An initiative to reduce genetic disorders in rural India

January 26th, 2009 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Jan 26 (IANS) In an attempt to take the fruits of biotechnology to the common man and reduce the burden of genetic disorders such as thalassaemia and muscular dystrophies, the Genome Foundation here will set up diagnostic centres across rural India with the first such centre coming up in Uttar Pradesh.The first satellite centre will come up in Jaunpur district, Genome Foundation head Lalji Singh told IANS.

The centres will offer molecular diagnostic services, chromosomal analysis, prenatal diagnosis and genetic counselling. DNA profiling and related services for civil and forensic purposes such as paternity disputes, immigration matters, mass disaster and wildlife will also be offered.

The centres will also screen and counsel for common disorders such as the thalassaemia and muscular dystrophies, with the initial focus being on pre-natal diagnosis tracking genetic disorders of an unborn child.

A non-profit organization formed in 2006, Genome is an initiative of scientists, industry, doctors and concerned citizens. It invites every citizen to donate at least Re.1 and “so the Foundation is by the people and for the people”, said Singh, a founder-member, adding that it is a first of its kind initiative in the world. Eminent economist C. Rangarajan is the chairman.

Singh, who is also director of the city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), one of the constituent national laboratories of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, said the first centre would become operational in a few months while the second would be set up in Kolar district of Karnataka.

“The main diagnostic centre in Hyderabad and its branches will test various kinds of genetic disorders, provide genetic counselling and recommend treatments like stem cell therapy for people with genetic disorders,” he said.

“This is just a beginning. It is a huge task. How far we succeed we don’t know.”

It will also create public awareness on genetic disorders, especially among the rural populace.

The Foundation received a grant of Rs.3.5 million from the central government’s Department of Sciences and Technology. The Andhra Pradesh government has allotted five acres in Hyderabad for building the main laboratory.

“We have filed for 100 percent tax rebate and permission to seek fund overseas. There are voluntary organisations abroad that are ready to help,” Singh said.

US-based Applied Biosystems, a global leader in the development of instrument-based systems, consumables, software and services for the life sciences market, has donated DNA sequencing equipment worth Rs.4.5 million.

The Foundation, which hopes to bridge the gap between scientists and clinicians, will set up collection networks with hospitals and charity organisations.

It has begun training personnel. “The work has already started at CCMB. We are recruiting educated and unemployed people with requisite qualifications from rural areas. We have already trained six people,” Singh said.

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