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BGI to Contribute to International Project to Sequence 200,000 Microbes

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BGI said last week that it would contribute sample-prep, sequencing, and bioinformatics to the Earth Microbiome Project — an international initiative that aims to characterize 200,000 microbes from ocean, soil, air, freshwater, and underground ecosystems. Additionally, BGI will help identify sample collections in Asia for the project.

The Earth Microbiome Project is a multidisciplinary effort that formed last year to analyze microbial communities around the world. It has three main goals: to produce an inventory of protein family diversity; to define the microbial community structure; and to create a global database of samples, genes, and proteins that can be used to study fundamental questions about ecology.

The project is led by Jack Gilbert of Argonne National Laboratory and involves representatives from the University of Chicago; the University of California, Davis; the University of Southern California; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the University of Colorado, Boulder; and elsewhere.

"Given the essential role of microbes for life on our planet, and our lack of understanding of their complexity and diversity, it is critical that we conquer this unknown frontier," BGI's president, Huanming Yang, said in a statement.

The Earth Microbiome Project is the largest sequencing project to ever be undertaken. Since "BGI is the biggest player in global sequencing," Gilbert said in a statement, "their participation is essential."

The EMP is just one of many large-scale sequencing collaborations that BGI is participating in, including the 1,000 Plant and Animal Genomes project, Genome 10K, the 1,000 Mendelian Disorders project, the International Cancer Genome Consortium, and collaborations with pharmaceutical companies.

A BGI Americas official recently provided an update on the institute's activities (see story, same issue).

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