Singapore Creates World’s Largest Asian Genetic Databank

Singapore Creates World’s Largest Asian Genetic Databank

A team of scientists in Singapore has developed the world’s largest genetic databank of Asian individuals. Their findings are published in Cell.

Genetic variation is known to contribute to an individual’s susceptibility to disease and response to treatments. Populations from different parts of the world show significant genetic diversity that is a consequence of their population histories. Asian populations are not extensively studied, and their genetic make-up is poorly understood, hindering efforts to discover disease-associated genes that impact on the health of individuals from these populations. Singapore, with its ethnically diverse population consisting of three major ethnic groups (Chinese, Malay and Indian), capture 80 percent of Asia’s diversity. Hence,

Singapore investigators performed whole genome sequencing on close to 5,000 Singaporeans (2,780 Chinese, 903 Malays and 1,127 Indians) over two years to establish a genetic reference on the local population for subsequent studies.

The study revealed a noticeable degree of genetic intermingling among the three ethnic groups, of which Chinese and Malays are more closely related. It suggests that Malays split from Chinese about 24,800 years ago. The Malays then experienced significant gene inflow with East Asians about 1,700 years ago, coinciding with the Austronesian expansion, a hypothesized historical migration of peoples from Taiwan/East Asia to Southeast Asia and further to remote Pacific and Oceania islands.

In addition, the team identified 98.3 million genetic variants across the Singapore genomes. Of these, more than half have not been previously reported in public databases, which to date have focused on Western and European populations. It also identified 20 candidate loci for natural selection where genome sequences were altered as a result of survival and adaptation to local environments during human evolution.

14 loci were found to be associated with human traits and diseases. This may explain why certain diseases and human traits, such as ALDH2 deficiency, which is associated with Asian Flush, are more or less common in Asians. These results show the relevance and utility of performing genetic studies across diverse populations in Asia.

“The project provides a pilot genetic map of Asian populations that allows us to measure precisely the genetic contribution to disease, and combine it with other sources of data within a data-driven healthcare system,” said Professor Patrick Tan, executive director at the Genome Institute of Singapore, who is a senior author on the study.

“Potentially, this will provide insights to prevent disease before it occurs, diagnose disease earlier and ensure that therapies are deployed in a way that maximizes clinical benefits while minimizing adverse effects. This will benefit both Singapore and the Asian population at large by providing more effective and efficient healthcare services,” he added.


The article can be found at: Wu et al. (2019) Large-Scale Whole-Genome Sequencing of Three Diverse Asian Populations in Singapore. Read more from Asian Scientist Magazine at:

Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
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