First Indian genomics beacon launched to address gap in shared Indian genomics data
February 21, 2017

 Global Gene Corp and GA4GH (Global Alliance for Genomics and Health) are delighted to announce the launch of ggcINDIA, the first ever beacon for Indian genomics data. This Beacon joins those already on the Wellcome Genome Campus supplied by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Inaugurated by His Excellency, Mr Dinesh Patnaik, Deputy High Commissioner of India to the UK, at the Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, Cambridge, UK, the ggcINDIA Beacon will start to address the lack of shared Indian genomics data. His Excellency, Mr Wei Wen Chia, Deputy High Commissioner of Singapore to the UK provided congratulatory remarks to mark this historic occasion.

Genomics research seeks to sequence, assemble, and ultimately understand the function of genomes (the complete set of DNA within a single cell of an organism). The insights gained through genomics research help scientists better understand disease and develop more effective drug delivery systems and therapeutics. More than 60 per cent of the world’s population, including the majority of the Asian and African populations, is almost completely unrepresented by currently available genomic data. India is home to 20 per cent of the world’s population and yet contributes less than 0.2 per cent of the genomics data currently available.

ggcINDIA becomes the 69th beacon to join the GA4GH Beacon Network. A beacon is an online web service that allows researchers to determine whether an institution has particular genomic data in its data set. However, such data is only as useful as the comparisons that can be made against them across hundreds of thousands ― even millions ― of individuals. Since no single institution can collect such large samples on its own, sharing is critical for genomic data to have a transformative impact on human health and disease.

His Excellency, Mr. Dinesh Patnaik, Deputy High Commissioner of India, said: “I am delighted to inaugurate the ggcINDIA beacon, an excellent example of a truly global collaboration, in particular the UK-India-Singapore partnership. Global Gene Corp, with its mission of “democratizing genomics”, based at the Wellcome Genome Campus and co-founded by alumni from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Harvard and National University of Singapore, is making a pioneering contribution to the effort of delivering affordable solutions at scale.

“Genomics is the science that will define healthcare in our lifetime. Solving healthcare problems at scale is exceptionally important for India to ensure quality of life for our 1.3 billion citizens. Cutting-edge genomics will provide truly innovative solutions that will benefit individuals and the population as a whole.”

Sumit Jamuar, Chairman & CEO of Global Gene Corp, a Cambridge UK based company and creator of the ggcINDIA beacon, said: “Indian genomics data is one of the biggest missing pieces in the genomics puzzle. The promise of precision medicine can only be realised with usable and sharable genomics data.

“As a member of GA4GH, our ggcINDIA beacon will start to address the lack of shared Indian genomics data to enable researchers globally to accelerate development of precision medicine.

“We are grateful to our Wellcome Genome Campus neighbours, the Sanger Institute and EMBL-EBI for their guidance in establishing our Beacon. We are thankful to DNAStack, the Government of Singapore’s National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC), the Government of India, Singapore and UK and The Excellences, Mr Patnaik’s and Mr Chia’s personal support.”

Professor Ewan Birney, Chair of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH), and Director EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute, said: “I am delighted to see India lighting a Beacon and contributing to this global endeavour for better health. The Global Alliance for Genomics and Health aims to help researchers and clinicians improve the wellbeing of people throughout the world by making it easier for them to access healthcare data responsibly. India’s size and diversity will enrich these datasets, substantially expanding the potential for discovery.”

Julia Wilson, Associate Director, Sanger Institute, said: “We are pleased that our campus neighbour, Global Gene Corp, are joining the GA4GH Beacon network. Here on the Wellcome Genome Campus, collaboration and sharing of genomes and biodata to extract greater understanding of disease and health is one of the founding principles.

“The addition of Indian genome data to the worldwide research network will help to power research worldwide.”

Peter Goodhand, Executive Director, GA4GH, said: “We are creating the platform and protocols to enable collaborations across the world’s leading genomics institutions such as Sanger Institute, Broad Institute, and EMBL-EBI. Lack of data from India has been a glaring gap. The first Indian beacon, ggcINDIA, is a milestone for GA4GH. We look forward to further enhancement of the beacon and are grateful for Global Gene Corp’s initiative and for the support of the Governments of India and the UK.”

Serena Scollen, Head of Human Genomics and Translational Data, ELIXIR and Co-Lead of the Beacon project said: “The Beacon Project is an exceptionally important endeavour to enable global research collaborations. ELIXIR is driving the implementation and development of beacons in Europe and

“I am proud that our contributions to the core infrastructure of the Beacon Project will enable more of these kinds of these partnerships. To date, seven Beacons have been lit in the UK and another nine across Europe, allowing users unprecedented discovery of genomic variants in national and international cohorts.”

Marc Fiume, CEO of DNAstack and Co-Lead of the Beacon Project said, “We are ecstatic to partner with Global Gene Corp., whose mission of democratizing genomics aligns with the core values of the Beacon Project. The Beacon Project intends to build infrastructure for a global internet of genomics that empowers anyone with an internet connection to engage in responsible data sharing. To date, 69 beacons have been “lit” and the lighting of the ggcINDIA Beacon literally signals India’s willingness to participate in a truly global and collaborative effort to better understand the genome together.”

The Beacon Project is hosted with the DNAStack platform, and the ggcINDIA beacon core engine is supported by the National Supercomputer Center (NSCC), the national facility of petascale standard to support high performance scientific and engineering computing needs in Singapore.