Indian scientists map TB genome

Updated: Apr 11, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

New Delhi: Scientists from across India
on Sunday announced the first-ever detail mapping of mycobacterium
tuberculosis (MTB), the bug responsible for spread of the
disease that kills 1.7 million people every year globally.

Hundreds of scientists from across the country put in
joint efforts at a three-day `Connect 2 Decode` (C2D)
conference to complete the final re-annotation of the 4,000-
odd genes that determine how the TB bug lives and infects

The TB gene map, developed under the Open Source Drug
Discovery (OSDD) initiative of the Council of Scientific and
Industrial Research (CSIR), will be available in the public
domain for drug makers.

"This marks the beginning of the efforts of C2D to align
R&D with public health and to use the full potential of the
open source model for the development of medical technologies
and drug discovery for neglected diseases," Samir Brahmachari,
Director General, CSIR said.

C2D`s findings may contain critical data to unlock
previously undiscovered details of tuberculosis resulting in
development opportunities for urgently needed new drugs in
India and other developing countries, he said.

The gene map is similar to a Google map or a Wikipedia
article that can be modified and updated as new information
emerges on the features of the genome.

The MTB map has been hosted on a web portal
( custom-developed by Infosys and uses an
emerging format (Web 3.0) that allows users to get better
search results while searching for data.

Though the MTB gene was sequenced more than a decade
back, no more than 1,000 of the near 4,000 genes have been
annotated, he said adding, the OSDD participants have taken up
the challenge of annotating all possible genes in MTB with
interoperable community standards.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1.7
million people die annually from TB and in some areas of the
world, one in four people can no longer be treated with
standard drugs regimens.

"Despite this public health emergency, TB research
funding remains alarmingly inadequate, particularly for
research into new drugs," Brahmachari said.

"We need to have a balanced view between health as a
right and health as a business. It is because there has been
imbalance in this view, that diseases like TB with high
mortality but low profitability are neglected by the
current system of pharmaceutical research," he said.

"As virtually no new TB drugs have been developed since
the 1960s, OSDD`s model in particular holds great promise for
the scientific community by stimulating the development of
better drugs and diagnostics for patients," said Zakir Thomas,
Project Director OSDD.

Under the C2D project, researchers and students pooled
their time and skills using online tools to provide insights
into 4,000 genes of the deadly pathogen.

The researchers also mapped the genes as they relate to
functional interactions and pathways.

"C2D demonstrates the power of people to connect through
the internet, particular young people, and accomplish complex
research tasks," Thomas said.

OSDD was launched in September 2008 by CSIR with a Rs 146
crore budget for collaborative research efforts that focuses
primarily on TB.