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Wellcome Sanger Institute Commits $11.8M to Darwin Tree of Life Project

NEW YORK — The Wellcome Sanger Institutes announced today that it has committed £9.4 million ($11.8 million) to launch the first phase of the Darwin Tree of Life project, a collaborative effort to  sequence the genetic codes of 66,000 different species in the UK.

The initiative was announced about a year ago and represents the UK portion of the Earth BioGenome Project, which aims to sequence the genomes of all 1.5 million known animals, plants, protozoa, and fungi.

According the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the funding will be used to collect and barcode around 8,000 key British species, and deliver high-quality genomes of 2,000 species. 

Institutes working with the Wellcome Sanger Institute include the University of Cambridge, the Earlham Institute, the University of Edinburgh, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory's European Bioinformatics Institute, the Marine Biological Association, the Natural History Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and the University of Oxford.

"The mission to sequence all life on the British Isles is ambitious, but by bringing together this diverse group of organizations with expertise in sample collection, DNA sequencing, and data processing, we believe that we have the right team to achieve this," Michael Dunn, head of genetics and molecular sciences at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said in a statement. "We'll gain new insights into nature that will help develop new treatments for infectious diseases, identify drugs to slow aging, generate new approaches to feeding the world, or create new biomaterials."