World's first databank for all living systems

enBank, which stores genetic sequences, is part of the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration, which also includes the DNA DataBank of Japan and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory.

The Library of Life was proposed by Steven Tanksley, the Liberty Hyde Bailey professor of plant breeding at Cornell, who will be a key adviser on the project. The library's director will be Ron Elber, professor of computer science at Cornell. The early work of the library will be to develop a prototype, the Library of the Desert, which will be a digital catalog that includes living samples of microbes, fungi, plants, insects, invertebrates and vertebrates in the Dead Sea region. New computer languages and databases will be created to integrate the massive amounts of data flowing into the library.

BTR Foundation, which is providing seed money for the BTR Center is headed by New York City businessman Mati Kochavi, a native of Israel who is chairman of Optic Solutions.

This is Cornell's second teaching and research initiative in the Middle East. Last year, the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City opened a campus in Qatar, the first higher education institution in that country to be coeducational. Cornell is the first American university to offer its M.D. degree overseas.


Much of the research in the Library of Life, as at the BTR Center itself, will involve the challenges presented by the completion of the Human Genome Project, in which the basic fingerprints of humans, the DNA sequences, have been recorded. In future decades researchers will attempt to unravel biological functions and discover medical benefits. This, however, is only a small part of the information that is necessary to understand life. Of the 20 million known species on Earth, only a tiny fraction of genomes have been sequenced. And genomes do not code ecological relationships and complex environmental effects, which need to be recorde

Contact: David Brand
Cornell University News Service

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