EARTH BIOGENOME PROJECT

An international consortium of scientists is proposing a massive project to sequence, catalogue and analyze the genomes of all known eukaryotic species on the planet, an undertaking the researchers say will take 10 years, cost $4.7 billion and require more than 200 petabytes of digital storage capacity. Eukaryotes include all organisms except bacteria and archaea. There are an estimated 10-15 million eukaryotic species on Earth.

The proposed initiative, described in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, would require the cooperation of governments, scientists, citizen scientists and students from around the globe. The authors of the proposal compare it to the Human Genome Project, an international scientific research project from 1990 to 2006 that cost roughly $4.8 billion in today’s dollars and generated an estimated return-on-investment ratio of 141-to-1.

The Human Genome Project “involved a workforce of more than 47,000 people generating nearly $1 trillion in economic activity,” the authors wrote. They are calling their new proposal the Earth BioGenome Project.

What are Eukaryotes?

Eukaryotes include all organisms except bacteria and archaea. It includes plants, animals, fungi and other organisms whose cells have a nucleus that houses their chromosomal DNA. There are an estimated 10-15 million eukaryotic species on Earth.

About the project:

The central goal of the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP) is to understand the evolution and organization of life on our planet by sequencing and functionally annotating the genomes of 1.5 million known species of eukaryotes.

The project also seeks to reveal some of the estimated 10 to 15 million unknown species of eukaryotes, most of which are single-cell organisms, insects and small animals in the oceans.

The Project also plans to capitalize on the “citizen scientist” movement to collect specimens.

The initiative is led by a coordinating council with members from the United States, the European Union, China, Brazil, Canada, Australia and some African countries.

This will take 10 years, cost $4.7 billion and require more than 200 petabytes of digital storage capacity.

The benefits of the project promise to be a complete transformation of the scientific understanding of life on Earth and a vital new resource for global innovations in medicine, agriculture, conservation, technology and genomics.

The project is also being seen essential for developing new drugs for infectious and inherited diseases as well as creating new biological synthetic fuels, biomaterials, and food sources for growing human population.

The project will likely enable the development of new technologies, such as portable genetic sequencers and instrumented drones that can go out, identify samples in the field, and bring those samples back to the laboratory.

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