Genome Engineering Technologies (GET) and their Applications

Genesis of Programme

Over the past few years, advances in genome editing technologies are making constant headlines. Being precise, relatively inexpensive, easy-to-use, and remarkably powerful, genome editing technologies have the potential to transform biological research and can greatly impact human health, food security and environmental sustainability. Genome engineering represents the next step of evolution in our ability to analyse and edit the genetic information of plants, animals, humans, and microbes. The advances in genome editing can be traced back to quiet beginnings in the 1990s. However, the current surge in the number and range of applications of genome editing technologies largely owes to the introduction of the CRISPR-Cas9 – a genome-editing tool that can be used to make precise and targeted changes in the DNA sequence with much ease. The simplicity of the CRISPR platform, compared with the earlier tools, has led to its rapid adoption and wide expansion of its applications. With these advancements, genome editing can positively impact sustainable development, environmental management, food security and find applications in the development of affordable diagnostics and therapeutics for various diseases.

Recognizing the power of Genome Editing techniques to study and manipulate the genome, the DBT has been engaged in promoting research and innovation in the area of genome engineering technologies and their applications to make them accessible and affordable for wider use in research and development (R&D). Efforts have been made to encourage R&D programs in emerging genome engineering technologies and their applications through focused calls for proposals in different areas such as development of new methods, tools, processes and platforms for genome editing, improvement of existing genome-editing methods, and novel applications of genome editing technologies in Agriculture, Bioenergy, Environmental Research and Human Health.


Objectives of the Programme

  • Drive research to develop new tools and methods for genome editing for basic and applied research
  • Establish accessible platforms facilities on emerging genome editing technologies for research and development
  • Improvement of existing genome editing technology platforms
  • Development of new applications of existing genome editing technologies
  • Application of Genome Editing Technologies to address specific unmet needs in the areas of Human Health, Agriculture & Plant Productivity, Environment and Bioresources, and Animal Health
  • Human Resource Development in state-of-the-art Genome Editing Technologies


Priority Areas

  • Development of new cutting-edge tools and technologies for high-throughput, precise and efficient genome editing
  • Improvement of existing genome editing technology platforms such as CRISPR/Cas and TALENs for ease and precision
  • Development of efficient and high throughput genome editing platforms in a wide range of laboratory animal models for catering to basic biomedical research and human disease modelling
  • Integrating stem cell technology and embryo manipulation technologies with genome editing to develop xenotransplantation models
  • Development of genome editing-based therapeutic solutions for the  most prevalent genetic disorders in India
  • Development of transgene-free improved crop plants with traits such as disease resistance, tolerance to various abiotic stresses, nutritional improvement and higher yield
  • Capacity building in cutting-edge Genome Editing Technologies through workshops and training programmes


Major Programmes and Initiatives

  1. Human Resource Development in cutting-edge genome editing technologies: Indo-US Genome Engineering/Editing Technologies Initiative (GETin) Program

The 'Indo-U.S. Genome Engineering/Editing Technologies Initiative’ (GETin) has the objectives of providing opportunities to Indian students and scientists to gain exposure and access to world-class research facilities in leading US institutions, capacity building in the frontline area of Genome Engineering Technologies and building long-term R&D linkages and collaborations with US institutions and scientists. This program has three components:

  • Student Internship Program Module

This module is intended for Indian students pursuing a Ph.D. program in various forefront areas of Biotechnology (Agriculture, Health Sciences, Bio-engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Fundamental biology or Allied sciences) at a recognized academic or research institution in India. Selected students avail Student Internships to work in a leading US research laboratory.

  • Overseas Fellowship Program Module

Indian citizens having Ph.D. in Life Science, Biotechnology, Engineering or Technology holding a regular position in a recognized R&D/Academic Institution are eligible for Overseas Fellowships for which can be availed for carrying out research work at a leading US institution.

  • Visiting Fellowship Program Module

This module is intended for foreign faculty members or post-doctoral researchers presently working in the U.S. in a field having an interface with Genome Engineering Technologies. Selected visiting fellows avail fellowships to undertake collaborative research in an Indian Laboratory.

  1. Individual-centric and multi-institutional R&D projects on Genome Editing Technologies and their Applications

The Department has supported more than 160 individual-centric and multi-institutional R&D projects on Genome Editing Technologies and their Applications in the last five years. A few of the most important scientific advances from some of the R&D projects supported by the Division are:

  • Using CRISPR-Cas-based gene editing system, the Role of Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor Type-1 (PAI-1) in the pathogenesis of tissue fibrosis –the excessive scarring of tissue which compromises its function has been established. Despite contributing to one-third of all deaths worldwide, there is no effective treatment, to date, for fibrosis. This study has established PAI-1 as a novel drug target and pharmacologically targeting this protein may be an effective treatment for combating fibrosis.
  • Using shRNA-mediated gene silencing, phosphatases and kinases playing significant role in lysosome function, Endoplasmic Reticulum stress, protein trafficking and cellular senescence have been identified. This has been instrumental in delineating a few novel regulators of cellular homeostasis and has led to the identification of multiple potential drug targets for lysosomal storage disorders.
  • A method has been developed using CRISPR-Cas for the targeted tracking of oncogenes in living cells through live-cell imaging approaches. This method can be applied to understand the effect of how chemotherapeutic agents act on the expression, localization and dynamics of oncogenes, such as C-MYC, CCND1, K-RAS and ERBB2 in the nucleus.
  • Genome editing tools have been utilized to unravel the regulatory mechanism for the accumulation and degradation of β-carotene in fruit-pulp of Banana and to modify certain genes to develop pro-vitamin A biofortified Banana varieties. Promising pro-vitamin A-enriched biofortified Indian banana lines are being further evaluated for bioavailability in multilocation agronomical trials.
  • CRISPR-based technologies in combination with single-effector nucleases are being utilized for development of diagnostics for viral diseases, such as AIDS and Hepatitis, and experimental therapeutics for genetic and complex diseases.


Quantitative Outcome (Last five years)

Output

Number

Scientists supported

207

Projects supported

164

Manpower (JRF/SRF/RA etc.) supported

357

Publications

95

Patents filed/granted

8

Technologies / Products developed

8

Workshop / Training  programmes organized

5

Concerned Officer for more information

Program Head Dr Suchita Ninawe,Scientist G
Email sninawe[at]dbt[dot]nic[dot]in
Phone No. 011-24363722
Program Officer Dr. Onkar Nath Tiwari,Scientist E
Email onkar[dot]dbt[at]nic[dot]in
Phone No. 011-24361290
Attached Officer: Dr. Amit Kumar Tripathi, Scientist ‘C’
Email amitkr[dot]tripathi[dot]dbt[at]nic[dot]in