The world trembled – Community-sponsored genomics

parrot ricoby USFWS/Southeast

The People’s Parrot: the First Community-Sponsored Genome – Bio-IT World
[Via Bio-IT World]

Researchers in Puerto Rico have taken the concept of public funding for genome research to a new level. Paid for with money raised from art and fashion shows and private donations, scientists and students at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez have sequenced the genome of the critically endangered Puerto Rican parrot (Amazona vittata)—and maybe introduced a new model for genome research.   

The group’s results were published today in the international open-access journal GigaScience. 

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This is how the exponential economy disrupts. A community was able to sponsor the research on the sequencing of the genome of a beloved and endangered animal. There were only 16 of these parrots left at one time.

And they did it not through huge government grants but through community efforts. It cost $10,000 and they raised the money with art auctions, fashion shows and a Facebook page.

Here is what the editor of the journal, GugaScience, where the research was published, wrote (my bold):

A unique community-funded project in Puerto Rico has launched whole-genome sequencing of the critically endangered Puerto Rican Parrot (Amazona vittata), with interpretation by genome bioinformaticians and students, and deposition into public online databases. This is the first article that focuses on the whole genome of a parrot species, one endemic to the USA and recently threatened with extinction. It provides invaluable conservation tools and a vivid example of hopeful prospects for future genome assessment of so many new species. It also demonstrates inventive ways for smaller institutions to contribute to a field largely considered the domain of large sequencing centers.

They don’t have the entire genome yet, being about 3/4th of the way.  And are using the undergraduates to help annotate the genome as part of the project.

Community genomics done by the community.  This is a big deal.

It will disrupt the way we do research.