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The Earth BioGenome Project plans to DNA sequence all life

In this representation of the tree of life, there are very few completed genomes (red lines in inner rim) among named eukaryotes (green), but many more among bacteria (blue) and archaea (purple). Among the  millions of eukaryotic species, there are even relatively few lower resolution genome sequences (blue, light and dark gray). Keith A. Crandall, David B. Stern, and Jimmy Bernot of The George Washington University’s Computational Biology Institute

Keith A. Crandall, David B. Stern, and Jimmy Bernot of The George Washington University’s Computational Biology Institute have made this representation of the tree of life, showing many open fields to be sequenced.

A group of scientists headed by professor Harris A. Lewin, plans to sequence the genomes of all life on Earth.

The research group pushing the big genome sequencing initiative forward has been named “Earth BioGenome Project”, EBP. A white paper on the initiative is in the making.

Since the DNA sequencing of the human genome in 2001, several species’ DNA has been sequenced.  The first industrial fish species genome, the Atlantic cod, was completed in 2011 and subsequently the salmon genome was published in 2014.

Professor Harris Lewin, UC Davis, leads the efforts to DNA sequence all life on Earth.

 

Professor Lewin and co-founders started in February 2017 to build an extended, global EBP working group, including Norwegian genetics professor Øystein Lie.[*]

Co-founders and organizes of EGP are, Harris A. Lewin, Uniersity of California, Davis, John Kress, Smithsonian Nationa Museum of Natural History, Washington, Gene Robinson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Chapmpaign and Hanming Yang, BGI Shenzen, China. 

According to Mr. Lie, the marine aspect of EBP is very important, and according to Lie, a DNA sequencing of all species’ genomes is now a realistic achievement.

Previously the amount of capital needed to perform DNA sequencing has made it impossible to imagine this kind of project. Up until now.

By spending approximately the same amount as spent on the first single complete genome, the human, in the 1990’ies, 4-5 billion US dollars, one may now be able to sequence all eukaryote genomes at the same price.  The number of eukaryote genomes is between 1 and 2 million. 

– The most intriguing part of IBP is the expecting massive return on investment or low cost/benefit ratio, says Øystein Lie.

 

Professor Øystein Lie: - The implications of EPB to marine living resource management and harvest together with aquaculture potentials are beyond imagination. Picture: Gorm K. Gaare.

Professor Øystein Lie: - The implications of EPB to marine living resource management and harvest together with aquaculture potentials are beyond imagination. Picture: Gorm K. Gaare.

 

At the same time, this most ambitious project in the history of biology, will generate vast new knowledge to advance all life science sectors and accompanying industries and services: Medicine, wild-life management, bio-production etc.

Take aquatic and marine sector: Approx 30 000 bony fish genomes can be completed for say 5 million US dollars. The implications to marine living resource management and harvest together with aquaculture potentials are beyond imagination.

 

Professor Harris Lewin outlined the Earth Biogenome Project at the conference BioGenomics 2017 at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington DC,  February 23., 2017.

An article in Science, March 3, 2017, the EBP initiative was reported as captivating for the biologists gathered at the conference: "China's genome pioneer Huanming Yuang publicly kicked off what he hopes will become a massive international collaboration that will dwarf the Human Genome Project of the 1990s and provide a new basis for understanding and conserving the world's life," Science Magazine wrote.

According to the report there are commitments from giants in the genomics field, such as China's BGI, and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK.  Both funding and shaping the project's final form are among tasks to be solved in the near future. 

[*]Note: Øystein Lie is chairman of Blue Frontier Media AS, the publisher of Blue Frontier Magazine.