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Earth BioGenome Project begins serious genome sequencing

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A global effort to map the genomes of all plants, animals, fungi and other microbial life on Earth is entering a new phase as it moves from pilot projects to full-scale production sequencing. This new phase of The Earth BioGenome Project, or EBP, is marked with a collection of articles published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which describes the project's goals, results to date and the next step.

"The special feature of EBP captures the essence and excitement of the largest coordinated effort in the history of biology," said Harris Lewin, chair of the EBP Working Group and Distinguished Professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis. "From basic science to cutting-edge applications across a wide range of pressing global issues, such as preventing biodiversity loss and adapting food crops to climate change, EBP's progress in sequencing eukaryotic life is humbling and inspiring. Achieving the ultimate goal of sequencing all eukaryotic life now seems within our reach. "

Launched in November 2018, the goal of EBP is to deliver a complete DNA sequence catalog of all 1.8 million named species of plants, animals and fungi as well as single-celled eukaryotes.

The Earth is expected to lose 50% of its biodiversity by the end of this century without action to slow down climate change and protect the health of global ecosystems. Creating a digital library of DNA sequences for all known eukaryotic life can help generate effective tools to prevent biodiversity loss and spread of pathogens, monitoring and protecting ecosystems, and improving ecosystem services.

Network of networks

The project serves as an international network of networks that coordinate several group-specific, regional and national initiatives, such as the California Conservation Genome Project (US), Darwin Tree of Life Project (UK and Ireland), Vertebrate Genome Project and 10,000 Bird Genomes Project.

The project's administrative office is located at the UC Davis Genome Center. The center also serves as the major DNA sequencing hub for the California Conservation Genomics Project, a UC-wide project led by Professor Bradley Shaffer at UCLA, which aims to help the state of California deal with endangered and economically important species using genomic tools.

Phase 1 goal

The first two years of EBP, 2018-20, represented the start-up phase. The goal for Phase 1 through 2023 is to produce reference genomes representing about 9,400 taxonomic families. So far, affiliated projects have produced about 200 such reference genomes, with sequencing, assembly and annotation of more than 3,000 expected to be completed by the end of 2022, representing about a third of the Phase 1 target.

From December 2021, the project will include 5,000 scientists and technical staff at 44 member institutions in 22 countries on all continents except Antarctica. There are 49 affiliated projects covering most of the larger taxonomic groups of eukaryotes, which have access to tens of thousands of high-quality specimens from museum collections and field biologists. Most recently, a group of African institutions in 22 countries came online as the Africa BioGenome Project. BIOSCAN, which implements DNA barcode technology to detect and identify species, and the Global Virome Project, an attempt to detect new viruses that can pose pandemic threats, have also joined as affiliates.

The main activities of the first three years have included the development and evaluation of standards and strategies, the organization of regional, national and transnational projects and the building of communities through regular working committee meetings and an annual conference.

In addition to the International Scientific Committee, which develops standards for the project, the EBP has also formed committees on ethics, legal and social issues, and justice, equality, diversity and inclusion. The EBP's proactive approach to understanding ethical, legal and social issues surrounding the project will inform about recommendations on access and distribution, equality and inclusion in biodiversity genomic communities and in indigenous communities in the world's most biodiverse countries.

Genetic code for 66,000 British species to be sequenced

More information: The Earth BioGenome Project 2020: Starts the Clock, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2022). DOI: 10.1073 / pnas.2115635118

Citation: Earth BioGenome Project Begins Genome Sequencing in Seriousness (2022, January 17) Retrieved January 19, 2022 from

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