The project began in 1999 as a joint project between the European Bioinformatics Institute and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (then named the Sanger Centre). All data are open source, i.e. freely available to the scientific community.
Supported species include comprehensive, evidence-based gene annotations and a selected set of genomes includes additional data focused on variation, comparative, evolutionary, functional and regulatory annotation. The most advanced resources are provided for key species including human, mouse, rat and zebrafish reflecting the popularity and importance of these species in biomedical research.
In Ensembl release 68 (July 2012), nearly 70 species are supported. Associations between sequence variants and diseases, and potential gene regulation sequences across different cell types are among the cutting edge data integrated and displayed in the Ensembl browser and underlying databases.