Commission on Science and Technology for Sustainable Development in the South (COMSATS)

PCMD of ICCBS – Pakistan and BGI – China Sequence the Genome of a Pakistani Individual

On June 30, 2011, a historical announcement was made by Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Director International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS). Ten years after the first human genome was sequenced, the first Pakistani genome has been mapped using a newly developed massively parallel DNA sequencing technology. Prof. Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman (Fellow of Royal Society), a renowned scientist of Pakistan, was requested to volunteer for the complete genome study. With this, Prof. Atta-ur-Rahman became the first Muslim, first Pakistani and the third individual in the world to have his genome mapped with revealed identity. This project has been jointly accomplished by Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) of ICCBS – Pakistan, and Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) – China. The entire genome of Dr. Atta-ur Rahman was sequenced in just 10 months. With this achievement, Pakistan has becomed the 6th country to have successfully sequenced the human genome. According to the researchers, the newly-sequenced Pakistani genome has uncovered a multitude of ‘Pakistan-specific’ sites that can now be used in designing of large-scale studies that are better suited for the Pakistani population.

The research team that undertook the sequencing comprised Dr. Kamran Azim, Assistant Professor at PCMD-ICCBS and Prof. Dr. Yong Zhang, Head of the Genomics Department at the Beijing Genomics Institute, China. Dr. Azim informed that the new aspect in the study was that the technique can trace back a mutation to the specific parent. “We are still studying the actual genome data itself and how the genetic differences we identified may predispose this particular individual to certain diseases”, said Dr. Azim.