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The Biome Sequencing Project

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 3 months ago

The Biome Sequencing Project


The human genome is sequenced. So is the chimp's, the rat's, as well as many virus and bacterial genomes. In fact, the genomes of more than 180 organisms have been sequenced since 1995. The Human Genome Diversity Project is in the process of sequencing genomes from individuals from every human ethnia. The cost of sequencing continues to decrease exponentially year after year (Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near). During our lifetimes, it is likely that we will be able to sequence the genomes of all living species, as well as several extinct ones (the Neanderthal sequencing project is underway in no less than two laboratories). This will provide biomedical scientists with a tremendous arsenal of functional, time-tested genes for all sorts of molecular machines, allowing us to mix and match after testing for interaction effects. Methods have been developed to quantify the amount of new information any given genome would bring to the understanding of the biome.


To that end, the first step is to collect and preserve DNA from every species. The Frozen Ark Project has been created to accomplish a subset of this goal: the preservation of DNA from endangered animal species. But the effort should be expanded to include not just animals, but every living being in danger of extinction: recall that Alexander Fleming's penicillin did not come from an animal. And preservation is just the beginning: sequencing must come next.


To date, taxonomists have identified less than two million distinct species, mostly mammals and birds. But it's estimated that the number of undiscovered species—primarily fish, fungi, insects, and microbes—ranges from ten million to more than one hundred million. Even at the low estimate, it's an enormous number. New species are being classified at a rate of 15,000 a year.


Average Gene Length Is Highly Conserved in Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes and Diverges Only Between the Two Kingdoms, and the total coding sequence length varies between 500 kbp and 8 Mbp for prokaryotes, and between 5 Mbp and 50 Mbp for eukayrotes.


The cost of sequencing is currently at 2 to 4 cents per base pair for draft sequences, which are enough for many comparative purposes.


These numbers put the current cost of sequencing an average eukaryote at only $750,000, and that of a prokaryote sequence at a bargain $120,000. So even at current costs, the Biome of all known species could be sequenced for less than $2 trillion. So if manage to preserve peace through diplomatic means for two years (four years if you exclude the present cost of past military campaigns) and divert military spending for those 24 months to the Biome project, it can be done for no additional cost. The utility and life-saving that would emerge of such a project would dwarf the usefulness of armies. Pipette-phobic soldiers, worry not: by the time this initiative is put into action, the cost of the Biome sequences will have diminished to a few weeks or even days of military expenditures.


Let the Global Biome Sequencing Project begin!





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