April 17, 2020 6:00:25 pm
In a first for a state government-run research laboratory in India, the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC) has whole genome sequenced a sample of the novel coronavirus and identified three mutations in the sequence. Whole genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genetic material at a single time. It is instrumental in identifying inherited disorders, characterizing mutations and tracking disease outbreaks.
Gandhinagar-based GBRC functions under the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of Gujarat. A team of over 10 people worked on decoding the sequence, including institute director and professor Chaitanya Joshi, joint director Dr. Madhavi Joshi and other research associates and fellows.
Prof Chaitanya told this newspaper, “At present, we have sequenced the whole genome from a single sample of a positive patient. In the weeks to come, we will target whole genome sequencing of 100 patients’ samples.”
While the isolation of the whole genome sequence from a single sample was done using the ‘shotgun sequencing method’, a different method will be used for isolating from 100 samples — the Amplicon approach.
The present whole genome sequencing, professor Chaitanya explained, involved taking out the RNA from the sample, cleaning it of all human protein in the wet lab process, converting the same to complementary DNA (CDNA) form, further removal of the human protein element in the dry lab — or what entails the bioinformatics process — and subsequently identifying the sequence.
With more samples of whole genome sequenced, Prof Chaitanya says, the part of the sequence that shows maximum mutations of the virus may be mapped. By understanding the most common mutations and their location along the sequence, recombinant vaccine and drug development will be aided. “For a vaccine, it needs to target the area which sees the least mutation for it to be effective enmasse. If the vaccine ends up targeting the most commonly mutated part, it will end up being ineffective,” he said.
Pune-based National Institute of Virology is the only other institute in India that has researched whole genome sequencing of novel coronavirus samples. Over 350 researchers are involved in whole genome sequencing of the viral infection across the world.
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