Medgenome in pact to sequence genome of 1 lakh people in Asia

The aim is to build an open genome data base accessible to researchers of public institutions and pharmaceutical companies


Medgenome will invest $10 million as part of its commitment in a project estimated to cost upwards of $120 million.
Medgenome will invest $10 million as part of its commitment in a project estimated to cost upwards of $120 million.

Hyderabad: Bangalore-based MedGenome Labs Pvt. Ltd, a genomics-based diagnostics and research services firm backed by venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, said it has joined hands with South Korean biotech firm Macrogen Inc. and Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to sequence the whole genome of 1,00,000 people in Asia.

The aim is to build an open genome data base accessible to researchers of public institutions and pharmaceutical companies.

Medgenome will invest $10 million as part of its commitment in a project estimated to cost upwards of $120 million. Macrogen and NTU will contribute $10 million each. The consortium is in the process of raising the remaining funds through contributions from academic institutions, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.

The first stage of the project called ‘GenomeAsia100K’ aims to sequence 10,000 Asian individuals for ethnic stratification.

This will be followed by sequencing an additional 90,000 individuals and combined with clinical and phenotype information to allow deeper analysis of diseased and healthy individuals, Medgenome said.

The sequencing will be done from populations of 14 Asian countries in South Asia, South-East Asia and East Asia.

As part of its contribution, Medgenome will generate India specific genomic data.

“The current genomic data available is largely of Caucasians, though Asia represent 40% of the world’s population – they are significantly underrepresented in current genomic studies and reference genome databases,” said Sam Santhosh, chief executive officer at MedGenome.

Santhosh said the unique genetic diversity prevalent in South and East Asia provides a valuable source of clinical insights to enable cures for all of mankind in rare and inherited diseases, as well as complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders.

The company on Monday announced that it has bought the next generation gene sequencing machine from California-based Illumina Inc. at an estimated cost of $12 million.

“The latest machine will help to sequence human genome at cost of $1000,” Santhosh said.

Medgenome plans to use the machine extensively in the project.

MedGenome offers genomics-based diagnostic solutions to hospitals and doctors as well as genomic research services to pharmaceutical and biotech companies and academic research institutions in India.

The company raised $20 million (around Rs127 crore) from Sequoia Capital as part of a second round of funding in June last year.

Genomics, the study of genes and their functions, provides doctors and patients with insights into the assessment and management of different types of diseases.

MedGenome offers more than 100 tests currently across oncology, cardiology, ophthalmology, neurology and nephrology. The company also developed India’s first non-invasive prenatal test this year.

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