For the first time in India, scientists will be able to map every cell and tissue, as well as shed better light on inter-organ connections within the human body under the MANAV-Atlas programme, launched by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in New Delhi on Friday.
While the DBT is funding it, Persistent Systems is co-funding the project that will be spearheaded by two city-based institutions — National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) operating under DBT and the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune, recognised by the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
‘MANAV: Human Atlas Initiative’, launched by Dr Renu Swarup, secretary at DBT, will be a vast collection of all known macro-level and micro-level information collected from both the public database and scientific or health databases.
Professor K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India and Anil Sahasrabhdhe, chairman of the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), are members of the advisory board for the project.
“The aim of the project remains to understand and capture the human physiology in two stages — in a normal stage and in a disease stage. Such a database can come in handy for the human reference genome,” said a senior scientist associated with the MANAV programme.
The large applications from such an exhaustive database involves understanding pre-clinical and clinical conditions of a patient and accordingly administering patient-specific medical support. “This exercise also hopes to largely bridge the existing gaps in current-day knowhow of the human body and link the lab-based biological knowledge, and translate the same into active medical practice,” added the official.
The project will provide ample opportunities for students from the fields of biotechnology, biochemistry, microbiology, zoology, health sciences, bioinformatics, systems biology and botany. Students will be imparted training to use the annotation tool developed to collate, curate, manage and visualise scientific information that will be extracted from the available extensive scientific literature.
Biological insights, physiological to molecular mapping, disease modelling through predictive computing and analysis, drug discovery and personalised healthcare are the broad areas where this integrated atlas aims to work.