Mapping DNA of 100,000 Singaporeans will help identify ways to prevent diseases

The project, called SG100K, will end up as one of Asia's leading reference genome databases. - AFP

SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The Republic is embarking on a mission to map the DNA and the complete set of genes of 100,000 Singaporeans - to unravel clues that will further the population's health and well-being.

By scrutinising genes and dissecting biological processes at the molecular level, doctors and researchers can pinpoint the underlying causes of cancer and chronic ailments, and identify new ways to prevent or slow down disease progression.

This would help to pave the way for new drugs, faster diagnostics and targeted treatments through precision medicine, said Professor Patrick Tan, executive director of Precision Health Research, Singapore (Precise), the entity that will helm the population study.

Over the next three years, the whole genomes of 100,000 healthy Singaporeans - between the ages of 30 and 80 - will be sequenced and analysed to create one of Singapore's largest research data sets.

Malay and Indian participants will comprise 40 per cent of the 100,000, and the rest will be Chinese.

The project, called SG100K, will end up as one of Asia's leading reference genome databases since Singapore's ethnic diversity captures more than 80 per cent of Asia's diversity.

On Thursday (May 26), Precise and genomics technology leader Illumina inked a partnership agreement to kick-start the SG100K effort.

The whole genome sequences will amount to 20 petabytes of data - which is equivalent to about 200,000 high-definition movies. The human brain can store around 2.5 petabytes of memory.

To date, the project has enrolled 70,000 participants from existing cohort studies, and is working towards recruiting the remaining 30,000 participants at a rate of 300 participants per week, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who attended the signing ceremony and toured Illumina's premises in Woodlands on Thursday.

Heng added that Precise has in place robust safeguards to protect the privacy and security of the data collected from the people.

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