New technology has been acquired for the Avestagenome project aimed at studying the Parsi community in India.
Avesthagen, the Indian biotechnology company that has undertaken the project, will now get the right to use the microarray technology perfected by Affymetrix based in California.
The study will explore the genetic basis of the relative longevity of Parsis who are of Iranian extraction and are a flourishing segment In India.
Thirty-one per cent of the Parsis live beyond the age of 60, compared to only seven per cent nationally.
Eventually the project will see the creation of a genetic, genealogic and medical database of the Parsee -Zoroastrian population.
The study has been designed to lead to discovery of novel biomarkers and drug targets that can result in predictive, preventive and personalized healthcare.
A better understanding of the genetic causes of longevity could have a major impact on the Union government's healthcare budget and drug companies' marketing efforts, it is believed.
"Working closely with a global leader such as Affymetrix provides us with access to industry-leading technology and some of the world's most prominent genetic researchers," said Dr Villoo Morawala-Patell, founder, chairperson and managing director, Avesthagen based in Bangalore in southern India.
"We believe that the combination of the Affymetrix technology and our team of scientists will yield interesting findings that will benefit people around the world", Morawala-Patell added.
The use of Affymetrix technology will enable researchers to correlate genes with longevity, as well as neurodegenerative conditions, breast cancer, diabetes and other complex diseases that affect the Parsi community.
The microarray technology is said to be the industry-standard tool for analyzing complex genetic information.
"The Avestagenome Project is a prime example of a community uniting to accelerate research for the common diseases affecting one another," said Kevin King, president of Affymetrix.
"Affymetrix looks forward to a long-term relationship with the Avesthagen team as it develops the Parsee database and then looks to create more effective diagnostics and personalized treatments for patients."
All of the genetic information is being collected following informed consent. Data confidentiality is being maintained as in accordance with the Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines.
The genotyping phase of the project, which began on October 5, 2007, consists of 10,000 samples in the first year. By the middle of 2008, the team will perform expression profiling and transcript mapping experiments across a subset of the samples. The project is expected to be completed before 2013. The project is expected to cover over 60,000 individuals.