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Community-Funded Sequencing

Residents of Puerto Rico provided "hundreds of individual donations" to help fund the sequencing of the Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata), the only surviving parrot species native to the United States.

While the results of the study, published today in the open-access journal GigaScience, should provide benefits for avian research, "what is most remarkable is how the study was carried out," according to the GigaScience Blog. Funding for the sequencing effort came from student-organized art and fashion shows as well as small personal donations and "shows how accessible and affordable genomics has become."

This type of community-funded sequencing "could only happen when the cost of reagents had dropped so precipitously that it can be afforded within a $10,000 budget," says Stephen O'Brien in a commentary on the project, also published today in GigaScience.

O'Brien adds that another unique feature of the project is that "the analysis and annotation took place in a modest university setting where students of genome bioinformatics were trained to drive assemblers, to stitch together contigs and scaffolds, and to begin the genome annotation process."

The rapid drop in sequencing costs has given rise to large-scale projects like the Genome10K Project for vertebrate species, the Insect 5K project for insect species, and the Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance for invertebrate species — which will soon create demand for bioinformaticians for 25,000 species, O'Brien says. "Will they be supplied by the traditional genome sequencing centers, by mega-sequencing centers as for the BGI, or by young scientists across the globe like those trained on the Puerto Rican parrot's genome, poised to make sense, aka a comprehensive genome browser for each new species' sequence? Time will tell, but I have my suspicions," he adds.