CN Tower to Double as DNA Barcode

September 24, 2010 - News Release

The CN Tower will be illuminated Sept. 25 to look like the world's biggest DNA barcode as part of the official launch of the University of Guelph-based International Barcode of Life Project (iBOL).

iBOL is the world’s largest biodiversity genomics initiative aimed at creating a digital identification system of all life on Earth using DNA barcoding.

The international project will be launched by Glen Murray, Ontario’s minister of research and innovation, at the CN Tower at 6:30 p.m.

University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee and iBOI scientific director Paul Hebert, a professor in the University’s Department of Integrative Biology, will also speak at the event.

The launch comes just two days after U of G announced The BetterPlanet Project, an ambitious plan to help improve the quality of food, the environment, health and communities around the globe. The $200-million fundraising campaign aims to help build human capacity and a strategy for accelerating innovation, such as the technology of DNA barcoding.

DNA barcoding is a method for identifying species using a short DNA sequence from a standard location on the genome. The technique enables automated, rapid and inexpensive species identification.

“We are witnessing alarming rates of species extinction, and efforts to reverse that trend are hampered by huge gaps in our knowledge about the distribution and diversity of life,” said Hebert. “DNA barcoding promises a future where everyone will have rapid access to the names and biological attributes of every species on Earth.”

DNA barcodes will be a vital tool not only for conservation but also for monitoring species that have adverse impacts on human health and economic well-being, he said. “We are only beginning to scratch the surface of how DNA barcoding will impact the way we live, work and play.”

U of G’s Biodiversity Institute of Ontario is the scientific hub for the international project, which involves more than 100 researchers from 26 countries.

Work over the past five years has produced barcode records for almost 80,000 species and provided the impetus for the launch of iBOL, which will massively expand the DNA barcode reference library and develop the technologies to read it.

It is estimated that iBOL will gather barcode records for all 10 million species of multicellular life on the planet within 20 years.

“The International Barcode of Life is assembling a global network of taxonomists, biologists and geneticists to embark on the next great exploration of the natural world,” said Christian Burks, president and CEO of the Ontario Genomics Institute and chair of the iBOL consortium board of directors. “It will bring about fundamental changes in the way we view the Earth’s biodiversity and our relationship to it.”

John Chenery
Biodiversity Institute of Ontario

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1