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tech

Building a biobank 


Researchers to create genome sequence database so that treatment can match needs of patients

A pilot project involving three Thai medical research facilities and a China-based genomics company will build a genome-sequence database of Thais in order to better match medical treatment to patient needs.
The Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS), Thailand Research Fund (TRF), and Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics have together teamed up with Shenzen-based BGI Genomics, one of the world’s genome sequencing centres, to collect the entire genome sequence for Thais. 
The five-year pilot project will collect the whole 19,000 genome sequencing of 10,000 Thai volunteers. The results of the pilot project would then form the initial data as a national “bio-bank” for Thais is kicked off.
The sequencing work will begin at a TCELS lab, before being expanded and moved to Thailand Science Park, which will also serve as the home of the national bio-bank data centre.
Sirisak Tapakam, TCELS’ deputy director for academic affairs and innovation, said that collected genomic information will help ensure that Thais receive precise medical treatment in future.
“We have been running genome sequencing of 120 Thai people,” said Sirisak. “Under this pilot project, we will collect the whole 19,000 genomes in each of 10,000 people. We really hope this will accelerate further genome sequencing for the whole population.
“The beauty of having genome sequencing information is it helps the country improve public health policy and platforms,” he said.
Under the collaboration, BGI Genomics will support the computer-based sequencing technology.
Jeremy Cao, general manager for BGI Asia Pacific, said that the company wanted to be involved in helping create a national precision-medicine ecosystem to benefit the Thai people.
“We will support the computing machinery and share our experience running genome sequencing,” said Cao. “We will not be in control of the genome data of Thai people.”
This Thailand pilot project sequencing the Thai genome is one component in a regional collaboration called the “Pilot Project on Southeast Asian Human Genome and Human Biobank Network”. It is run through the Southeast Asian Pharmacogenomics Research Network (Seapharm), along with the International Research Network Programme (IRN) and supported by the Thailand Research Fund, one of the three local partners in the Thai genome collection project.
Seapharm has teamed up with a Japan-based research institute, the Riken Centre for Integrative Medical Science, to develop genome sequencing focusing on 100 drug-related genes for 1,000 subjects in the SEA region. That project’s aim is to research genome sequencing associated with drug use. 
“It is the genetic testing to identify genes associate with drug allergies, [to allow for future] individualised therapy for Thai patients as well as among patients throughout the Asian region,” said Sirisak.
He added that the achievement of the genome-sequencing project will augment and support the medical and health industries, one of the S-Curve industry clusters identified as a priority by the Thailand government.
Pongsakorn Tantileepikorn, TRF’s assistant director for International Research Networks and International Affairs, said the genome projects could also help position Thailand for a leading role in the Asian corridor for pharmacogenomics and genomic medicine. The country could perhaps even develop sufficient capacity to reach the regional pinnacle in pharmacogenomics.
Meanwhile, Wasun Chantratila, director of the Centre for Medical Genomics at Ramathibodi Hospital, spoke up for the SEA genome-sequencing project focusing on 100 drug-related genes for 1,000 subjects. That research could solve three significant problems in drug use – avoiding allergic reactions by knowing of vulnerability in advance, ineffective use of drugs, and adjusting doses to match genetic profiles for each person. It could also further add to “predictive medicine” as well.
There are several conditions where gene testing could lead to better matching of drugs by individualised application of medicine, said Wasun. “The medication for treatment in some patient can lead to life-threatening side-effects. In other case, some patients do not respond to a particular drug.
“The goal is to find the right drug and the suitable drug dose for the right patient to achieve the best benefit before therapy,” said Wasun.
The ultimate goal is also to hope the result of the two genome sequencing projects (the 100 drug-related genes sequences from 1,000 subjects in SEA, and the 19,000 genome sequences from 10,000 Thais) will provide sufficient data to allow government to make decisions about adjusting and improving public health policy and more efficient budget spending.
Wasun said that three Thai hospitals – Ramathibodi Hospital, Siriraj Hospital, and Chulalongkorn Hospital – have been providing pharmacogenomics and personalised medicine for their patients for five years. At Ramathibodi Hospital alone, some 3,000 patients have benefited from pharmacogenomics and personalised medicine and receive partial reimbursement for some drugs.

Published : February 25, 2018

By : Asina Pornwasin The Nation