First step to panda genetic engineering underway

The first seal is broken, and the Giant Panda Genome Project commences:

Giant Panda Genome to be Sequenced
BGI-Shenzhen is pleased to announce the launch of the International Giant Panda Genome Project. This announcement follows on the heels of the Panda Genome workshop held on January 2122, 2008, in Shenzhen, China. Dr. Hongmei Zhu, a scientist from BGI-Shenzhen stated that, "The goal of this project is to finish the sequencing and assembling of draft sequence within six months."

Naturally, the biggest question on everyone's minds is: What is with these pandas' sexual problems?

Dr. Lin He, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences who works at both Shanghai Jiao Tong University and Fudan University, noted that the panda sequence obtained from this project will greatly benefit our understanding of the reduced fecundity in pandas when living under certain environmental conditions. This is a major issue for breeding programs that are carried out to strengthen the panda species as a whole.

Well, that will be tough, since we really have little idea which genes influence fecundability in any mammal species yet. But the development of knockout pandas will help discover which genes are essential.