India can now boast of having its own genetic database which can be used in a number of areas including predictive and preventive medicine with faster and efficient diagnosis of rare genetic diseases such as thalassemia, sickle cell anemia and cancer.
For the first time, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has collected genome sequence of 1,008 Indians, representing over 55 different ethnic populations and age groups, creating a bank of genetic data. Genome sequencing is the process of figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome.
Globally, many countries like the US, China, Japan have undertaken genome sequencing of a sample of their citizens to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease. This is the first time that a database of Indians have been compiled, representating the country's population diversity, said Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, giving details of the IndiGen Genome project.
He said that the whole genome data will be important for building the knowhow, baseline data and indigenous capacity in the emerging area of precision medicine.
"The outcomes of the IndiGen will have applications in a number of areas including predictive and preventive medicine with faster and efficient diagnosis of rare genetic diseases," he added.
The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by the CSIR in April this year and was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the benefits of this initiative include epidemiology of genetic diseases to enable cost effective genetic tests, carrier screening applications for expectant couples, enabling efficient diagnosis of heritable cancers and pharmacogenetic tests to prevent adverse drug reactions.
CSIR Director Shekhar Mande said the outcomes of the IndiGen will be utilised towards understanding the genetic diversity of a population scale, making available genetic variant frequencies for clinical applications and enabling genetic epidemiology of the diseases.
He pointed out that there are millions of people in the country with genetic diseases and this exercise will greatly benefit in identifying these disorders.
The genome bank specific to the Indian population will also help cut down costs of genetic screenings and therapies, said Ishaan Khanna, CEO of LifeCell Diagnostics which is among the seven firms having acquired the license for the technology.