Monday, 10 December, 2018

Scientists launch plan to map genes of all complex life on earth

$5bn project to map DNA of every animal, plant and fungus Genetic code of all life on Earth will be mapped to save species
Cary Marshall | 03 November, 2018, 21:40

The plan is for EBP to add thousands of high-quality genomic sequences, which scientists say will revolutionize understanding of biology and evolution, and will also boost efforts to conserve and protect biodiversity. She will help lead the Australian team aiming to sequence 50 species over the next five years. Scientists are already attempting to use the stored DNA from the northern white rhino to restore the species, which became functionally extinct earlier this year with the death of the last male.

A greater understanding of Earth's biodiversity and the responsible stewarding of its resources are among the most crucial scientific and social challenges of the new millennium. These challenges require fundamental new knowledge of the organization, evolution, functions, and interactions among millions of the planet's organisms.

Prof Harris Lewin from University of California, Davis, who is chair of the project pointed out, "only about 3,300 of the 1.5 million known species have had their genomes sequenced".

So far, fewer than 3,500 complex life species, or only about 0.2 per cent, have had their genomes sequenced. Now scientists want to sequence the genomes of 1.5 million species.

"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.

More news: UK Government wants Apple to open up iPhone NFC chip

The EBP has made extraordinary progress in the previous year leading up to the official launch. The Earth Biogenome Project is a global collaboration created to avoid duplication of research and to make all genome data inter-operable and open for public use.

This plan will include major research efforts across the world, including the United States program to find the Genetic Code sequence and the 66,000 vertebrate, a Chinese program to find the 10,000 plant genome sequence and the Global Ant Genomes Alliance, which aims to find the sequence of approximately 200 antimicrobial genomes. Dubbed the Darwin Tree of Life Project, it is expected to take 10 ten years and cost £100m.

The Wellcome Sanger Institute began a project to sequence the genomes of 25 of Britain's species earlier this year, including red and grey squirrels, the European robin, the Fen raft spider and the blackberry.

"By nature we will have a deep understanding of how to develop new treatments for infectious diseases, identify drugs to slow down aging, create new approaches to feed the world or create new biomaterials", he told reporters.

In Britain, organisations including the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew and the Wellcome Sanger Institute have joined forces to sequence Britain's 66,000 species of animals, plants, protozoa and fungi. Biologist Jim Smith at the Wellcome Sanger Institute said in a statement, "we could not imagine how the DNA sequence produced back then would transform research into human health and disease today". "As scientists, we all realise we desperately need to catalogue life on our fragile planet now".

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