Indian researchers have achieved a major feat: they have sequenced the entire genome of a human being, a 52-year-old Indian male.
Only five other countries - the United States, Britain, Canada, China and Korea - have so far done so.
It took scientists at the Delhi-based Institute for Genomics and Integrative Biology, affiliated to the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, six weeks, several supercomputers and funds of around $ 30,000 (Rs 13.5 lakh) to achieve the breakthrough.
The decoding of the human genome is a giant step forward towards predictive treatment of diseases. The genome of the man chosen, for instance, shows him susceptible to cancer and heart disease — which would not have been known otherwise.
The achievement comes six years after a team of scientists drawn from several countries completed the first human genome sequencing in 2003. That project took 13 years and over a billion dollars.
“We have bridged the gap between India and countries that have already decoded the genome,” said Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state for science and technology, making the announcement on Tuesday. Chavan compared genome sequencing to “man’s first landing on the moon”.
“It opens new possibilities for diagnostics and low cost treatment of Indian citizens,” said Samir Brahmachari, director general of CSIR.
The human genome contains 3.1 billion base pairs, which describe every bodily function.