Genetic Manipulation and Hybridization Update

$5bn project to map DNA of every animal, plant and fungus

$5bn project to map DNA of every animal, plant and fungus

International sequencing drive will involve reading genomes of 1.5m species

Hannah Devlin. Thu 1 Nov 2018 14.17 EDT. The Guardian.

An ambitious international project to sequence the DNA of every known animal, plant and fungus in the world over the next 10 years has been launched. Described as “the next moonshot for biology”, the Earth BioGenome Project is expected to cost $4.7bn (£3.6bn) and involve reading the genomes of 1.5m species.

Prof Harris Lewin of the University of California, Davis, who chairs the project, said it could be as transformational for biology as the Human Genome Project, which decoded the human genome between 1990 and 2003. “Having the roadmap, the blueprints … will be a tremendous resource for new discoveries, understanding the rules of life, how evolution works, new approaches for the conservation of rare and endangered species, and … new resources for researchers in agricultural and medical fields,” he told a press briefing in London.

The rapid decreases in biodiversity and the number of species on the brink of extinction underlined the urgency of the project, he added. “We desperately need to catalogue life on our planet now,” he said. “We will do this not because it’s easy, but because it is hard and because it’s important to do.”

Currently, fewer than 3,500, or about 0.2%, of all known eukaryotic species have had their genome sequenced, with fewer than 100 at reference quality. The aim to sequence all known species is a major international effort, involving a US-led project to sequence the genetic code of tens of thousands of vertebrates, a Chinese project to sequence 10,000 plant genomes, and the Global Ant Genomes Alliance, which aims to sequence around 200 ant genomes.

The Wellcome Sanger Institute will lead the effort to sequence the genetic codes of all 66,000 species known to inhabit Britain, including red and grey squirrels and the European robin. The total volume of biological data that will be gathered is expected to be on the “exascale” – more than that accumulated by Twitter, YouTube or the whole of astronomy.

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