Inbred Investment Eyes Genomes

Bangalore-based biotech firm Avesthagen is studying an inbred Indian population.

Bangalore-based biotech company Avesthagen said Wednesday it has launched a genome project to build a genetic database of an inbred India community known as the Parsis.

The Avesthagenome project will study the Parsis people of the Zoroastrian community to gather data for a genealogical and medical database.

The Parsi Zoroastrians are an inbred population whose number is dwindling due to self-imposed discouragement of intercommunity marriages. They now number about 69,000 in India. Such inbred populations are needed to more accurately pinpoint inherited genes for diseases.

“This project would be instrumental to establish linkage between genes, disease, and environmental factors,” said Villoo Morawala Patell, founder and managing director of Avestha Gengraine, or Avesthagen. “The emerging database would help us predict diseases and would play a catalytic role in development of new therapies and diagnostics,” Ms. Patell added.

A Red Herring 100 biotech company, Avesthagen said that the comprehensive database arising from this project will provide invaluable information on these links for all of humanity and not just for the Parsi community alone.

Avesthagen and its partners will collect samples from the community members along with complete genealogical and medical information. The samples will be processed at the company’s genomics facility in Bangalore.

The $27.5-million project is expected to be complete within five years. “It is being implemented by a body of eminent stakeholders and opinion leaders within the Parsi community and several leading industrialists, clinicians, scientists, and others,” Ms. Patell said.

The six-year-old biotech company, which expects to file for an IPO in 2008, closed a third round of $32.5 million in funding in January.

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