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$150,000 fundraiser launched to sequence South Asian genomes
GenomeAsia100K launches crowdfunding bid via its MaptheGap.org website. Money will pay for four reference genomes to be developed.

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise $150,000 to pay for the sequencing of 100 genomes from people in South Asia.

Keen investors can donate towards this research via the MaptheGap.org fundraising page, launched on 30 January.

GenomeAsia100K launched the crowdfunding campaign to further research and improve understanding of the impact of genetic disease on Asians.

The 100 genomes that will be sequenced with the money raised will comprise of data from 25 people from four different communities, for the development of four new reference genomes. It is hoped these reference genomes will help speed up the diagnosis of rare genetic diseases in those communities. Carrier tests could also be developed using this data, helping people in those communities determine their risk of certain diseases.

“The rate of genetic diseases among South Asians is very high,” explains GenomeAsia 100K Program Director Lakshmi Maithel. “About 6 per cent of children are born with a genetic disorder [in South Asia]. To put that in perspective, in the UK and the US it is about 3 per cent.”

Despite this, less than one per cent of data in whole genome databases comes from people with an Asian background.

Explaining this discrepancy and convincing people of the importance of the programme’s work was an important part of developing the fundraiser, Ms Maithel goes on to explain. The MaptheGap.org website reveals to its visitors that one in 20 Indians are affected by genetic disorders, and one in 10 paediatric hospital visits are due to genetic disease.

The high rate of genetic disease in South Asia is thought to be due to the large number of founder populations in the region, where there is a high level of consanguinity, says Ms Maithel.

“Despite the scale of the problem, there’s no comprehensive characterisation of the carrier frequencies or understanding of which diseases affect which populations,” she added at the launch of the fundraiser at The Festival of Genomics conference, held in London.

Sequencing these 100 genomes will play an important role in the programme’s aim to sequence the genomes of 100,000 individuals from Asia.

Five thousand genomes have already been sequenced as part of the study, and its pilot study of 1,700 genomes was recently submitted for publication. The first 10,000 genomes will be sequenced by the middle of this year, and will be used to create reference data for the rest of the project.

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