad Institute, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and the National Geographic Society.
"This extraordinary investment from the John Templeton Foundation will enable something that would not have been possible to create by other means," said Reich. "It is a grand bet on the power of genome-wide studies of ancient human DNA to enhance and deepen our understanding of who we are. I am particularly excited about the resources that the foundation has earmarked for holding a series of meetings that will allow us to think through key issues our field has to contend with as it becomes more mature. These issues include how to handle ancient remains in a respectful and ethical way that preserves material for the future while recognizing the perspectives of multiple stakeholders. We will place particular emphasis on fostering studies where geneticists work with archaeologists, anthropologists, linguists, historians, and molecular biologists in fully equal partnerships — this is the future of this field."