A Rs 125-crore genetic research will be done on Parsis in India.
The project, details of which will be analysed internationally and stored in the largest database of its kind, was announced on Tuesday. The information will help understand genetic implications and inheritance of diseases.
The project to build a complete genetic, genealogical and medical database of the Parsis will be carried out by Bangalore-based biotechnology company Avestha Gengraine Technologies Pvt Ltd. The study expected to take five years.
"In today's biotechnology-driven medical care, the quest for new, more effective therapies and diagnostic tools have become essential to understand linkages between genes, diseases and environmental factors. The project results will find application in disease prediction and accelerate the development of new therapies and diagnostics," said Dr Villoo Morawala Patell, founder and managing director, Avesthagen.
There are about 69,000 Zoroastrians in India. They are mostly an in-bred population, with inter-community marriages discouraged by religious heads. "Such in-bred populations are required to more accurately implicate inherited genes for diseases," she said.
The community had a mixed reaction on the project. "If it is for encouraging marriages outside the community and medical information, it is welcome," said Kersi Wadia, trustee, Association for Revival of Zoroastrianism (ARZ), a reformist group.
But others exercised more caution. "Parsis are at a crossroads today. There is a tussle between the orthodox and the reformists. There is a bit of a problem allowing it if it infringes privacy and if the nature of data insults our religion and social habits," said Sam Choksey, joint honorary secretary, Bandra Parsi Association.