Cooperation Demystifies Tree of Life

Brazil is participating in multi-disciplinary science projects involving several nations. And, says a key researcher, this is a good time for US academic partners to expand cooperation with Brazil, especially in the fast- growing fields of Bioinformatics and Genomics.

In an era of consolidation, scientific progress is increasingly channelled into big-budget projects with multiple partners best typified by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, so any nation with ambitions must be ready participate in these.

A case in point is the Assembling The Tree of Life project sponsored by the NSF, which for a decade has been using advances in genome sequencing and bioinformatics to build a classification system for all 1.7 million known living species.


This includes Brazil, the home of 20% of the world’s biodiversity. So naturally, Brazil has been involved.  Many researchers at universities in the U.S., Brazil and elsewhere share the use of phylogenetics.

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A flood of new information, from whole-genome sequences to detailed structural information to inventories of earth’s biota, is transforming 21st century biology.

Phylogenetics is a central organizing structure for organismal groups joined by genomic and anatomical data. Therefore, phylogenies can also be called trees of life, which are branching diagrams, representing a hypothesis for relationship of organisms and changes that occur along the branches.

Along with comparative data on morphology, fossils, development, behavior, and interactions of all forms of life on earth, these new data streams make even more critical the need for an organizing framework for information retrieval, analysis, and prediction. Phylogeny, the genealogical map for all lineages of life on earth, provides an overall framework to facilitate information retrieval and biological prediction.

Currently, single investigators or small teams of researchers are studying the evolutionary pathways of heredity usually concentrating on phylogenetic groups of modest size. Assembly of a framework phylogeny, or Tree of Life, for all 1.7 million described species requires a greatly magnified effort by large teams working across institutions and disciplines.

Professor Daniel Janies of the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) has sought to strengthen research partnerships between universities in Brazil and the United States. Prof Janies, himself involved in the Tree of Life project, leads the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC).

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In this interview with Prof Janies conducted by journalist Samuel Antenor, you can read about US-Brazil cooperation, set in the context of a recent conference on this topic held at UNCC.  Click here to read the Q&A published by FAPESP News Agency and by UNCC. This   interview was originally published on the  Agencia FAPESP website and is reproduced here with their kind permission.




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