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JCVI Announces New Sorcerer II Expedition

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The J. Craig Venter Institute announced last night that it is launching a new Sorcerer II Expedition, called the J. Robert Beyster and Life Technologies 2009-2010 Research Voyage.

On the two-year voyage, a team of scientists led by Craig Venter will sample microbial diversity in the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Black Seas — areas of interest because they are isolated from the major oceans and expected to contain unique microbial communities.

Sorcerer II is leaving the port of San Diego today. From there it will travel south along the Mexican coast, through the Panama Canal to Florida, Bermuda, and the Azores before landing at Plymouth, England. From there, the ship will head to Stockholm, Sweden. Baltic Sea sampling is scheduled for this summer, while the Mediterranean and Black Sea samples are to be collected in 2010.

During the sampling phases of the journey, researchers collect between 200 and 400 liters of water every 200 miles or so. This water is filtered to catch microorganisms of various sizes, which are then frozen and shipped to JCVI laboratories in Maryland and California for genomic DNA analysis.

In a statement issued yesterday, Venter noted that Sorcerer II expeditions so far have turned up roughly 20 million new genes and thousands of previously unidentified protein families.

"[W]e are excited to now sample in new environments on this journey to the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean," Venter said. "We are confident that this voyage will yield important insights into the microbial universe there and will add to the growing catalogue of microbes and genes my team has been compiling through the Sorcerer II Expedition."

The trip is funded by the Beyster Family Foundation Fund of The San Diego Foundation along with matching grants from Life Technologies and anonymous donors. The anticipated cost of the voyage was not disclosed.