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Project aims to sequence genomes of all living species

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Project aims to sequence genomes of all living species

By Zihan Wang, Staff Writer

Scientists at the University are leading the effort to start the Earth BioGenome Project, a project that aims to sequence the genomes of all species on earth.

Fifteen years after the Human Genome Project, a project that sequenced the human genome, Gene Robinson, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology, and his colleagues developed the larger idea to sequence the genomes of all species on earth.  

In an email, Robinson, who is also the co-chair of the project, said there were many projects underway to sequence genome of various species. He and his colleagues believe it was time to make a comprehensive plan to sequence the genomes of all species.

“It’s a moonshot for biology and will have a huge impact, providing a new framework and source of information for biology,” he said.

Hugh Robertson, professor of Entomology, said through sequencing the genome, scientists can find out how different species function.

According to the project’s website, the organization plans to sequence the genomes of all life on earth in 10 years. The goal of the project is to benefit human welfare, protect biodiversity and help humans understand ecosystems.

“We are in a bit of a biodiversity crisis and sequencing these genomes will provide unparalleled information about the evolutionary history of life on earth. Moreover, with the development of new computational tools, we will be able to understand how variation among these genomes encodes the information that has generated the diversity we see among organisms,” Andrew Suarez, professor and head of the Animal Biology Department, said in an email.

Suarez said since the human genome was first sequenced, scientists have developed the technology to rapidly and affordably sequence many genomes.

Suarez said the project will provide his team with more samples for their research. It will allow them to gain insight into the genetic mechanisms responsible for various types of social behavior, including social parasitism.

“This is a great idea and I hope to get involved more directly,” Suarez said.

Robertson said when the project finished, it will help humans understand the differences between species at a deeper level. He said it’s interesting to understand how species differ from each other.

The project will have a huge impact on many areas, including agriculture and conservation biology.

“This would revolutionize that, and I’m very enthusiastic about it,” Robertson said.

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