Avestagenome project enters gene sequencing phase

Avesthagen Ltd on Monday said its ambitious Avestagenome project has entered a significant phase of sequencing 60 closely related human genomes.

The project is studying the genetic make-up and diseases that affect the small Parsi community, but are applicable to the entire population.

The sequencing, once completed, would provide a better understanding of the genes that cause cancer, metabolic diseases such as diabetes and neurological disorders among people, the company said on Monday.

“Through this project, Avesthagen intends to establish a direct link between genes, genetics and the disorders themselves,” it said.

The Bangalore-based biotechnology company has tied up with Genome Enterprise Ltd, a subsidiary of the UK-based DNA sequencing and bioinformatics company, The Genome Analysis Centre.

Avestagenome started in March 2007 as a five-year, Rs 125-crore project funded mostly by the company. The project that will build a Parsi genetic-medical database is also looking at the longevity in the population.

Dr Villoo Morawala-Patell, Founder and Chairman and Managing Director of Avesthagen, told Business Line the sequencing may take about six months but its analysis could require two or three years.

As the project progresses, it would be opened up to different partners in nutrition and therapeutic areas. The company itself is preparing for a public issue.

The company said, “Sequencing the 60 genomes for different disorders will be groundbreaking as analysis of the mammoth 10 terabytes of data generated will enable scientists to discover novel causative genes on the chromosomes” which may indicate why people get a certain cancer, metabolic or neurological disorders.

In the long run, “The study will help in identifying new and better drugs specific for the disorders. The discovery will lead to identifying bio molecules for the accurate prediction of the disease manifestation.