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Funds for Parsi health project

A grant for studies on a biobank expected to hold 15,000 Parsi blood samples by the year 2021
The Avestagenome Project seeks to probe the molecular and genetic basis of longevity and specific health disorders, including certain neurological disorders and cancers, that appear to occur among members of the Parsi community at rates different than in other populations.

G.S. Mudur   |   New Delhi   |   Published 12.12.19, 09:59 PM

A decade-old effort to search for novel biological markers for specific diseases and cancers using blood samples from Parsi community members is expected to receive a boost through a financial grant from a US-based non-government foundation.

Avesthagen, a Bangalore-based life sciences company, announced on Thursday that it has received a grant from the US-based Foundation for a Smoke Free World for studies on a biobank expected to hold 15,000 Parsi blood samples by the year 2021. The company did not specify the amount.

The Avestagenome Project seeks to probe the molecular and genetic basis of longevity and specific health disorders, including certain neurological disorders and cancers, that appear to occur among members of the Parsi community at rates different than in other populations.

The company will use the new grant to combine genetic studies with artificial intelligence to identify predictive and early-stage biomarkers of cancers in smokers. Scientists expect that such biomarkers would help identify subsets of smokers more likely to develop cancers than others.

“We believe that our study will identify novel biomarkers that could be used in predictive diagnostics for susceptibility to lung and other cancers,” Villoo Morawala-Patell, Avesthagen’s founder and chairperson said in a media release.

The Avestagenome Project has since 2008 collected blood samples and patient data from over 4,500 Parsis, an endogamous community characterised by relative longevity, lower prevalence of lung, head, neck and esophageal cancers but higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease breast and prostate cancers.

Family pressure coupled with religious restrictions have ensured that the Parsis are a nearly smoke-free community.

“This makes the Parsi people and Avesthagen’s biobank the ideal control population to act as a reference standard for research into tobacco-related cancers and diseases,” the company said. 

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