A national research project has been formed that aims to study the genetic basis of all disease in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East. The King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and Life Technologies formed the Saudi Human Genome Program with the goal of improving personal care in Saudi Arabia. KACST says the Saudi Human Genome Program represents the most comprehensive effort to identify the disease-causing genes for the population of a country and Arab peoples.

The program will use Life Tech’s Ion Proton™ DNA sequencer and 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. This genomic variant data, the organizers say, will be fully analyzed and used to create a Saudi-specific database that will provide the basis for future development of personalized medicine in Saudi Arabia.

A network of an initial 10 genome centers across Saudi Arabia have been established to aid with the project; in addition, five more genome centers will be created in the future. Each center has been designed and equipped by Life Technologies’ Enterprise Genomics Services team, which will also provide solutions and services for operations and informatics—the information from which, it is hoped, will enable clinicians to offer premarital and prenatal screening for rare diseases. The data, KACST and Life Tech add, will also enable worldwide population studies to understand and compare population-specific influences leading to normal and harmful variants.

“We expect the Saudi Human Genome Program will provide a model which many countries will follow,” said Life Tech chairman and CEO Gregory T. Lucier in a statement.

This is not the only major program involving the Ion Proton this year: In October, the Department of Veterans Affairs awarded Claritas Genomics a $9 million contract toward the exome sequencing of veteran samples, including those from the Million Veteran Program, over 12 months. For the project—said to be one of the largest sequencing initiatives ever undertaken in the U.S.—Claritas Genomics is receiving support from Life Technologies and its Ion Proton sequencing technology. Alvarez and Associates and Lockheed Martin are also lending a hand.

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