Sorcerer II Plankton Science Yacht

Venture Capital Pours $600 MIllion Into Plankton Bio-Tech

The Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition: Northwest Atlantic through Eastern Tropical Pacific

J. Craig Venter’s GOS has sequenced 6.3 billion base pairs of DNA and identified 1.2 million new genes, according to three papers published this week in the open-access journal, PLoS Biology read here…

“Our results highlight the astounding diversity contained within microbial communities, as revealed through whole-genome shotgun sequencing carried out on a global scale,” Venter and co-authors, led by Douglas Rusch. “Our ability to make these observations derived from not only the large volumes of data but also from the development of new tools and techniques to filter and organize the information in manageable ways.”

Sorcerer II Plankton Science Yacht

Sorcerer II Plankton Science Yacht

The papers report the results of the 8,000 km journey of the Sorcerer II, Venter’s “floating lab,” that began sampling marine microbes from Nova Scotia to French Polynesia in February 2003. After the Sargasso pilot study (see “Venter Makes Waves Again,” Bio-IT World, April 2004), Venter sailed down the eastern coast of North America, the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, and into the South Pacific. The team dropped anchor every 200 miles to collect ocean samples, including sampling in several locations around the Galapagos Islands.

The group studied 41 samples (including data from the pilot study) of marine planktonic microbiota collected from water at the ocean’s surface, about one foot deep in Ecuador, to more than 4,500 meters deep off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The filtered samples were subject to genome shotgun sequencing and assembled using a modified version of the Celera Assembler program.

Where has it led…  Recently, ExxonMobil has partnered with Craig Venter, sequencer of the human genome and creator of synthetic life, and invested $600 million in their own algal biofuel research program– they must have seen some potential in this ‘weird’ technology then.