NIMS to get state-of-the-art genome sequencing system

As for Telangana, this will only be the second such machine at a government-owned facility after CCMB

Hyderabad: Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) will soon procure a next generation system, which can carry out genome sequencing at a faster rate.
This will mark a significant development as only a handful of Indian cities have such a DNA sequencing device. As for Telangana, this will only be the second such machine at a government-owned facility after the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB). The government has already invited tenders to procure a next-generation sequencing system for NIMS.

Since the onset of the pandemic, genome sequencing has been used to identify the Covid-19 variant among infected patients. Medical experts have advocated regular community sequencing as a means to be better prepared for any possible Covid-19 waves or for other such equally dreaded outbreaks.

Former CCMB director and currently the director of Tata Institute for Genetics and Society (TIGS), Bengaluru, Dr Rakesh Mishra said that the Novaseq sequencer, which is currently at CCMB, costs around Rs 8 crore. It is a top-of-the-line machine and can simultaneously sequence many samples.

Its resourcefulness stands out even though cheaper systems are also available.
Dr Mishra said that the sequencing system would have two potential uses — detection of infectious diseases and genetic diseases.

“Some treatments are variant-specific, so this could be used in such cases. The other alternative is to send samples elsewhere and wait for the report. We should realise that when it comes to medical practises, one needs results in double-quick time,” he said.

President of Infection Control Academy of India Dr Ranga Reddy Burri said “One of the major lacunas that stood exposed during the pandemic was our inability for frequent community-level surveillance by way of testing more samples through genomic sequencing. We were unable to detect the delta variant and other variants at the appropriate time.”

In this backdrop, a machine that can carry out sequencing of many samples in one go comes as a boon. Dr Burri said that when compared to BRICS nations, India’s capacity to respond to the pandemic was the lowest. South Africa has the largest capacity, which helped them identify the Omicron variant in time, he said.

“A genome sequencing facility is a welcome move. We may not benefit from it immediately but as and when needed, the state will be the first beneficiary,” he added.

NIMS superintendent Dr N Satyanarayana could not be reached for his comments.

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