A while back I wrote about the Genome 10K project, an ambitious initiative from a consortium of mostly US-based researchers to sequence 10,000 vertebrate genomes. Recently BGI (formerly known as the Beijing Genomics Institute) embarked on a similar project, aiming to sequence 1000 plant and animal genomes to create a library of digital life, and in May they announced that they would sequence the first 100 vertebrate genomes for the Genome 10K project. BGI have invested $100m into the digital library project, enabling them to fully fund some genome projects, and partially fund others.
The 100 species to be included in the Genome 10K project are being chosen on the basis of their biology, diversity, specimen availability, and the existence of a scientific community with expertise in the species. And if your favourite genome is not on their current to-do list, don’t despair, as BGI are calling for proposals for other genomes to sequence.
Last week I went along to a seminar by representatives from BGI at Victoria University. I was kind of blown away by their the sheer size and scale of their operation – they have a workforce of about 3000 people and billions of dollars in facilities all dedicated to pumping out and assembling DNA sequence, and really seem to be taking over the world when it comes to genomics.
But one genome that BGI hasn’t been sequencing is the tasmanian devil. Its been a big month for tassie devil news: first from the fight against devil facial tumour disease, the news that Cedric, an animal with a putative “resistant” genotype, had died of the disease; and secondly the announcement that the tasmanian devil genome has been sequenced. The genome was sequenced by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the UK. They have sequenced the genome of a healthy tasmanian devil plus two independent tumour samples, in the hope that they will be able to pinpoint mutations that will improve understanding of the disease and how it spreads.