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Bangladesh Unveils Whole-Genome Sequencing Program

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The government of Bangladesh this week inaugurated its first human whole-genome sequencing program.

Within this government-funded project, launched by the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, researchers will identify genetic markers associated with cancer and inherited disease risks specific to the Bangladeshi population. Genomes will be sequenced using Illumina's NovaSeq-6000 platform in a recently minted BCSIR research lab, which has the capacity to sequence 48 genomes in three days.

Researchers will then evaluate the disease-associated markers identified in the Bangladeshi population in the context of markers identified in other worldwide populations and create a reference microarray chip that can be used to detect the relevant markers and inform patient care cost-effectively.

According to a report in the Dhaka Tribune, a team of five BCSIR scientists has already started working on the project, which will initially sequence samples from 100 individuals, focusing on those with specific diseases, such as breast cancer. Project leader Selim Khan estimated the initial cost of each sample to be around Tk100,000 ($1,200), but told the Tribune he expects the costs to decrease over time to between Tk15,000 and Tk20,000. 

According to a statement BCSIR released on the project, Bangladeshi researchers currently send a lot of patient samples to other countries for genomic sequencing, which is costly and often means results aren't quickly available. This is a loss of revenue for the country, according to BCSIR, and test results may not always be available in time to inform patient care.

While the BCSIR lab will initially focus on identifying genetic markers associated with hereditary conditions and cancer, over the next five years researchers will also apply sequencing to learn more about conditions with unknown causes. This will open up research opportunities in the country, BCSIR said in its statement on the program.