ERC - Extinction Genomics – University of Copenhagen

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ERC - Extinction Genomics

ERC logoPalaeogenomics is the nascent discipline concerned with sequencing and analysis of genome-scale information from historic, ancient, and even extinct samples. While once inconceivable due to the challenges of DNA damage, contamination, and the technical limitations of PCR-based Sanger sequencing, following the dawn of the second-generation sequencing revolution, it has rapidly become a reality.

Indeed, so much so, that popular perception has moved away from if extinct species’ genomes can be sequenced, to when it will happen - and even, when will the first extinct animals be regenerated. Unfortunately this view is naïve, and does not account for the financial and technical challenges that face such attempts.

‘Extinction Genomics - Exploring and exploiting the potential of extinct genome sequencing’ is a project funded through an ERC Consolidator Grant award (681396) to Tom Gilbert, that started on April 1st 2016. Through this funding we have been able to build a small research team whose goals are to explore what exactly the limits are on genome reconstruction from extinct or otherwise historic/ancient materials.

We are targeting this question through both the development of new laboratory and bioinformatic tools aimed at decreasing the cost, while concomitantly increasing the quality of genome reconstruction from poor quality materials. In doing so we aim to build a scientifically-grounded framework against which the possibilities and limitations of extinct genome reconstruction can be assessed. We are furthermore generating genomic information from a range of extinct and near-extinct avian and mammalian species, in order to showcase the potential of reconstructed genomes across research questions spanning at least three different streams of research: De-extinction, Evolutionary Genomics, and Conservation Genomics.