The Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence all eukaryotic species. This superkingdom of life includes all organisms except bacteria and archaea. Graphic by Mirhee Lee

Earth BioGenome Project aims to sequence genomes of 1.5 million species

An international consortium of scientists is proposing a massive project to sequence, catalog and analyze the genomes of all known eukaryotic species on the planet, an undertaking the researchers say will take 10 years, cost $4.7 billion and require more than 200 petabytes of digital storage capacity. Eukaryotes include all organisms except bacteria and archaea. There are an estimated 10-15 million eukaryotic species on Earth.

The proposed initiative, described in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, would require the cooperation of governments, scientists, citizen scientists and students from around the globe. The authors of the proposal compare it to the Human Genome Project, an international scientific research project from 1990 to 2006 that cost roughly $4.8 billion in today’s dollars and generated an estimated return-on-investment ratio of 141-to-1.

The Human Genome Project “involved a workforce of more than 47,000 people generating nearly $1 trillion in economic activity,” the authors wrote. They are calling their new proposal the Earth BioGenome Project .

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