Drugs From Dirt: a citizen science project


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#Note: Participants whose soil samples are used in this study will receive a full analysis of the secondary metabolite profile of their soil. We are particularly interested in working with school groups and science classes.

Due to overwhelming demand, we can currently only take samples from the USA. However, please sign up below as we are working on a long-term solution to be able to process many more samples.

Whats This About


The biosynthesis of "natural products" (AKA awesome molecules like antibiotics) occurs through the actions of proteins which in turn are encoded by genes. These genes contain conserved motifs that can be amplified by PCR and characterized by Next Generation Sequencing. By looking at samples from around the world we hope to identify new biosynthetic systems and from this discover new molecules. BUT..... We need your help!

The world is a big place and we can't get to all of the various corners of it. We would like some assistance in sampling soil from around the world. If this sounds interesting to you - sign up below!

What Will Be Done With Your Samples & Biodiversity Best Practices

From the soil samples sent to us, we will pick out the most unique samples and extract DNA from them.
  • We will use targeted PCR to amplify conserved biosynthetic domains from this DNA.
  • We will sequence these DNA amplicons and add them to our database.
  • All samples will then be destroyed.
  • No DNA from any sample will be cloned.
  • No samples will actually be used for drug discovery.

This is a purely observational study which we hope will guide future molecule discovery efforts that are beyond the scope of this project. Therefore, in keeping with the best practices of the Nagoya Protocol on biodiversity, we will not archive the genetic information contained in any soil nor will we culture any organisms from any soil samples we receive. We will deposit all data obtained in this study on a publicly accessible resource.

Our Goals

Primary Goal: Profile Soils from every State


Our first goal is to obtain soil samples from each of the 50 states. We've already collected a number of samples as you can see on the left. Therefore we are prioritizing samples from states where we have yet to collect samples from - these states are colored yellow/orange.

However, even if you live in one of the other states - don't despair! There are many interesting environments in all 50 states that we have yet to sample and we would love to collect samples from them all.

Secondary Goals


Profile Global Soils

Sample soils from around the world

Profile at Depth

Choose biodiverse regions and sequence at depth.

Please Sign Up


We want to know some basic information about where you live and who you are. If you live in an area that is poorly represented in our sample group we will e-mail you with instructions on how to harvest and ship a soil sample.