JCVI: Venter Institute Launches the J. Robert Beyster and Life Technologies 2009-2010 Research Voyage of the Sorcerer II Expedition
 
 
Section Banner
Press Release 18-Mar-2009

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Venter Institute Launches the J. Robert Beyster and Life Technologies 2009-2010 Research Voyage of the Sorcerer II Expedition

Team will sail to Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Seas, sampling water and cataloguing microbial diversity

Expedition funded by local San Diego supporters Beyster Family Foundation Fund and matching grants from Life Technologies and others

SAN DIEGO, CA — March 18, 2009 — The J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) today announced the launch of a new Sorcerer II Expedition — the J. Robert Beyster and Life Technologies 2009-2010 Research Voyage. This two year sailing voyage will sample the microbial diversity in the Baltic, Mediterranean, and Black Seas and is being funded by the Beyster Family Foundation of The San Diego Foundation and matching support from Life Technologies Corporation and other anonymous donors. These seas are of scientific interest because they are among the world's largest seas isolated from the major oceans and will likely contain unique microbial communities.

Armed with the tools and techniques developed to sequence the human and other genomes, the Sorcerer II Expedition's mission is to sample the world's waters to detect the microorganisms that live there. For this journey, the Sorcerer II and her crew led by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., will leave their home port of San Diego, CA on March 19th and travel south along the coast of Mexico, through the Panama Canal, to Florida, Bermuda, the Azores, and then land in Plymouth, England. From UK waters the research vessel will then sail to Stockholm, Sweden where she and the crew will sample extensively in the Baltic Sea throughout the summer 2009. The Sorcerer II will then sample in the Mediterranean and Black Seas in 2010.

"With the success of the initial Sorcerer II Expedition in which we have so far discovered approximately 20 million new genes and thousands of new protein families, we are excited to now sample in new environments on this journey to the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean," said Dr. Venter. "We are confident this voyage will yield important insights into the microbial universe there and will add to the growing catalogue of microbes and genes my team has been compiling through the Sorcerer II Expedition."

He added, "We are grateful for the leadership and unwavering support of life science discovery that Bob Beyster, Life Technologies and our other supporters have shown through their funding of this expedition."

The JCVI team uses a simple protocol in which 200 to 400 liters of water are sampled approximately every 200 miles. The collected water then passes through a series of progressively smaller filters to capture microorganisms of various sizes onto filter paper. The filtered samples are immediately frozen to prevent degradation and are shipped to the JCVI laboratories in Rockville, MD and San Diego, CA, where scientists extract the microorganisms' genomic DNA and analyze it using precise mathematical algorithms and other computational tools.

"The San Diego region has always taken pride in its cutting-edge science and technology development," said Bob Kelly, president and CEO of The San Diego Foundation.  "We are pleased to support the Beyster family, and are proud to help play a role in yet another initiative that marks San Diego as a leader in the area of scientific discovery."

"Life Technologies is proud to support the JCVI team in its visionary exploration of life within our seas," said Greg Lucier, the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "We look forward to partnering with Craig on this journey and on using new innovative technologies, such as single molecule DNA sequencing, to decipher the genetic code of these new microbial species. It's only through efforts such as this that we can rapidly accelerate scientific discovery and unlock the secrets of DNA, leading to better solutions for the health of our planet, and ultimately, for all its inhabitants."

A History of the Sorcerer II Expedition: This voyage of discovery was inspired by the voyages of Darwin on the H.M.S. Beagle and Captain George Nares on the H.M.S. Challenger during the 19th Century.  The scientific goals and ideas sprung from the sequencing and analysis of the first archea, Methanococcus jannaschii, by Dr. J. Craig Venter and his research team after the organism wasisolated from a deep sea vent in the Pacific.

After a successful pilot study in Bermuda's Sargasso Sea in which 1.2 million new genes and more than 1,800 new species were identified, the Sorcerer II Expedition was officially launched. She and her crew circumnavigated the globe for more than two years, spanning nearly 32,000 nautical miles, visiting 23 different countries and island groups on four continents.

Results from Circumnavigation: The JCVI team and collaborators analyzed 7.7 million DNA sequences (6.3 billion base pairs) from data collected from Halifax, Nova Scotia through the Eastern Tropical Pacific. They discovered 6.12 million new genes and 1,700 unique protein families. The team also continued to see great diversity both within and between sampling sites.

Expedition 2007-2008: The Sorcerer II set sail in December 2006 leaving Virginia. After a transit through the Panama Canal, the vessel sampled extensively in Mexico's Sea of Cortez, up the West Coast of the U.S. and into Alaska. While in Alaska the Sorcerer II took samples in Glacier Bay National Park including water taken from melting glaciers there.

Throughout 2008, the Sorcerer II conducted extensive sampling in the waters off San Diego and the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. Much of this sampling was done onboard Sorcerer II but several sampling trips were conducted by JCVI scientists onboard other collaborators' vessels.

Several JCVI researchers also participated in deep sea sampling cruises as part of expeditions onboard the R/V Atlantis which carries the deep sea submersible, Alvin. JCVI scientists also conducted several sampling trips to Antarctica where they sampled several stratified lakes to understand the microbial diversity in these harsh polar conditions.

About the J. Craig Venter Institute

The JCVI is a not-for-profit research institute in Rockville, MD and San Diego, CA dedicated to the advancement of the science of genomics; the understanding of its implications for society; and communication of those results to the scientific community, the public, and policymakers. Founded by J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., the JCVI is home to approximately 400 scientists and staff with expertise in human and evolutionary biology, genetics, bioinformatics/informatics, information technology, high-throughput DNA sequencing, genomic and environmental policy research, and public education in science and science policy. The legacy organizations of the JCVI are: The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), The Center for the Advancement of Genomics (TCAG), the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), the Joint Technology Center (JTC), and the J. Craig Venter Science Foundation. The JCVI is a 501 (c) (3) organization. For additional information, please visit http://www.JCVI.org.

About The Beyster Family Foundation

The Beyster Family Foundation was established in 2003 at The San Diego Foundation, for the purpose of supporting a wide variety of worthwhile causes and organizations throughout the region. Grants have been given to numerous nonprofits, including arts, science and technology organizations.

About The San Diego Foundation

Founded in 1975, The San Diego Foundation is a broad-purpose community foundation helping individuals, families and organizations carry out their charitable plans, with the common goal of improving the quality of life in the greater San Diego region, now and for generations to come.

About Life Technologies

Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:LIFE) is a global biotechnology tools company dedicated to improving the human condition. Our systems, consumables and services enable researchers to accelerate scientific exploration, driving to discoveries and developments that make life even better. Life Technologies customers do their work across the biological spectrum, working to advance personalized medicine, regenerative science, molecular diagnostics, agricultural and environmental research, and 21st century forensics. Life Technologies had sales of more than $3 billion in 2008, employs approximately 9,500 people, has a presence in more than 100 countries, and possesses a rapidly growing intellectual property estate of approximately 3,600 patents and exclusive licenses. Life Technologies was created by the combination of Invitrogen Corporation and Applied Biosystems Inc. For more information on how we are making a difference please visit our website: www.lifetechnologies.com.

JCVI Media Contact

Heather Kowalski, hkowalski(AT)jcvi.org, 301-943-8879 or 202-294-9206

#     #     #