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BGI to Play Pivotal Sampling, Next-Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics Role in Earth Microbiome Project

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. and SHENZHEN, China, March 22, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- BGI (previously known as the Beijing Genomics Institute), the largest genomic organization in the world, announced its participation and pivotal role in the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP), a massively multidisciplinary effort to systematically determine the functional and evolutionary diversity of microbial communities across the globe for the benefit of the planet and mankind.

Unlike past microbial studies that have been modest in scope and focused on the oceanic and human environments, the EMP will also include samples of soil, air, and freshwater ecosystems, as well as the planet's subsurface believed to contain the vast majority of all microbes. With the goal of examining the relationships between specific environments and biology, the EMP will analyze 200,000 samples from researchers around the globe using environmental DNA sequencing, or metagenomics, along with other next-generation sequencing to produce a global Gene Atlas.

In addition to being responsible for leading the effort to identify sample collections in Asia that can be leveraged against the EMP, BGI will provide DNA extraction, amplification, sequence library construction and sequencing for metagenomics projects as well as computational resources in the development of the bioinformatics pipeline that will provide an analysis framework for the vast amount of data to be produced by the EMP.

Commenting on BGI's role in the EMP, Jack A. Gilbert, Ph.D., project director of EMP and professor of University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory, stated, "BGI has demonstrated incredible enthusiasm and resources in terms of sequencing capacity, technical development, and informatics expertise. The EMP is the largest sequencing project ever undertaken, and BGI is the biggest player in global sequencing so their participation is essential. BGI's commitment to scientific excellence makes them an ideal choice for developing a project of this scale."

"We are honored to have the opportunity to be a key participant in this highly important scientific undertaking," stated Prof. Huanming Yang, Chairman of BGI. "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. With BGI's next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics capabilities, we believe we can contribute in a meaningful way to improve our collective understanding of the role and importance of microbes."

On behalf of the EMP consortium, BGI will be conducting The First International Earth Microbiome Project (EMP) Conference in Shenzhen, China, June 13-15, 2011.

For additional information on registering for or participating in the conference, please see

About The Earth Microbiome Project (EMP)

To understand microbes (Bacterial, Archaeal, Eukaryal and Viral) in terms of whom they are and what they do is the challenge of microbial ecology. The EMP presents a revolution in how this problem is tackled and defines both questions and potential suite of tools to provide answers. The EMP will provide a quantum leap in the ability to interrogate this community through a truly global collaborative project. Approximately 1 x 10(^30) microbial cells live on this planet at any one time (there are more microbial cells on earth than stars in the known universe.) To date, the total global environmental DNA sequencing effort constitutes significantly less than one percent of the total DNA found in a liter of seawater or a gram of soil. Hence, the complexity and diversity of microbes on this planet have been vastly under sampled. However, recent advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have provided an unprecedented opportunity to explore the microbial universe, and the EMP proposes to leverage this capability at a scale many orders of magnitude greater than any previously conceived study in order to sequence microbes and microbial communities from every conceivable biome. The resulting Gene Atlas will describe protein space, environmental metabolic models for each biome, approximately 500,000 reconstructed microbial genomes, a global metabolic model, and a data-analysis portal for visualization of all information. Key participants in this unprecedented project include BGI, Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago, University of Colorado-Boulder, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory and the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute. For more information, visit .

About BGI

BGI (formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute) was founded in 1999 and has since become the largest genomic organization in the world. With a focus on research and applications in the healthcare, agriculture, conservation and bio-energy fields, BGI has a proven track record of innovative, high-profile research which has generated over 178 publications in top-tier journals such as Nature and Science. BGI's distinguished achievements have made a great contribution to the development of genomics in both China and the world. Our goal is to make leading-edge genomics highly accessible to the global research community by leveraging industry's best technology, economies of scale and expert bioinformatics resources. BGI and its affiliates, BGI Americas and BGI Europe, have established partnerships and collaborations with leading academic and government research institutions, as well as global biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. At BGI, we have built the infrastructure and scientific expertise to enable our customers and collaborators to quickly migrate from samples to discovery. For more information, visit

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