A national biobank

A national biobank and DNA sequence library

Australia's biodiversity is an immense, natural, national asset. And like many other assets, it needs to be carefully managed if its value is to be realised and conserved for future generations.

A key piece of infrastructure that will help manage Australia's natural biodiversity asset is a national biodiversity biobank and DNA sequence library for all known Australian species.

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A biobank is a repository of tissue samples, carefully preserved for a wide range of future uses. In some respects, a national biodiversity biobank already exists, in the form of the millions of scientific specimens in museum and herbarium collections around Australia.

 

While these collections were assembled to document the distributions and taxonomy of Australia's species, they are continually finding new uses. Biodiversity collections are being used for biodiscovery (finding bioactive molecules for human and veterinary medicine and pharmacology), tracking the impacts of climate change, monitoring the spread and impacts of pests and diseases, and providing key components for research and development.

A national biobank can be based on, and needs to extend and refine, our national biodiversity collections. Some specimens in these collections were collected and stored in ways that make them unsuitable for some uses. And some parts of the collections are so immense - the vast numbers of insects and other invertebrate collection is an example - that there is no national stocktake: we don't even know what's in the collections.

Furthermore, enormous value will be gained from the national biobank when its specimens and tissue samples are used to create a library of DNA sequences for all known Australian species. This has not yet been attempted in a rigorous and coordinated fashion.

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Once complete, the DNA sequences and associated specimens and tissues in the national biobank and sequence library will have a myriad of uses. They will be a key asset for the mission to discover and document all remaining Australian species in a generation. They will also enable better biosecurity protection for Australia's agriculture and environment, better targeting of bioprospecting, better monitoring of our environment, and better tools for conserving Australia's unique species.

From httpswww.flickr.comphotosaspidoscel