Genome India Project
Why in news? The exercise to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database under the Centre-backed Genome India Project is about two-thirds complete. About 7,000 Indian genomes have already been sequenced of which 3,000 are available for public access to researchers.
What is a genome?
- The human genome is the entire set of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) residing in the nucleus of every cell of the human body. It carries the complete genetic information responsible for the development and functioning of an organism. The DNA consists of a double-stranded molecule built up by four bases. While the sequence of base pairs is identical in all humans, there are differences in the genome of every human being that makes them unique.
What is genome sequencing?
- The process of deciphering the order of base pairs, to decode the genetic fingerprint of a human is called genome sequencing.
Human Genome project:
- In 1990, a group of scientists began to work on determining the whole sequence of the human genome under the Human Genome Project.
- The Project released its latest version of the complete human genome in 2023, with a 0.3% error margin. This shows that genomic sequencing has now evolved to a stage where large sequencers can process thousands of samples simultaneously.
- There are several approaches to genome sequencing, including whole genome sequencing. The process of whole-genome sequencing, made possible by the Human Genome Project
What are applications of sequencing?
- Genome sequencing has been used to evaluate rare disorders, preconditions for disorders and even cancer from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than as diseases of certain organs.
- In public health, sequencing has been used to read the codes of viruses. One of its first practical usages was in 2014, when a group of scientists from M.I.T and Harvard sequenced samples of Ebola from infected African patients to show how genomic data of viruses could reveal hidden pathways of transmission.
How did it help during the pandemic?
- To enable an effective response against COVID-19, researchers kept track of emerging variants, conducting further studies about their transmissibility, immune escape and potential to cause severe disease.
- Genomic sequencing became one of the first steps in this important process. the purpose of genome sequencing was to understand the role of certain mutations in increasing the virus’s infectivity.
INSACOG- the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia
- India also put in place a sequencing framework — the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortia (INSACOG). This consortium of labs across the country, was tasked with scanning coronavirus samples from patients and flagging the presence of variants known to have spiked transmission internationally.
- As of early December 2021, INSACOG had sequenced about 1,00,000 samples.
What is the Genome India Project?
- Ministry: Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Science and Technology
- Origin: DBT initiated GIP in 2020 (inspired by Human Genome Project) to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database
- Collaboration: Collaboration of 20 institutions, including IISc and IITs
- Goal: To build a grid of the Indian “reference genome”
The need for the Genome India Project
- India’s 1.3 billion-strong population consists of over 4,600 population groups, many of which are endogamous. Thus, the Indian population harbours distinct variations, with disease-causing mutations often amplified within some of these groups. But despite being a large population with diverse ethnic groups, India lacks a comprehensive catalogue of genetic variations.
- Creating a database of Indian genomes allows researchers to learn about genetic variants unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs. About 20 institutions across India are involved in the Project.
- Advancements in healthcare, medicine, agriculture, Development of personalized medicine based on genome mapping
- Fear of scientific racism, data storage, and medical ethics; Concerns about reinforcing stereotypes based on genetic groups; Anonymity of data and questions of possible misuse; Risk of doctors privately performing gene modification