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Under Genome India Initiative, the Department of Biotechology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next 5 years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer. The programme is expected to formally launch in October, with an estimated budget of ₹250- 350 crore for the Phase-1. Phase 1: The first phase involves sequencing the complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and capture the biological diversity of India. Phase 2: In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced. This vast data would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer and other diseases that could be influenced by genetic anomalies. While 22 institutions, including those from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the DBT would be involved in the exercise, the data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis. This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion. A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all its genes. It contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism. By sequencing the genome, researchers can discover the functions of genes and identify which of them are critical for life.

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