Genoscope was founded in 1996 to contribute to the Human genome project and develop genomic programs in France. Genoscope has subsequently turned toward environmental genomics. It is developing methods and projects for the exploitation of biodiversity, in particular with respect to massive DNA sequencing and bioinformatics. Genoscope has been open to the national scientific community through calls for coordinated projects in the context of France Genomique since 2012.
The projects cover all biodiversity, particularly the genomics of plants and fungi and the metagenomics of complex ecosystems. The experimental identification of new biological functions, particularly in the field of biocatalysis, conducted by Unit UMR8030, constitutes an extension and adjunct to the value of sequencing and opens developmental prospects in the field of industrial biotechnology. Through the investigation and exploitation of biodiversity, Genoscope is committed to contributing to the development of sustainable biological solutions in the field of synthetic chemistry.
Genoscope is thus contributing to sequencing numerous plant species (orange tree, coffee tree, cacao tree, banana, rape, wheat, etc.) and animal species, a crucial stage with regard to progress in the field of agronomics and in enhancing our understanding of evolution.
Genoscope is also contributing to the discovery of hitherto unknown microscopic organisms. Some microorganisms are impossible to isolate and culture; microorganism diversity has been poorly elucidated. In order to study the biodiversity of an environment, the Genoscope teams make use of metagenomics. This technique, now feasible thanks to the development of new sequencing technologies and increased bioinformatics data processing capacities, consists in sequencing, at once, the genomes of all the organisms in a sample derived from a given environment. Metagenomics has, for example, been used to study the waste water from a sewage plant (Cloaca Maxima), to study the diversity of the oceans of the world (Mission Tara Oceans) and study the intestinal flora of individual subjects (Gut Microbiome Project). The studies enable reconstitution of the genomes of poorly known organisms, elucidation of the interdependence of those organisms within an ecosystem, determination of the rules for the association of various species in a connected community, and enhanced understanding of biodiversity.
From the study of metabolism to the discovery of new biocatalysts for green chemistry
Study of the biodiversity of organisms and functional interpretation of their genomes yield access to a new field for exploitation of the chemical reactions in the living world. Two objectives are targeted: one basic in-depth elucidation of the metabolism of prokaryotes, the other more applied: discovery of new biocatalysts with a view to using them as alternatives to synthetic chemistry or for the development of bioremediation processes. Living organisms have the ability to synthesize molecules at room temperature and in neutral media such as water. To do so, they have outstanding catalysts, enzymes, proteins which accelerate chemical reactions and ensure their selectivity. The genomic analysis of biodiversity implemented at Genoscope contributes to drawing up an inventory of those enzymes. Their functions are then tested in order to determine whether they could replace an industrial process that employs toxic products or requires high energy inputs.