Genetic Sequencing Initiative

Student writer: Trenton Beckendorff
Student editors: Ava Daniel, Hannah Ericson
23andMe editor: Thao Do

The Global Race to Precision Medicine: Governments and NGOs Begin Launch of Large-Scale Genetic Sequencing Initiatives

In the first edition of the DNA Decoder, we followed recent developments in the groundbreaking U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) All of Us Research Program. All of Us aims to provide scientists with a comprehensive dataset encompassing genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors collected from 1,000,000 participants.


In 2017, at the 5th World Government Summit, the Dubai Future Foundation announced the city’s groundbreaking “10X” initiative. The initiative aims to connect sectors of the local government with innovators and technologists to propel Dubai forward as a model of what other cities in the world will look like 10 years into the future. The initiative is sparking investment in applications of big data, artificial intelligence, and genetic testing.

Led by the Dubai Health Authority as a 10X initiative, the Dubai Genomics program will begin laying the foundation for large-scale whole-genome sequencing of the entire population of 3 million residents. Residents’ genetic testing results will be aggregated into a citywide genomics database, and will enable health institutions to begin utilizing modern artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms to uncover insights related to genetic diseases.


In Estonia, the National Institute for Health Development and the University of Tartu announced a new joint collaboration on March 20th to expand its BioBank program by 100,000 participants. In a nation of 1.3 million, the announcement symbolizes a step closer to the government’s goal of integrating personalized medicine reports available to residents via an existing electronic patient portal. Utilizing the new Illumina InfiniumTM Global Screening Array, the Estonian Genome Center is set to complete the initiative with an allocated 5 million euros for 2018.


GenomeAsia 100k, a non-profit organization, announced a new initiative to sequence 100,000 genomes of individuals in Asia. The initiative aims to include 12 countries from South Asia, with an additional 7 nations representing nations of North and East Asia. The genomic data collected will be aggregated with information related to individuals’ local ancestries, phenotype and microbiome profiles, and clinical history. In India, the organization has partnered with the Bangalore-based MedGenome medical and genetic diagnostics firm to create one of the nation’s largest stores of genomic data – an estimated 30,000 individuals. In total, the project expects to generate an estimated 60 petabytes of data over the span of the next 3-4 years.

How will the massive amounts of genetic sequencing data to be generated enable the progression of precision medicine from theory to application?

Returning focus to the United States, leaders in the healthcare industry are signaling their anticipation for a new era of medicine that is data-driven, personal, and preventative. Jennifer L. Hall, Ph.D, is the chief of the American Heart Association’s Institute for Precision Cardiovascular Medicine. On March 20th, she revealed her vision for the impact of precision medicine on the practice of cardiovascular medicine in an article entitled “Fueled by Data, Cardiology Ripe for Precision Medicine Research”.

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