The Max Planck Institute has completed a draft of the Neandertal genome in the hopes of determining just how different Neandertals were from modern humans. The story in Business Wire notes:
The Neanderthal project, spearheaded by Dr. Svante Pääbo, Director of the Institute’s Department of Evolutionary Anthropology and Michael Egholm, Chief Technology Officer at 454 Life Sciences, developed from the results of a study published in Nature in 2006, detailing the ability of 454 Sequencing to determine large amounts of nuclear DNA sequences from late Pleistocene animals such as cave bears, mammoths, as well as the Neanderthal. The goal of the project is to identify areas in the genome where humans have undergone rapid evolution since the split from Neanderthals: the genetic changes that define us as human. This analysis is achieved by comparing the Neanderthal reference to the human and chimpanzee reference genome sequences as well as to the genomic variation among humans today.
Let the fun begin.