Sequencing project to unleash the huge potential of euglenoids

22 November 2022
Microscopic image of a Euglenoid - Phacus

An ambitious plan to sequence the genomes of all known species of euglenoids over the next decade has been launched today. The network of scientists behind the initiative believe it has the potential to drive breakthroughs ranging from new biofuels and sustainable foods to cancer medicines.

The Euglena International Network (EIN), founded in 2020, is a global consortium of hundreds of scientists around the world with the collective goal of supporting euglenoid science through collaborative and integrative omics between academics and industry.

The EIN has today published a position paper in Biology Open, outlining the case for a concerted effort to generate high-quality reference genomes for the nearly 1,000 known species of euglenoids.

Euglenoids are part of the protist group, home to eukaryotic organisms that do not fit into animal, plant, or fungi groups. These diverse single-celled organisms are found in an exceptionally wide range of ecosystems around the world.

Multiple euglenoid species have translational applications, showing great promise in the production of biofuels, nutraceuticals, bioremediation, cancer treatments, and even as robotics design simulators.

Their enormous potential has been largely untapped due to a lack of high-quality reference genomes.

Professor Neil Hall, Chair of the EIN Science Committee and Director of the Earlham Institute, said: “It’s incredibly rare to find an organism so versatile it has potential roles in food production, biofuel generation, robotic engineering, and drug development – and there are many more applications possible. Producing reference genomes is the first step to understanding these remarkable organisms so we can realise their biotechnological potential.”

Euglenoid genomes present a particular sequencing challenge because they are an example of secondary endosymbiosis – housing mitochondria, chloroplasts, and remnants of genetic material from organisms they enveloped to acquire these organelles.

Their enormous potential has been largely untapped due to a lack of high-quality reference genomes.

Dr. ThankGod Echezona Ebenezer, Founding President of EIN and a Bioinformatician at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), UK, said: “The Euglena International Network will play a crucial role in helping to assemble specialists on euglenoids to increase our understanding of euglenoids biology and its translational applications. This could be useful to furthering our understanding of the evolution of parasitism, social gaming, developing jet fuels, or supporting human space exploration”.

Euglenoid genomes present a particular sequencing challenge because they are an example of secondary endosymbiosis – housing mitochondria, chloroplasts, and remnants of genetic material from organisms they enveloped to acquire these organelles.

As a result, fewer than 20 species have been explored at any level for translational potential through genomics. The EIN believes the time is right to address this.

Through generating high-quality reference genomes for the known species of euglenoids, the EIN will work to:

  • Understand the basic biology of euglenoids
  • Understand the evolution of euglenoids
  • Maximise euglenoid applications in ecological and environmental management
  • Explore, translate, and commercialise euglenoid products

Data collected by the EIN will be openly available to the scientific community through the European Nucleotide Archive (ENA). Once in ENA, annotated genomes can be imported into resources such as Ensembl Protists and presented in a uniform and FAIR way to research communities.

The Euglena International Network is an affiliated network to the Earth BioGenome Project and the International Society of Protistologists.

Notes to editors.

The Euglena International Network (EIN) is a global community network that aims to galvanise the Euglenoids community by providing a collaborative interface and advancing Euglenoids science.

The EIN’s goals are to:

  • Drive and engage the conversation for the formation of the Euglenoids Genome Project (EGP).
  • Provide a collaborative interface for the Euglenoid community globally.
  • Advance the knowledge of Euglenoid science through knowledge exchange between academia and industry.
  • For more information visit

Further comments from the EIN Team:

Dr. Masami Nakazawa, member of the EIN Science Committee and a Senior Lecturer at Osaka Metropolitan University, Japan, said: “The EIN has boosted collaborations in the euglenoid community where I am already involved in exciting projects regarding energy metabolism. Elucidating unexplored features of euglenoids including genomic information will contribute to human welfare through biotechnology in addition to basic science.”

Dr. Anna Karnkowska, member of the EIN Science Committee and Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw, Poland, said: “The unique genomic features and presence of secondary plastids in Euglenoids make them a crucial group for understanding the evolution of eukaryotes and their endosymbiotic organelles. Genomic data are essential for elucidating the evolutionary history of Euglenoids and designing experiments to explore their biology further”. 

Dr. Eric W. Linton, member of the EIN Science Committee, Past-President of the Phycological Society of America (PSA), and Professor at Central Michigan University, USA, said: “The genomic information that we do have for euglenoids shows their genomes and resulting biochemical / metabolic pathways, in many cases, are made up of genes from various sources such as bacteria, red and green algae. This chimera of a genome can give us rare insights into genome evolution, organization and regulation.”

For more information, please contact:

Greg Bowker

Head of Communications, Earlham Institute (EI)

 +44 (0)1603 450 895 /

About the Earlham Institute

The Earlham Institute (EI) is a world-leading research institute focusing on the development of genomics and computational biology. EI is based within the Norwich Research Park and is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBSRC) - £6.45M in 2015/2016 - as well as support from other research funders. EI operates a National Capability to promote the application of genomics and bioinformatics to advance bioscience research and innovation.

EI offers a state of the art DNA sequencing facility, unique by its operation of multiple complementary technologies for data generation. The Institute is a UK hub for innovative bioinformatics through research, analysis and interpretation of multiple, complex data sets. It hosts one of the largest computing hardware facilities dedicated to life science research in Europe. It is also actively involved in developing novel platforms to provide access to computational tools and processing capacity for multiple academic and industrial users and promoting applications of computational Bioscience. Additionally, the Institute offers a training programme through courses and workshops, and an outreach programme targeting key stakeholders, and wider public audiences through dialogue and science communication activities.