Improved Algorithm and Software for Determination of Shared Ancestry

University Reference Number: U-4991
Web Published: Mar 9, 2011


Invention Summary

Accurate estimation of recent shared ancestry is important for genetics, evolution, medicine, conservation biology, and forensics.  University of Utah investigators have developed a maximum-likelihood method for the estimation of recent shared ancestry (ERSA) from the number and lengths of identical by descent (IBD) chromosomal segments derived from high-density SNP or whole-genome sequence data.   ERSA accurately estimates the degree of relationship for up to eighth-degree relatives (e.g. third cousins once removed), and detects relationships as distant as twelfth-degree relatives (e.g. fifth cousins once removed). ERSA greatly expands the range of relationships that can be estimated from genetic data



Features & Benefits


ERSA is accurate in determination of relatedness within one degree of relationship for 97% of first- through fifth-degree relatives and 80% of sixth- and seventh-degree relatives. Established methods only estimate kinship accurately for first- through third-degree relatives. 


In analysis of large pedigrees, ERSA can verify distant relationships without genotyping intervening family members, reducing the need for extensive sample collection and genotyping requirements.


Applications/Market Opportunities



          - >100,000 genetic ancestry tests performed annually.

          - >$12,000,000 spent on genetic ancestry testing.

          - Expanding market for those desiring to identify more distant relatives.



         - Pedigrees:  checking, merging and extending pedigrees.

         - Removal of related individuals for case-control association studies and population-based genetic analysis.

         - Gene variant discovery and mapping disease-susceptibility loci.



      - Identification of mass disaster/ homicide victims.

      - >$65,000,000 spent annually in US alone.

      - International need for mass disaster identification.



Intellectual Property: A patent application is pending.  A software package for application of this methodology has been developed and is also available for licensing.



Patent Information:
Licensing Contact:
Beth Drees
Director of Business & Technology Development
University of Utah
Lynn Jorde
Chad Huff
David Witherspoon
Computer Software