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Human genome sequencing research begins in Bangladesh

  • Published at 12:54 am January 16th, 2019
Human genome_Dhaka Tribune
Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman with BCSIR officials after inaugurating the human genome sequencing project at the BCSIR on Tuesday Dhaka Tribune

The project is the first of its kind in the country

For the first time in Bangladesh, scientists have initiated a research for the whole genome sequencing of humans. 

Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman officially inaugurated the project at the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) on Tuesday. 

A team of five BCSIR scientists, led by Dr Selim Khan, are already working on the project, which is funded by the government.

“This is an excellent initiative. Our scientists have been working hard on this project. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina believes that the BCSIR scientists are capable of making the country proud,” the minister said at the ceremony. “We must return something to the taxpayers whose money funds the research work.”

Addressing the event, BCSIR Chairman Md Faruque Ahmed said: “By sequencing the human genome, we will be able to learn about many unknown diseases and this will help find a cure for them.” 

He further said, if successful, the BCSIR will be able to provide information to hospitals across the country. “We can also export the genome sequence.” 

Project leader Dr Selim Khan said they would collect DNA samples from 100 individuals for the project. 

“We have already collected 40 samples, from which we will decode the genome of 20 people,” he added.  

“We have capable scientists working on this project. Our researchers have been trained in the US,” Selim said. “With the information from the decoding, we can prevent diseases like chikungunya and dengue.” 

Genome is the genetic material of an organism, which contains DNA – the base molecule that contains all genetic information of a species. 

The whole genome sequencing is the process of decoding the entire DNA pattern of an organism. 

The whole genome sequence of humans was first disclosed in 2003, decoded by a multinational collaborative project called the Human Genome Project. Although it was termed complete, the sequence has madeup only92% of the human genome as yet. 

Bangladeshi scientists have successfully decoded the genome sequence of jute (2010) and Ilish fish (2018). 

How much will the project cost?

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Dr Selim Khan said the initial fund for each sample is estimated to be Tk1 lakh. “At the initial stage, we will collect the samples partially, focusing on a specific disease – i.e. breast cancer.” 

At a later stage, the cost will range between Tk15,000 and Tk20,000 for each sample, he added. 

BCSIR Scientific Officer Barna Goswami also said the team was initially working to prevent breast cancer. 

Invent Technologies Ltd is providing technical services and support for the project. Sheikh Md Selim Al Din, marketing and seals division manager of Invent, told the Dhaka Tribune: “The genome sequencing machine will cost Tk12 crore.” 

He further said the research would be comparatively cheaper in Bangladesh. 

“It will cost Tk20,000 for cancer-preventing genome sequencing in our country, while in India it costs around Tk70,000, where it already has four whole genome sequencing labs.”