UPSC MAINS 2019 : Genome India Initiative

Genome India Initiative

Topic : Genome India Initiative

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3: Science & Technology



Genome India Initiative

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.



What is  Genome Sequencing?

  • A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism’s DNA.
  • It is method of isolating and identifying variable elements within the base-pair sequence of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as it shows high degree of polymorphism (variation) at genetic level.
  • Polymorphism forms the basis of genome sequencing since DNA from every tissue (such as blood, hair-follicle, skin, bone, saliva, sperm etc.) from an individual show the same degree of polymorphism.
  • Genomics is an interdisciplinary field of science focusing on the structure, function, evolution, mapping, and editing of genomes.
  • Genomics also involves the sequencing and analysis of genomes through uses of high throughput DNA sequencing.
  • Advances in genomics have triggered a revolution in discovery-based research and systems biology to facilitate understanding of even the most complex biological systems such as the brain.
  • It can be noted that a group of Indian scientists and companies are already involved with a 100k Genome Asia project, which aims to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians.

Why genome sequencing?

  • Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it opened a fresh perspective on the link between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual.
  • Nearly 10,000 diseases — including cystic fibrosis, thalassemia — are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning. While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.


Genome Initiative Implementation

The project is to be carried out in two phases:

  • The first phase of the project involves sequencing the complete genomesof 10,000 healthy Indians.
  • Second phase, involves genome sequencing of 10,000 diseased individuals.
  • Data on human sequencing would be accessible to researchers through a proposed National Biological Data Centreenvisaged in Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy.
  • National Centre for Cell Scienceswill collect samples of the microbiome from the human gut.



  • The data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’.
  • As the genetic landscape differs across the world, it is necessary that genetic data is shared in order to derive greater knowledge from information and serve the purpose of enabling better treatment outcomes.
  • The GenomeIndia initiative will pave the way for identifying genes and genetic variations for common diseases, treating Mendelian disorders, enabling the transformation of the Precision Medicine landscape in India, and thus improving the healthcare of the general population in our country.
  •  The genome project may answer questions regarding evolution by comparing human DNA with primate DNA.



  • Discrimination:Discrimination based on genotype is a possible consequence of genome sequencing.
    • For example, employers may obtain genetic information on employees prior to hiring them. If a certain employee is shown to be genetically susceptible to undesirable workforce traits they may be discriminated against their genotype.
  • Ownership and Control:Apart from the issue of privacy and confidentiality, questions of ownership and control of genetic information becomes critical.
  • Fair Use of Genetic Data is necessary for insurance, employment, criminal justice, education, adoption, and military.


Sample Question

What do you mean by Genome sequencing? Explain the role of it in finding cures for human diseases.



Genome India Initiative infograph