Fortune |  Nov 2, 2018 | Lucas Laursen

If Noah had today’s genome sequencers he would have built a smaller ark – and filled it with hard drives.

A network of scientists around the world Thursday, launched a 10-year project to sequence the genomes of all the 1.5 million known plants, animals, and fungi on Earth. The Earth Biogenome Project is a global collaboration designed to avoid duplication of research and to make all genome data inter-operable and open for public use.

The founders of the Project estimate that its total cost will be around $4.7 billion, which is less than the almost $5 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars the Human Genome Project cost in 2003. If it’s anything like its predecessor, it will create whole new markets. Medical advances that emerged from the Human Genome Project are estimated to be worth $20 billion.

Adding to this potential is the fact that the cost of sequencing has plummeted. At the same time, approximately 3,500 other species have been sequenced since the creation of the human reference genome, ranging from Neandertals to limb-regenerating axolotl salamanders.

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