The IndiGen initiative of India, which was launched in the year 2019 successfully completed the Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) of 1008 individuals from diverse ethnic groups in India.
In the next two years, scientists will scale it up to 10,000 and 1 lakh individuals, said Dr. Shekhar Mande, former Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He was speaking to media persons on the side lines of the 108th Indian Science Congress under way in Nagpur. The project was a brainchild of Dr Mande.
This data of WGS is capable of bringing path-breaking developments in fight against cancer and other major diseases.
“We conducted the first phase of this project to let the world know that India has the capacity to conduct WGS. The subsequent phases are expected to deliver cost-effective genetic tests, carrier screening applications for expectant couples, enabling efficient diagnosis of heritable cancers and pharmacogenetic tests to prevent adverse drug reactions,” said Dr Mande. In India, seven crore people have genetic disorders and the invention may help them.
Dr Mande also claimed that sincere efforts are going on to achieve the target to make India TB-free by 2025. “We are working on three points- rapid diagnosis, vaccination and medicine. Our focus is on medicines because the DOTS therapy has been found working well to eliminate TB,” he said. The Chennai-based National institute of research in TB is conducting clinical trials of improved BCG vaccines, indigenously developed for Indian population.
As Nagpur is the home for the National institute of Environment Engineering and Research (NEERI), Dr Mandespoke extensively about the environmental issues.
“India’s economy will become carbon neutral by the year 2070. By now, we have done very well as compared to the other countries in order to complete the Paris agreement goals,” Dr Mande claimed.
He said that the present carbon capturing technology itself consumes a considerable amount of energy which makes it a futile exercise. As a result, we need to develop new energy efficient technology to deal with the issue.
“But we have done a spectacular job in biofuel. We are only the second country in the world to use the bio-aviation fuel in commercial as well in the air force planes,” said Dr Mande.
Being a Nagpurian, Dr Mande spoke of an innovative project for the city being undertaken with NEERI. “The Nagpur Municipal Corporation has allotted a land near the city’s flower market. With the help of technical support of NEERI, they will be developing a small unit to manufacture essence sticks out of flower waste. Flowers from city temples can also be brought here for reuse,” he added.
He was accompanied by NEERI Director Dr. Atul Vaidya, who spoke about his organisation’s path-breaking initiatives in critical areas of sustainable development.