Heartened by a continuing rapid decline in the cost of genome sequencing, a group of genome and museum experts today launched an ambitious plan to decipher 10,000 vertebrate genomes. The plan, formally announced today and described online in the 5 November issue of the Journal of Heredity, is short on details: where funding will come from; what sequencing strategy to use; how to process and make use of data generated.
But its proponents have already set in motion a global effort to gather the DNA needed to ultimately provide a huge number of genomes to compare with human DNA. Such comparisons help pinpoint important regions of the human genome and provide evolutionary insights. To date about 60 vertebrates have been sequenced or are being sequenced to some degree. Now David Haussler from the University of California, Santa Cruz; Stephen O’Brien from the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland; Oliver Ryder from the San Diego Zoo in California; and about 50 others from around the world have compiled a list of 16,000 species spread across 43 institutions for which they know they can very likely get the DNA needed for sequencing.
Getting good DNA has sometimes been a problem for vertebrate genome projects. The DNA is not for sequencing with today’s technology, however, as it’s too time consuming and costly. O’Brien, Haussler, and Ryder want to see sequencing genomes cost $2500 each—a hundred-fold decrease in the current cost or more. By waiting a few years for better sequencing technology, they expect to spend $50 million for the whole project. It’s not clear where the money will come from, however, or whether the assembly and interpretation of the genomic data can keep up with the high-throughput sequencing envisioned. Nonetheless, Haussler is gung-ho. "We've got real momentum now," he says.
Photo: Andrew J. Crawford