Science

Biotechnology Department will scan 20,000 Indian genomes

The Department of Biotechology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.

The first phase involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and capture the biological diversity of India, Renu Swarup, Secretary-DBT told The Hindu.

Vast troves

In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced. These vast troves of data sets would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.

While 22 institutions, including those from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the DBT would be involved in the exercise, the data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion.

‘Major thrust area’

“Genomics research is a major thrust area for the Department. What is unique about this programme, called the Genome India Initiative, is its scale. The deliverables are genomic-based diagnostics that can be affordably made available through a lab,” Dr. Swarup added.

The programme is expected to formally launch in October, with an estimated budget of ₹250-350 crore for the Phase-1, she added.

Along with genome samples, the Pune-based National Centre for Cell Sciences — also involved in the project — will also collect samples of the microbiome from the human gut. The diversity of the bacterial samples is at the frontier of global research, and scientists have said there is an intimate connection between the genome, the gut microbiome and disease.

Declining costs

There is interest among private and public companies in sequencing genomes thanks to the declining costs for the process. From China to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, several countries have announced plans to sequence their population. Currently, genomic data sets under-represent Asia, particularly India, whose population and diverse ethnicity make it an attractive prospect for genome-mining efforts. The CSIR already has an effort underway to scan 1,000 genomes from healthy Indians.


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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 1:42:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/science/biotechnology-department-will-scan-20000-indian-genomes/article28815520.ece

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