Scientists plan to map genes of all complex life on Earth

$5bn project to map DNA of every animal, plant and fungus

$5bn project to map DNA of every animal, plant and fungus

Scientists today launched a broad program to map the genetic code of the 1.5 million known complex species of life on Earth and their goal is to complete the project within a decade.

The project is being called the most ambitious proposal in the history of biology.

The EBP aims to sequence, catalogue and categorise the genomes of all of Earth's eukaryotic biodiversity over a period of ten years.

Wiped out: The world's last male northern white rhino died in March this year but scientists hope that stored DNA could be used to revive the species.

Increasing our understanding of Earth's biodiversity and responsibly stewarding 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.

EBP, as reported by Reuters and relaying the News Agency, is expected to cost $ 4.7 billion and "will eventually create a new foundation for biology to boost solutions to preserve biodiversity and sustainable human societies "Said Harris Liuin, a professor at the University of California at the United States and president of the EBP".

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Through this project, it is possible to efficiently sequence the genomes of all known species and to use genomics to help discover the remaining 80 to 90 percent of species that are now hidden from science. In Britain, genome sequences for red and grey squirrels are among those that will be added to the vast new database.

Prof Sir Mike Stratton, director of the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: "Globally, more than half of the vertebrate population has been lost in the past 40 years, and 23,000 species face the threat of extinction in the near future".

The total volume of biological data that will be gathered is expected to be on the "exascale" - more than that accumulated by Twitter, YouTube or the whole of astronomy. 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. The EBP will draw on major research efforts such as the Global Ant Genomes Alliance, which aims to sequence around 200 ant genomes.

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. Dubbed the Darwin Tree of Life Project, it is expected to take 10 years and cost pounds 100 million.

"Having the full genomes of all the organisms we share the planet with will change our ability to understand and care for them", biologist Mark Blaxter of Edinburgh Genomics and the University of Edinburgh said in a statement. Scientists also hope that unpicking the genetic code from plants could help uncover new treatments for infectious diseases, slow ageing, improve crops and agriculture and create new bio-materials. 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".

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