In a bid to improve healthcare as well as tap into the global trend of designing ‘personalised medicine,’ India is embarking on an ambitious project of sequencing the genes of a large group of Indians.
The decision that India will be a part of the ‘GenomeAsia 100k’ project, which is driven by Singapore-based National Technological University (NTU), was announced amidst various other key decisions made during the first-ever assembly of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (STIAC) on Tuesday.
The GenomeAsia project will involve sequencing whole genomes of 1,00,000 Asians, that includes 50,000 Indians and a group of Indian scientists and companies have already teamed up on the project, with close supervision from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Department of Biotechnology, reports The Hindu.
“Our lifestyle, our environment and the genes we inherit all combine to make us what we are. The diversity of Indians and of our environment requires a large-scale study of human genomes, of our lifestyle in health and disease and the use of healthy—and disease—samples to understand the impact on health,” said a press statement from the STIAC.
Interestingly, a study of this scale has never been previously undertaken by the country, except for the genome sequencing of an Indian in 2009, which made India one amongst the only six countries in the world to have achieved such a feat. Since then, various research laboratories have been working on disease susceptibility through Indian gene analyses, although no gene compendium that discerns Indian genomes from the likes of the Caucasian or African ones, exist as of now.
As stated by K Vijay Raghavan, who is the Principal Scientific Adviser and Chair of the Council, the genome initiative will have to move at two different levels. “Sequencing genomes and linking to human health and disease as a research initiative, and doing this on a much larger scale, so it has a direct impact on public health. As the first level starts, the second will be put in place, speedily,” he added.
Similar projects are already in place in countries like the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia and India, aims to use the result from this study to up its own healthcare sector.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)