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Earth BioGenome Project

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    12th Nov, 2018

Recently, a new scientific mission to map the entire genome of every known animal, plant, fungus and protozoan on Earth over the next 10 years has been announced, known as Earth BioGenome Project.

Context

Recently, a new scientific mission to map the entire genome of every known animal, plant, fungus and protozoan on Earth over the next 10 years has been announced, known as Earth BioGenome Project.

About

Earth BioGenome Project (EBP)

  • It will map the genomes of roughly 1.5 million species, i.e., all the complex life forms known to man.
  • It is being described as the next "moonshot for biology",
  • Powerful advances in genome sequencing technology, informatics, automation, and artificial intelligence, for the first time in history, 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 currently hidden from science.
  • The target of 1.5m genomes represents all eukaryotic species known and catalogued by science. Biologists say that many more remain undiscovered, with the real total estimated at 10m to 15m species. But they are disappearing fast as a result of human activity, in what scientists are calling Earth’s sixth great extinction; the fifth was the asteroid impact that wiped out dinosaurs 65m years ago.
  • The last project of a similar scale and importance was the 13-year endeavour to map the human genetic code, the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003.
  • So far, 19 research institutions around the world have signed up to take part in the EBP and more plan to join. A team of Chinese researchers aims to sequence 10,000 plant species, and the Global Ant Genomes Alliance intends to contribute 200 ant genomes to the vast effort.
  • The volume of data generated by the EBP is expected to be at a massive, "exascale" — more than the volumes accumulated by Twitter, YouTube or astronomy.

Significance

  • The EBP aims to build a resource for studying a wide range of plant and animal species.
  • The project is also a means to open up new avenues for treating infections, drugs for anti-ageing, or even develop new approaches to addressing food shortage and for the development of innovative biomaterials.
  • The project will ultimately create a new foundation for biology to drive solutions for preserving biodiversity and sustaining human societies.

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