Genome India Project launched in northeast

Imphal: Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) of over 2,000 individuals spanning different ethnic, linguistic and socio-cultural sections of the northeastern states will be carried out as part of the Genome India Project, launched in the region on Tuesday.

This exercise will help in identification of the genetic disease burden of specific subsets of populations, which will have “far-reaching implications” in improving the healthcare landscape of this region, scientists involved with the study said.

“The people of the northeast have many things which are unique and the genetic diversity of the people is not well understood. People spend huge amounts of money for their medical treatment and are thus left with very little money for household expenses. In addition to that, old age-related health issues are an additional burden,” said Dinabandhu Sahoo, Director of Imphal-based Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development (IBSD).

“This burden can be reduced by personalized medicine which can be achieved by use of the genetic information,” said Sahoo while launching the project for the northeast.

The IBSD is a national institute of the Department of Biotechnology and it will be actively collaborating with the Genome lndia initiative undertaken by the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

The project will also lead to a new understanding of the different ethnic groups of India — a country with the highest diversity of ethnic groups, and which puts India in a unique position for the mapping of the human genome, said Sahoo.

“The mapping and understanding of the human genome in the country, particularly in the northeastern region which has over 220 ethnic groups living in very diverse topographies, will have tremendous applications in understanding not only the genetic origins of the different ethnic groups but would lead to an increased understanding of the genetic disease burden which would help in the development of personalised medicine,” said Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, Founder Chairperson, Centre for Brain Research, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and former Director, National Brain Research Centre, Haryana.

The objectives of this initiative are to systematically document the genetic information from whole-genome sequencing for thousands of Indian individuals belonging to different geographical locations and diverse population groups across the country, to facilitate genome-wide association studies at a cheaper cost in India for any genetic disease or trait.

Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder, Infosys, has contributed Rs 225 crore for this initiative, the statement added.

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