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[In Depth] Sequencing all life captivates biologists

03 / 03 / 2017, Science Now

At a biogenomics meeting in Washington, D.C., last week, researchers publicly unveiled the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP). The audacious goal of the still-unfunded effort is to decipher the genomes of every species, starting with the 1.5 million named eukaryotes—the group of organisms that includes all plants, animals, and single-celled organisms such as amoebas. Researchers drew parallels to the Human Genome Project, which also began as an ambitious, controversial, and technically daunting proposal. The EBP would focus on the natural world, providing a better understanding of biodiversity by first sequencing in great detail the DNA of a member of each eukaryotic family (about 9000 in all) and eventually generating coarser genomes for the other eukaryotes. Although many biologists are excited about these goals, they point out that significant challenges lie ahead, including funding, sample collection, and broadening international participation.
Author: Elizabeth Pennisi

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