International Meet for Bio-Information Technology (Bio-IT) Begins in Thiruvananthapuram

Proclaiming the arrival of Bio-Information Technology (Bio-IT) in Kerala, a two-day conference of scientists in gene sequencing technologies worldwide began at the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday.

Stephen Turner, founder and CTO of Pacific Biosciences, California, USA, who delivered the keynote address, said that SciGenom, the first scientific laboratory in DNA sequencing and Bioinformatics in Kerala, has been instrumental in bringing the scientific community in this field worldwide under one umbrella.

The conference also marks the occasion of the first-time complete sequencing of the genome of a Keralite female carried out by SciGenom.

Explaining the origin and development of this branch of science, George Thomas, director, SciGenom labs, Kochi, said that the first human genome was completely sequenced by the Sanger sequencing method, a painful, laborious and time and funds-consuming process.

It took 13 years from 1990 to 2003, the massive efforts of many laboratories worldwide, and a debatable cost of about US $ 3 billion to find out the 3 billion base-pair sequence of the human genome that is expected to code for about 25,000 genes.

Sequencing technologies have undergone a vast makeover and today it is possible to sequence the entire human genome in two weeks at an infinitesimal fraction of the cost incurred for the first human genome. Several sequencing technologies are available now – and the technologies are rapidly changing, George Thomas added.

Somasekhar Seshagiri, principal scientist, Genetech Inc, California, USA, a leading expert in Genomics, DNA sequencing and cancer research, said that scientific developments post the first human genome sequencing completed in 2003 are all set to redefine the medical and health care sector worldwide.

With DNA sequencing, you can list out those genetic deformities and hidden diseases in an individual which would come out in future.

The real challenge, however, lies in analysing the data obtained from genome sequencing and arriving at sound conclusions. This is the field occupied by Bioinformatics (Bio-IT) and Kerala has to concentrate on developing a good number of experts in this field and tap their potential, for the stage has already set to develop Kerala as a global hub of Bio-IT, he said.

The conference is co-hosted by the Centre for Bioinformatics, University of Kerala.

The conference features nine sessions and over 20 speakers from India, USA, Germany, Singapore and China.The first day also featured a workshop on Bioinformatics for next-generation sequencing data. Over 250 participants, including several international delegates, are attending the conference.

News Sourced from “The New Indian Express” dated 17.12.2011

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