One Eukaryote at a Time: Sequencing Life on Earth

One Eukaryote at a Time: Sequencing Life on Earth ...

The Human Genome Project, an international and collaborative research effort to sequence the entire human genome, was completed in 2003, two years ahead of schedule. It marked the birth of the genomic era, a period in which next-generation sequencing technologies (NGS) would dramatically increase in capabilities and speed, while reducing in costs.

The impact of the genomic era is evident throughout modern-day society and scientific research almost 20 years after the HGP was completed. Genomic sequencing is now integral to agricultural research, personalized medicine, studying humanity''s history, and most recently in understanding our response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

In ten years, scientists defined their sights on a new goal: the Earth BioGenome Project (EBP). Described as a moonshot initiative for biology, it aims to sequence, catalog, and characterize the genomes of the 1.8 million identified species of plants, animals, and fungi and single-celled eukaryotes on Earth.

Why is the EBP necessary?

In 2015, the trio conducted an exploratory meeting at The Smithsonian Institution, attended by several of the world''s most well-known genome scientists and representatives from major US funding agencies, to investigate the project feasibility.

A global approach, such as the EBP, has proved essential for preserving biodiversity and sustaining human society, and it must take place today. Lewin states that climate change, habitat destruction, and other anthropogenic factors have all been posed.

Understanding the biodiversity crisis

This is why the amount of biodiversity on Earth is rapidly declining. Some scientists argue that conserving biodiversity is an even greater challenge than combating climate change.

According to the United Nations, the average abundance of native species in land-based habitats has decreased by >20% since 1900. Over 40% of amphibian species, 33% of reef-forming corals, and over one third of all marine mammals are endangered. At least 680 vertebrate species have gone extinct since the 16th century, and over 9% of domesticated breeds of mammals were extinct by 2016.

Prior to the start of the projects, only 0.6 percent of the known eukaryotes had sequenced genomes. As such, the basic knowledge and biological infrastructure to handle these global concerns is lacking. Conservation genomics is a relatively new discipline that provides and supports geo-identical information from threatened and endangered species to the benefit of conservation efforts. He also notes the California Conservation Genomics Project as a prime example of a management plan.

The birth of the EBP

After two years of research, a series of meetings took place at The Smithsonian Institution, including the first international symposium on biodiversity genomics in 2017 and a plan for sequencing all eukaryotes. In the summer of 2018, a manifesto for the EBP was published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (NNAS) journal. Shortly after, the project was officially launched at the Wellcome Trust in London in the fall.

The manifesto outlines key performance indicators and longer periods for the EBP. We must build the foundation for the future by completeing this project in ten years, as we have proposed, before it is too late to save genomic information for up to 50% of earth''s biodiversity that might be lost during the ongoing sixth mass extinction of life on earth.

The EBP''s key performance indicators and time periods are being used as part of the Earth BioGenome Project.

The manifesto explains the EBPs logic for syncing every species rather than a representative member of each family or genus. However, the leadership behind the EBP argue that sampling one species per genus or family would not be feasible for all species. However, pragmatism does not negate the primary scientific and societal need for such experiments.

Current progress and future perspectives

In the fall of 2018, the EBP was officially launched at the Wellcome Trust in London, whereby a focus was placed on developing standards and strategies, organizing cross-regional and national translational projects, and building communities.

The EBP is governed by an international network of networks where it is used as the foundation for other major projects such as the Darwin Tree of Life. To date, 43 institutions and 49 affiliated projects are working on the eukaryotic taxa, and individual scientists are participating in several activities. Harris explains that many of the networks'' successes will continue far beyond the sequencing of the last genome.

In January 2022, the EBP announced that it had entered a new phase, transitioning from pilot projects to full-scale production sequencing. The statement was accompanied by a series of papers published in PNAS highlighting some of the projects previously significant achievements.

What is the significance of the sequence of all eukaryotes?

Standards for the Earth BioGenome Project include recommendations from the inspectors.

What we know in a world of rapidly expanding opportunities for green plant genomes

Genomics in the service of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, the EBP-Colombia and the bioeconomy

The Darwin Tree of Life Project involves a shunt locally and globally.

Lewin argues that every institution and project must have a commitment to secure and free data access and to maintain the integrity of raw data and genome assemblies, as well as to comply with the Convention on Biodiversity, a multilateral treaty with three goals: conservation of biological diversity, sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits.

The present stage Phase I objective is to develop reference genomes for 9,400 taxonomic families, of which 200 have already been produced. It is expected that by the end of 2022, over 3,000 sequences will be completed. Lewin is optimistic that the EBPs progress over the next years will revolutionize the research of evolution, with significant impacts on agriculture, medicine, and environmental sciences.

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