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India’s coronavirus genome sequencing system

GS Paper 3

Topics Covered: Issues related to biotechnology.


Context: Novel Coronavirus Sequencing and analysis has declined sharply in India.

  • The number of coronavirus samples sequenced and analysed in India has dropped.
  • India formed the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a consortium of genome sequencing labs, in December 2020.
  • While announcing INSACOG, the central government aimed to analyse 5 per cent of all positive samples. This method is known as ‘randomised surveillance’.


Purpose of sequencing

  • The main purpose of sequencing is surveillance. It helps to get the true picture of prevailing variants, emerging variants (like delta) and those causing reinfection.
  • Currently there are four ‘Variants of concern’ (VoCs) — Alpha (emerged in the UK), Beta (emerged in Brazil), Gama (emerged in South Africa) and Delta (emerged in India).
  • WHO has stressed on the fact that data of sequencing should be submitted to open-access platforms like GISAID, so that a sequence done in one part of the world can be looked at by the global scientific community.


What is genome sequencing?

  • A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of science focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes.
  • Genomics also involves the sequencing and analysis of genomes through uses of high throughput DNA sequencing.
  • Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research and systems biology to facilitate understanding of even the most complex biological systems such as the brain.


Need for genome sequencing:

  • Mapping the diversity of India’s genetic pool will lay the bedrock of personalised medicine and put it on the global map.
  • Considering the diversity of population in our country, and the disease burden of complex disorders, including diabetes, mental health, etc., once we have a genetic basis, it may be possible to take action before the onset of a disease.


About Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG):

  • The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is jointly initiated by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • It is a consortium of 28 National Laboratories to monitor the genomic variations in the SARS-CoV-2.
  • It carries out whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus across the nation, aiding in understanding the spread and evolution of the virus.
  • INSACOG also aims to focus on sequencing of clinical samples to understand the disease dynamics and severity.


About GISAID (Global initiative on sharing avian influenza data):

  • GISAID, established in 2008, provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2 available on GISAID enabled global responses to the pandemic, including the development of the first vaccines and diagnostic tests.


About the Genomics for Public Health in India (IndiGen) programme:

  • CSIR initiated the Program in April 2019.
  • It aims to undertake whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.
  • The objective is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technologies applications using population genome data.

current affairs 



Prelims Link:

  1. About Genome Sequencing
  2. Applications of Genome Sequencing
  3. About Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG)
  4. IndiGen programme

Mains Link:

Significance, need and challenges in Genome Sequencing.

Source: Down to Earth