Genome India Project

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    • 10,000 genomes are expected to be completely sequenced by the end of the year 2023 under the Genome India Project.

    Genome India Project

    • About:
      • It is a Centre-backed, Department of Biotechnology’s (DBT) initiative to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes in three years and create a database.
    • Progress & the target:
      • The project has sequenced close to 7,000 genomes and 3,000 of these are already available for public access by researchers. 
    • Stakeholders:
      • About 20 institutions across India are involved in the project though the analysis and coordination is done out of the Centre for Brain Research, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
    • Data collection:
      • For conducting the project, investigators in hospitals will lead the data collection through a simple blood test from participants and the information will be added to biobanks.
    • Priority areas:
      • Some of the priority areas are Precision health, Rare genetic disorders, Mutation spectrum of genetic and complex diseases in the Indian population, Genetic Epidemiology of Multifactorial Lifestyle Diseases, and Translational Research.

    Significance of the Project

    • Disease-based human genetics:
      • The Indian population of 1.3 billion consists of over 4,600 population groups, and many of them are endogamous. 
      • These factors have contributed to the genetic diversity of the current population. Thus, the Indian population harbours distinct variations and often many disease-causing mutations are amplified within some of these groups. 
      • Therefore, findings from population-based or disease-based human genetics research from other populations of the world cannot be extrapolated to Indians.
    • Help in customising drugs and therapies:
      • Creating a database of Indian genomes means that researchers anywhere can learn about genetic variants that are unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs and therapies. 
        • The United Kingdom, China, and the United States are among the countries that have programmes to sequence at least 1,00,000 of their genomes.
    • Boost to biotechnology sector:
      • It will also boost India’s biotechnology sector to expand and have more valuable companies and start-ups.
    • Designing of genome-wide association chips:
      • This would aid in the designing of genome-wide association chips which will facilitate further large-scale genetic studies in a cost-effective manner.

    What Is Genome Sequencing?

    • A genome is a complete set of genetic instructions which are present in an organism in its DNA. 
    • Sequencing is the sequence of occurrences of the four nucleotide bases i.e., adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T)
    • The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters. 
      • The whole genome can’t be sequenced all at once because available methods of DNA sequencing can only handle short stretches of DNA at a time.
    • While human genomes are made of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid), a virus genome can be made of either DNA or RNA (Ribonucleic acid)
      • Coronavirus is made of RNA. Every organism has a unique genome sequence. 
    • Genome sequencing is a technique that reads and interprets genetic information found within DNA or RNA.

    Significance of Genome Sequencing

    • Understands the Virus: 
      • The purpose of genome sequencing is to understand the role of certain mutations in increasing the virus’s infectivity. Some mutations explain immune escape or the virus’s ability to evade antibodies which have consequences for vaccines.
    • Studying Efficacy: 
      • It helps in studying whether the vaccines developed so far are effective against such mutant strains of the virus and if can prevent re­infection and transmission. 
    • Tracing Mutations: 
      • Sequencing of the genomes of viral strains is important from a “know-thy-enemy” point of view as it becomes easier to trace the mutations. 
      • Scientists can find mutations much more easily and quickly.
    • Developing Vaccines: 
      • Knowledge generated through vital research assists in developing diagnostics and potential therapeutics and vaccines now and for the potential diseases in the future.
    • Vital Information: 
      • Important information and findings can be derived from the Genome sequencing of those who tested positive for COVID or any other virus of concern.

    Challenges in Genome Sequencing in India

    • Very High target: 
      • The aim was to sequence at least 5% of the samples, the minimum required to keep track of the virus variants. This has so far been only around 1%, primarily due to insufficient reagents and tools necessary to scale up the process. 
    • Low Capacity: 
      • The ten laboratories together can sequence about 30,000 samples a month, or 1,000 a day, six times less than what is needed to meet the target.
    • Sample Collection: 
      • The healthcare system is already overstretched and this is one additional task for them to sort and package samples and RNA preparations regularly for shipping in a cold chain to sequencing centres along with recording extensive metadata to make sequence information useful.

    Way ahead

    • This project allows India to draw upon its tremendous genetic diversity, given the series of large migrations historically, and thus, add greatly to the current information about the human species.
    • This initiative reflects India’s progress in gene therapies and precision medicine, and its movement towards emerging next-generation medicine which yields the possibilities for greater customization, safety, and earlier detection.

    IndiGen Project

    • The IndiGen Genome Project was launched by the CSIR in April 2019. It was implemented by CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
    • The main aim of the IndiGen project is to carry out genome sequencing of 1008 Indian Individuals.
    • Utility: Once such knowledge is established, the CSIR expects to tie up with several pathology laboratories who can offer commercial gene testing services.
      • Project proponents say this will widen public understanding in India about genomes and the information that genes hide about one’s susceptibility to disease.

    Source: TH