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KACST Partners with Life Tech in The Saudi Human Genome Program

Published: Monday, December 09, 2013
Last Updated: Monday, December 09, 2013
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Program aims to analyze 100,000 human genomes to identify the causes of disease in the population of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Arab world.

The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Saudi Arabia's national funding agency, and Life Technologies Corporation  announce The Saudi Human Genome Program — a national research project to study the genetic basis of all disease in the Kingdom and throughout the Middle East and use the findings to offer the ultimate personal care in Saudi Arabia.

Through a network of an initial 10 genome centers across Saudi Arabia, the ambitious program using the Ion Proton™  DNA sequencer,  will focus on sequencing 100,000 human genomes over the next five years to study both normal and disease-associated genes specific to the Saudi population, with five further genome centers to be created in the future.  This genomic variant data will be fully analyzed and used to create a Saudi-specific database that will provide the basis for future development of personalized medicine in the Kingdom and represents the most comprehensive effort to identify the disease-causing genes for the population of a country and Arab peoples.

"King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology is committed to the development of R&D programs of excellence in all scientific disciplines," said Dr.Mohammed Bin Ibrahim Al Suwayl, President of KACST. "We have clear strategy and policy of the importance of science to a knowledge-based society and we believe the Saudi Human Genome Program will help shape the understanding of health and disease and usher in an era of personalized medicine in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and we are grateful for the investment and vision of the Saudi leadership."

Prince Dr. Turki bin Saud Al Saud, KACST Vice President for Research Institutes said: "The Saudi Human Genome Program will position the Kingdom at the forefront of personalized medicine and will empower our citizens to help them make informed decisions for their health plans. It's hoped other global academic institutions will use the impressive facilities KACST is launching in the near future."

The sequencing will be performed using Life Technologies' semiconductor-based Ion Proton™ DNA sequencer. The instruments will be deployed in the network of 15 genome centers at various sites across the Kingdom.  

"This is a program of exceptional scale enabled by the Ion Proton," said Gregory T. Lucier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies. "It demonstrates KACST's vision to position the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a world leader in genetic research through its genome centers to deliver the ultimate in personalized medicine.  We expect the Saudi Human Genome Program will provide a model which many countries will follow."

Each center is designed and equipped by Life Technologies' Enterprise Genomics Services team which will further accelerate the project by providing end-to-end solutions and services for operations and informatics. This wealth of information, provided with the full consent of participants, will also enable clinicians in the future to offer premarital and prenatal screening for rare diseases, which will facilitate preventive medicine and decrease the emotional, social and economic burden of rare birth defects. The data will also enable worldwide population studies to understand and compare population-specific influences leading to normal and harmful variants, common and rare mutations.

Dr. Prabhu Sampath, Chief Executive Officer of Life Technologies' distributor in the Middle East, Integrated Gulf Biosystems (IGB) said: "IGB is privileged to have played a pivotal role in bringing this disruptive technology in genome sequencing from Life Technologies to KACST and the impact of this project will be far reaching and will lead to the introduction of new techniques and tools, including precision medicine to both patients and the clinicians treating them."

The Ion Proton™ is For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.

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