GenomeAsia Launches “Map the Gap” Campaign to Address the Lack of Genomic Data From South Asians

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Genome Asia launched Map the Gap campaign.

LONDON–GenomeAsia has launching the “Map the Gap” campaign to addressing the lack of genomic data from South Asians. The campaign was launched at the Festival of Genomics in London.

Map the Gap aims to sequence 100 South Asian genomes, enabling the development of carrier tests, diagnosis, and treatment for rare diseases, cancers, and diabetes, GenomeAsia  said in a statement.

“South Asians make up over 25% of the world’s population, however only 1% of whole genome data comes from the region,” the statement said. “Ethnically-specific genomic data allows researchers to develop carrier tests and improve diagnosis and treatment for high-risk genetic conditions. Currently, most genomic data is from Western Europeans, while rates of genetic disease in South Asia are double the global average.”

GenomeAsia 100K is sequencing the genomes of individuals throughout South Asia, addressing the critical lack of data and enabling researchers to undertake their life saving and life changing work.

Genome Asia launched Map the Gap campaign.

The Map the Gap campaign seeks to increase awareness and raise $150,000. Data collected will be used to develop carrier tests for populations at high risk for genetic birth defects, reducing the incidence of such conditions over time. Data will also support research for cures to single-gene disorders and even complex diseases like diabetes and cancer.

One area where better genomic data has already made a significant impact is in diabetes. People of South Asian descent have a risk of developing diabetes that is six times higher than Europeans.

Natasha, a South Asian living in Canada, knew that her mother and grandmother were diabetic. Understanding the hereditary component of diabetes, Natasha’s doctors treated her as a pre-diabetic when pregnant with her first child. She took medication, controlled her diet, and had additional blood sugar testing throughout her pregnancy. These steps lowered her risk and the risk of her child.

“By understanding of the genetic component of diabetes, the doctors gave me treatment that potentially saved my life and my son’s life. I am backing this campaign so that carrier tests can be developed for other inherited diseases, and more lives saved,” Natasha was quoted as saying.

The campaign kicks off at the London Festival of Genomics on 30-31 January 2018 with a talk from Lakshmi Maithel, Map the Gap Programme Director.

“Growing up, we all knew of someone who had a genetic disease,” said Lakshmi.“My background in biotechnology made me realize that we need more genetic data in order to diagnose and treat people from South Asian populations. I am very proud that GenomeAsia 100K has already mapped the DNA of 600 South Asians. The Map the Gap campaign seeks to raise enough money to sequence the next 100 individuals.”

The Map the Gap campaign is part of a larger initiative, The GenomeAsia 100K project, to sequence the DNA of 100,000 people from across 28 countries in Asia. We are a non-profit organization and data generated by GenomeAsia 100K will be made publicly available to scientists. You can also find out more at www.genomeasia100k.com.

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