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Barcode of Life Project Leans on Sequencing


An international consortium of researchers says it plans to increase by more than 10-fold the catalog of eukaryotic species that are tagged by a DNA barcode, and to develop new barcoding technology to identify specimens rapidly and inexpensively.

The first phase of the project, which will generate a library of barcoded species, will largely involve Sanger sequencing technology, according to one of the organizers. Second-generation sequencing technologies will find applications in environmental barcoding studies later on, and a long-term goal of the project is to develop a hand-held barcoding sequencer.

The initiative, called International Barcode of Life Project, or iBOL, currently involves 26 countries. Planning for iBOL started last year at a workshop at the University of Guelph in Canada that brought together a variety of international researchers with a shared interest in barcoding.

Barcoding involves sequencing a short, standardized gene region that differs between species. In animals, for example, researchers use a portion of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase I gene as a barcode.

iBOL's first aim is to create a reference library by barcoding 5 million specimens representing 500,000 species within five years. This project, set to begin next year, will significantly expand the current library, which comprises approximately 41,000 barcoded species.

iBOL is currently focused on raising at least $100 million of its $155 million budget from various funding sources around the world, according to a project outline published by the consortium in July.

What distinguishes this project most from other large-scale efforts is that each sequence read derives from a different sample, according to Paul Hebert, director of the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph and an iBOL organizer.

To generate a 650-base read for each of hundreds of thousands of samples, "Sanger sequencing technology is really the only feasible way to go," he says.

Julia Karow

Sequencing Notes

Oxford Nanopore Technologies acquired exclusive rights to develop and market nanopore technologies from Harvard University and collaborators at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The company says label-free nanopore technology could help to reduce the cost of DNA sequencing.

In its second-quarter earnings report, Helicos BioSciences said its grant revenue was $251,000 for the period, while its net loss grew to $11.9 million, an increase  of 47 percent from the same quarter in the previous year. President Steve Lombardi said problems with reagent stability hindered efforts to get new sales. The company reported no revenue from product sales during
the quarter.


Helicos BioSciences announced receiving a second order for its instrument, but did not name the research center placing the order.

Funded Grants

$577,448/FY 2008
Molecular Engineering Approach to Study Long-Term Synaptic Plasticity
Grantee: Jingyue Ju, Columbia University
Began: Feb. 1, 2008; Ends: Jan. 31, 2012

Ju and his team will continue development work on their Massive Parallel DNA Sequencing Chip System for use in digital gene expression, with the aim of doing large-scale expression studies in single neurons. According to the abstract, the tools will be tested on the memory-forming network of Aplysia, a unique model organism for neurobiology.

$236,530/FY 2008
Microbial community profiling of sewage contamination in the Great Lakes
Grantee: Sandra McLellan, University of Wisconsin
Began: Jun. 15, 2008; Ends: May 31, 2010

McLellan and her team will use massively parallel DNA sequencing strategies to study the microbial  communities and other sewage contamination present in the Great Lakes in the northern US. The lakes serve as drinking water to 40 million people, and bacterial content of the water is unknown.

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