Personal Genome Project Expands to China
On Sunday, Harvard University’s George M. Church, PhD, spoke at Fudan University in Shanghai as part of the launch of the new Chinese chapter of the Personal Genome Project (PGP), NEO.LIFE reports. The talk was reportedly attended by more than 300 students and biotech executives, an indication of the rapidly growing interest in genomics across the country.
The PGP was first launched in 2005 at Harvard University and has since spread to the United Kingdom, Canada, and Austria. The project involves collecting DNA samples and data from volunteers who agree to share their information with researchers, with the intention of increasing researchers’ access to genomic datasets. The founders of the project hope that such a resource will better enable researchers to improve clinical genomics and our ability to diagnose and treat medical conditions.
When speaking about the project, Dr. Church said, “The whole point is to produce something like Wikipedia, where software developers around the world can contribute.”
According to Dr. Church, more than 10,000 people have signed up to the Personal Genome Project since it was opened. As it stands, however, the vast majority of participants are of European descent and so the datasets are biased towards European genetic variants; it is hoped that by expanding the project to include Chinese volunteers and those from other Asian denominations, the PGP will be able to improve the diversity of their data and increase its value to researchers.
The project is also relying on the significant data processing infrastructure that Chinese labs have available to help them analyse and store volunteers’ genomic data.
The Vice President of Fudan University, Professor Jin Li, will fill the role of Director for PGP China, with help from Harvard University’s Dr. Michael Chou, who will act as a special advisor on the project.
This announcement is just one sign of many that indicates China’s strong commitment to enhancing their position in the field of genomics. The industry has been growing in the country for several years now, with significant financial incentives being offered by the government. Before 2010, the industry was dominated by sequencing company BGI; now, there are at least 10 active commercial enterprises capable of sequencing and analysing genomic samples.
In 2015, it was believed that China possessed roughly 30% of the world’s sequencing machines. Since then, there has been a boom in demand for genomic research and applications in the country, so much so that the Chinese government promised to commit 60B yuan ($9.0B, £6.9B) to a national precision medicine initiative before 2030.
This move from the Personal Genome Project is just one more indication that China intends to become a world leading centre for genomics in the future. As NEO.LIFE reports, China may even be on track to overtake the US in the next few years.
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