New Study Looks at Progress and Potential for Genomic Medicine in Developing Nations

A special supplement to Nature Reviews Genetics, published online today, details how four countries with emerging economies – Mexico, India, Thailand and South Africa – are taking steps to build capacity for studies of human genomic variation and its applications to healthcare.

Following completion of the HapMap Project, several consortiums in the developed world have undertaken large-scale genotyping projects. The hope is that these efforts will lead to advances in personalized diagnostics and therapeutics that could one day improve health outcomes.

The authors of the six-part series, all from the McLaughlin-Rotman Centre for Global Health (MRC) in Toronto, conclude that similar initiatives in genomic medicine have great potential to help developing countries by strengthening local research infrastructure and local intellectual property regimes, addressing local health needs and reducing health-care costs.
(The reports are available free of charge from Nature Genetics with registration)

The highlighted initiatives:

  • Mexico
    Mexico has formed the National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), the first Mexican institute to systematically describe the genomic diversity of the Mexican population. INMEGEN will allow Mexico to focus on the link between genomic variation in the Mexican population, disease susceptibility and drug-response variability.
  • India
    The Indian Genome Variation (IGV) database is a collaborative network that will capture essential data about disease predisposition, adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and population migration within India.
  • Thailand
    The Thai SNP Discovery Project and the Thai Centre for Excellence in Life Sciences Pharmacogenomics Project will help Thailand understand the genomic diversity of its population and explore the role that this diversity has in drug response and disease susceptibility.
  • South Africa
    The South African government is in the early stages of planning a national genomic medicine research program. Public engagement in genomic issues is spear-headed by The Africa Genome Education Institute.

“The world has reached an historic moment on the path to genomic medicine – the point where theory is about to be translated into practice,” said the project’s principal investigator, Professor Abdallah Daar, in a statement.

“Benefits of this emerging science cannot be an exclusive luxury reserved for wealthier industrialized countries. Instead it must be universally advanced by developed and developing countries alike to prevent an increased widening of already huge difference in global health care quality,” said project leader Dr. Béatrice Séguin.