Map the Gap: Sequencing 100,000 South Asian Genomes
Kicking off day two of Festival of Genomics London 2018, GenomeAsia 100k is addressing the lack of genomic data from South Asians by launching the “Map the Gap” campaign. Map the Gap aims to sequence 100,000 South Asian genomes, enabling the development of carrier tests, diagnosis, and treatment for rare diseases, cancers, and diabetes.
South Asians make up over 25% of the world’s population, however, only 1% of whole genome data comes from the region. Ethnically – specific genomic data allows researchers to develop carrier tests and improve diagnosis and treatment for high – risk genetic conditions. Currently, most genomic data is from Western Europeans, while rates of genetic disease in South Asia are double the global average.
GenomeAsia 100K is sequencing the genomes of individuals throughout South Asia, addressing the critical lack of data and enabling researchers to undertake their life saving and life to change work. The Map the Gap campaign seeks to increase awareness and raise $150,000. Data collected will be used to develop carrier tests for populations at high risk for genetic birth defects, reducing the incidence of such conditions over time. Data will also support research for cures to single – gene disorders and even complex diseases like diabetes and cancer.
One area where better genomic data has already made a significant impact is in diabetes. People of South Asian descent have a risk of developing diabetes that is six times higher than Europeans. Natasha, a South Asian living in Canada, knew that her mother and grandmother were diabetic. Understanding the hereditary component of diabetes, Natasha’s doctors treated her as a pre-diabetic when pregnant with her first child. She took medication, controlled her diet, and had additional blood sugar testing throughout her pregnancy. These steps lowered her risk and the risk of her child: “By understanding of the genetic component of diabetes, the doctors gave me treatment that potentially saved my life and my son’s life. I am backing this campaign so that carrier tests can be developed for other inherited diseases, and more lives saved.”
“Growing up, we all knew of someone who had a genetic disease,” explains Lakshmi Maithel, Map the Gap Programme Director. “My background in biotechnology made me realize that we need more genetic data in order to diagnose and treat people from South Asian populations. I am very proud that GenomeAsia 100K has already mapped the DNA of 600 South Asians. The Map the Gap campaign seeks to raise enough money to sequence the next 100 individuals .” Lakshmi will be available for interview at the event and other opportunities can be arranged.