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Biocode: The New Age of Genomics

  • Describes the rapid rise of genomics, and the unprecedented possibilities it brings
  • Sets out the implications for humans: compulsory DNA sequencing of newborns? Your genome snatched from a stray hair?
  • Recounts the latest developments moving from sequencing to the creation of new forms of life
  • Shows how genomics is revealing the scale and diversity of life on Earth, including vast swathes of hitherto unknown viruses and bacteria
  • Explains the possibilities for the Earth: from genomic observatories to the dream of biocoding the whole planet

By: Dawn Field(Author), Neil Davies(Author)

196 pages, 9 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Aug 2016 | #227333 | ISBN-13: 9780199687763
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £9.99 $13/€11 approx
Hardback | Mar 2015 | #216642 | ISBN-13: 9780199687756
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £16.99 $22/€18 approx

About this book

The living world runs on genomic software – what Dawn Field and Neil Davies call the 'biocode' – the sum of all DNA on Earth. In Biocode, they tell the story of a new age of scientific discovery: the growing global effort to read and map the biocode, and what that might mean for the future. The structure of DNA was identified in 1953, and the whole human genome was mapped by 2003. Since then the new field of genomics has mushroomed and is now operating on an industrial scale. Genomes can now be sequenced rapidly and increasingly cheaply. The genomes of large numbers of organisms from mammals to microbes, have been mapped. Getting your genome sequenced is becoming affordable for many. You too can check paternity, find out where your ancestors came from, or whether you are at risk of some diseases. Some check out the pedigree of their pets, while others turn genomes into art. A stray hair is enough to crudely reconstruct the face of the owner. From reading to constructing: the first steps to creating artificial life have already been taken.

Some may find the rapidity of developments, and the potential for misuse, alarming. But they also open up unprecedented possibilities. The ability to read DNA has changed how we view ourselves and understand our place in nature. From the largest oceans, to the insides of our guts, we are able to explore the biosphere as never before, from the genome up. Sequencing technology has made the invisible world of microbes visible, and biodiversity genomics is revealing whole new worlds within us and without. The findings are transformational: we are all ecosystems now. Already the first efforts at 'barcoding' entire ecological communities and creating 'genomic observatories' have begun. The future, the authors argue, will involve biocoding the entire planet.

"Biocode provides a very readable overview of the broad impact of genomics on our understanding of life. I recommended it to readers of all levels with a love or fascination of science."
– J. Craig Venter Ph.D.

"In this lovely, reaching, important book, Dawn Field and Neil Davies show us the front edge of a scientific movement that is transforming, simultaneously, science and our understanding of the world. If you want to understand the biological future, read this book. If you want to see what it looks like as scientists fumble with unknowns too big to really grab a hold of, read this book. If you want to know what the DNA in your house or pond or dog tell about you and the world, read this book."
– Rob Dunn, biologist, writer and associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University


1: D.N.A
2: Six Billion Bases for Six Billion People
3: Homo evolutis
4: Zoo in My Sequencer
5: No Organism is an Island
6: Our Place in Nature
7: Genomes on the Move
8: We are all Ecosystems Now
9: DNA Explorers

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Dawn Field lives near Oxford, UK where she is a Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford eResearch Centre at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. She has collaborated on metagenomics studies of the 'L4 site' in the Western Channel Observatory, making it one of the best-characterized microbial communities in the world.

Neil Davies lives on Moorea (sister island to Tahiti) in French Polynesia where he is the Executive Director of the University of California Berkeley's Gump South Pacific Research Station. He is the lead principal investigator of the Moorea Biocode Project, a $5m effort to sequence (DNA barcode) all non-microbial species on the island.

Both are Research Associates of the Biodiversity Institute of Oxford where they are using their complementary experiences to cofound the international Genomic Observatories (GOs) Network. They have published more than 140 scientific articles (including in Science, Nature, Nature Genetics, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Methods, and PNAS) and have research interests in evolution, population genetics, genomics, metagenomics, DNA barcoding, bioinformatics, biodiversity, and data sharing. Both believe strongly in the power of concerted, international community-driven scientific actions. Field is the founder of the Genomic Standards Consortium, a growing nexus point for a wide range of international projects in this domain and both serve on its Board. Together they are working to help champion the emergence of 'biodiversity genomics' as a scientific field.

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