In a move to create one of the largest repositories of
Indian genomes, Bangalore-based Medgenome has teamed up with a Southeast
Asian consortium that has committed to sequence 100,000 Asian genomes.
This could mean a consolidated storehouse of at least
30,000 Indian genomes and could help understand the wide genetic variety in
India’s various ethnic groups and midwife customised medications for cancer
and heart disease, as well as identify possible new genetic aberrations that
cause untreatable diseases.
Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003,
that is the entire DNA pattern in the cell that lends people their unique
identity was deciphered, several countries have announced initiatives to map
genomes of their resident populations.
The so-called 1000 Genomes project is a collection of
gene samples from across the world to capture the variety of genes that are
typical to different population groups.
The United Kingdom announced a plan in 2014 to create a
bank of 100,000 genomes in the nation and 100,000 Asia genomes project —
called GenomeAsia 100K — echoes similar ambitions.
The project will develop in phases with an initial 1000
genomes, consisting of India and East Asian populations, sequenced within
this year, and the entire database to be ready by 2020. Medgenome already
has a bank of 200 Indian genomes.
The project will cost $120 million, though only about
half of that has been firmed up. Other key collaborators in the project are
Singapore’s Nanyang Technological Institute, Singapore, and Macrogen, a
genetics diagnostic company in Seoul.
Nearly 60 petabytes of data — equivalent to 30 trillion
pages of text — are expected to be churned out in this study. Though all
this data would be publicly available to researchers, access to it would be
Though human genome sequencing is a frontier area of
biotechnology, it was prohibitively expensive.
Technology advancement has made prices dramatically drop,
enabling several companies to offer genome sequencing services.
While many diseases are linked to genes going awry,
afflictions such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, etc., are
usually the result of several genes malfunctioning, and often in a
Identifying such culprits is impossible without comparing
genes, across individuals and population groups, in large numbers.
Thus BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 — genes associated with breast
cancer — are found in as many as one-third of women.
Several of them go on to live without ever contracting
the cancer. These genes come in several varieties that can vary on the level
of families as well as ethnicities. Genome sequence studies are effective in
studying such variations.
Egypt found wreckage, including seats and luggage, from
the EgyptAir plane that crashed in the Mediterranean, as investigators tried
to unravel the mystery of why it swerved and plummeted into the sea.
Search teams spotted personal belongings of passengers
and parts of the Airbus A320 about 290 km north of Egypt’s coastal city of
The country’s Aviation Minister has said a “terrorist
attack” was a more likely cause than technical failure for the plane’s
disappearance on a flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board.
The tragedy raised fears of a repeat of the bombing of a
Russian passenger jet by the Islamic State (IS) over Egypt last October that
killed all 224 people on board.
Relatives of some of the passengers and crew met EgyptAir
officials and later gathered at a hotel near Cairo airport to exchange
The plane disappeared between the Greek island of
Karpathos and the Egyptian coast in the early hours of Thursday, without its
crew sending a distress signal.
It had turned sharply twice in Egyptian airspace before
plunging 22,000 feet (6,700 metres) and vanishing from radar screens, said
Greek Defence Minister Panos Kammenos.
A multinational operation involving aircraft and ships
has been launched to find the plane.
Fifteen French citizens, a Briton and at least one
Canadian were among 26 foreigners on the plane.
The disaster also entered the U.S. presidential election
campaign, where national security is a prominent issue.
India has dispatched military ships and an aircraft with
rescue and relief material to Sri Lanka, where torrential rains and
landslides have resulted in several deaths and massive devastation over the
last few days.
Two Navy ships — one Naval Offshore Patrol INS Sunayna
and one survey ship INS Sutlej — had set sail from Kochi with 30-40 tonnes
of relief material and are scheduled to reach Colombo harbour on May 21
during the morning hours.
In addition to providing the relief material, India would
also be participating in the rescue and relief efforts, the officer added.
The Navy has also kept two Dornier aircraft on standby in Kochi for any
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena had said that
his government had appealed to friendly nations to provide whatever possible
assistance for the supply of relief materials and construction of houses.
Terming the flood situation “disastrous”, the President
said the Foreign Ministry briefed diplomats of the present status. He also
thanked those countries that had come forward to help Sri Lanka.
According to a report by the government’s Disaster
Management Centre on Friday morning, the number of deaths stood at 64, of
which 35 were in Kegalle district where a huge landslide occurred.
Totally, 4.27 lakh people were affected and about 3.2
lakh removed to safe locations.
There is a need to ensure greater competition in the
country in sectors such as public transport, railways and power
distribution, which are dominated by the public sector, to ensure better
products and services, said Finance Minister.
“Competition is at the heart of a market economy.
Socialism, per se, is anti-competitive as it promotes state-owned monopolies
and restrictions. That is never in the consumer interest. It is always
competition which ensures that the best product and service wins,” he said
Turning to the public transport in states where
government-owned companies enjoy a monopoly, he said the Centre wants to
free this sector up for competition and will work with the state governments
on the matter.
Referring to state government-owned power distribution
companies, he said they were the third-largest contributor to bad loans -
mostly due to the populist policies adopted by the state governments to
score political brownie points.
Opening up the power distribution to competition is an
important reform that must be done soon, Mr. Jaitley said.
Persons who have earned money through corrupt practices
cannot take advantage of the domestic black money disclosure scheme, says
the Finance Ministry’s FAQ on Income Declaration Scheme issued.
The four-month window which opens on June 1 provides an
opportunity to people having undisclosed income to come clean by paying tax,
penalty and surcharge totalling 45 per cent of fair market value.
The 14 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) further said
declarations made will remain confidential as in the case of return of
income filed by an assessee.
The declarant, it further said, will be liable for
capital gains tax on sale of such assets in future.
On a question whether a person can declare undisclosed
income which has been acquired from money earned through corruption, the FAQ
The scheme will not apply in relation to prosecution of
any offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
As per the FAQ, if a declaration is held as void, the
provisions of the Income Tax Act will apply in respect of such income as
they apply in relation to any other undisclosed income.