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Global bid to decode DNA of all life on Earth

Experts have joined a bid to examine the genetic code of all 1.5 million animals, plants and other forms of life on Earth.

The Earth BioGenome Project is a global effort to sequence the genomes of all 1.5 million known species of animals, plants, protozoa and fungi on Earth. Edinburgh Genomics is a key partner in the international project, which is expected to revolutionise understanding of biology and evolution.

The project is now possible due to recent and expected advances in sequencing and information technology that will enable the reading and interpretation of the genomes of thousands of species each year.

All of the data will be stored in public domain databases and made freely available for research use. The project is estimated to cost approximately US$4.7 billion and to take around 10 years to complete.

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. Using the biological insights we will get from the genomes of all eukaryotic species, we can look to our responsibilities as custodians of life on this planet.

Professor Sir Mike StrattonDirector of the Wellcome Sanger Institute

UK effort

The Wellcome Sanger Institute is leading the UK contribution in an initiative known as the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which will decode the genomes of 66,000 species across the British Isles. The project officially launches in London on 1 November alongside the global project.

Edinburgh Genomics is housed at The Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh. It will provide key support, alongside the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh and Kew, the Earlham Institute and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI).

This project is the realisation of a longstanding dream. Having the full genomes of all the organisms we share the planet with will change our ability to understand and care for them. The UK environmental and evolutionary research community has for many years been leading the way in sequencing the DNA of diverse species, and this revolutionary project will transform the science we can do.

Professor Mark BlaxterEdinburgh Genomics and the University of Edinburgh

Related links

Miles Briggs MSP visits Edinburgh Genomics at The Roslin Institute

Edinburgh Genomics

Earth BioGenome Project

Wellcome Sanger Institute