Gane Ka-Shu Wong
1KP - an International Consortium Sequencing the Transcriptomes of 1000 Phylogenetically Diverse Plant Species from Angiosperms to Algae
There are approximately eight million species known to science, not counting microbial species. Angiosperms (flowering plants) alone number a quarter million. We do not even know how many more species remain to be discovered. In the field of large-scale DNA sequencing, we have until recently been focusing on a few dozen species of importance to agriculture or medicine. What was left untouched was the majority of the diversity of our planet. 1KP is an international consortium acquiring large-scale gene sequence data for the plant kingdom, incorporating at some phylogenetic or taxonomic level all known species from angiosperms to algae. The project is organized into ~14 subprojects. Some were designed to answer fundamental questions in plant evolutionary (e.g., the role of polyploidy in angiosperm diversification, Darwin’s abominable mystery). Others address more practical issues for agriculture (e.g., making crops such as rice more efficient at photosynthesis) or medicine (e.g., creating molecular tools to probe mammalian brains). The latter studies demonstrate in pragmatic terms the value of “completeness” across evolutionary diversity, as opposed to completeness within species, which has long been the defining characteristic of genomics.
About the Speaker
Dr. Wong got his Ph.D. in experimental low temperature physics from Cornell University in 1990. After a few years at the California Institute of Technology he was recruited to the Human Genome Project (HGP) by Maynard Olson at the University of Washington. As the project reached its crescendo in the late 1990’s, he accepted an invitation from Jian Wang, Huanming Yang, and Jun Yu to help launch what eventually became BGI-Shenzhen. In 2007 he returned home to Canada, and specifically to the University of Alberta, where he is now a Professor in Biological Sciences, a Professor in Medicine, and the iCORE Chair in Biosystems Informatics. From this position he has launched two new programs: one to sequence the transcriptomes of 1000 plants, and another to develop methodologies to detect novel infectious agents for common idiopathic human diseases.