Taking inspiration from the Human Genome Project, this year, the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) initiated the ambitious “Genome India Project” (GIP) on 3rd January 2020. The GIP aims to collect 10,000 genetic samples from citizens across India, to build a reference genome.
This project is led by the Centre for Brain Research at Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science, which acts as the central coordinator between a collaboration of 20 leading institutions, each collecting samples and conducting its own research. Institutes involved include the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru as well as several Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). 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.
The IndiGen initiative was undertaken by CSIR in April 2019, which was implemented by the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi and CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.
The objective is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technologies applications using population genome data.
This has enabled benchmarking the scalability of genome sequencing and computational analysis at population scale in a defined timeline.
The ability to decode the genetic blueprint of humans through whole genome sequencing will be a major driver for biomedical science.
IndiGen programme aims to undertake whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.
- This would aid our understanding of the nature of diseases affecting the Indian population, and then ultimately support the development of predictive diagnostic markers.
- This is a landmark initiative, particularly because it would bring valuable addition to existing genome research, which has so far been limited to the Western context
- It 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.
- Through whole-genome sequencing, the plan is to build an exhaustive catalogue of genetic variations for the Indian population. This would aid in the designing of genome-wide association chips which will facilitate further large-scale genetic studies in a cost-effective manner.
- It would also open new vistas for advancing next-generation personalized medicine in the country, paving the way for predicting health and disease outcomes and modulating treatment protocols based on the genome sequences.
The initiative would also support the development of targeted preventive care, as it has the potential to help identify those population groups which are more susceptible to various risk factors for certain diseases. For instance, if a region shows a tendency towards a specific disease, customized interventions can be made in the region, accordingly, leading to more effective treatment overall.