The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a submicroscopic organism with little spikes (S-protein) jetting out of its surface and viral genome inside it. The virus uses its S-protein to attach to a human host cell surface protein called ACE2, that usually plays a role in the maintenance of blood pressure, and sneaks into the cell. Once inside the cell, the virus takes control of the cellular machinery to make copies of itself and eventually gets out to infect other neighboring cells.
For more details, please read the scientific paper https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.07.024752v1
In an article featured on the cover of the January 2020 issue of Nature Genetics, scientists from SciGenom Research Foundation (SGRF), India, AgriGenome Labs, India, MedGenome, India/USA, SciGenom, India, and Genentech, a member of the Roche group, along with a team of international collaborators from academia and industry report the sequencing and assembly of a high-quality genome of the highly venomous, medically important Indian cobra (Naja naja). Using a combination of cutting-edge genomic technologies, the authors have assembled the most contiguous genome of this iconic venomous snake.
Venom is a complex mixture of proteins encoded by genes that have been co-opted by some snakes as they evolved some 100 million years ago. In the Indian cobra genome, the authors identified 19 key toxin genes primarily expressed in the venom glands.
"Targeting these 19 specific toxins using synthetic human antibodies should lead to a safe and effective antivenom for treating Indian cobra bites" said Dr. Sekar Seshagiri, President, SGRF, former Staff Scientist at Genentech, and lead study author. Currently, antivenom is produced by immunizing horses with extracted snake venom and is based on a process developed well over 100 years ago. This process is laborious and suffers from a lack of consistency leading to varying efficacy and serious side effects.
"It is about time we modernize antivenom development by leveraging genomics, recombinant protein expression and synthetic antibody development technologies. The Indian cobra genome and the catalogue of target toxins are a blueprint needed to do this. For the first time, we now have a full list of venom-relevant toxin genes of the Indian cobra" said Dr. R. Manjunatha Kini, Professor, National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore and an author on the study.
Venom is primarily used by snakes to subdue their prey. It is also a great source of drug-like molecules. The Indian cobra genome is no exception and it codes for toxin molecules that can block pain, reduce blood pressure and prevent blood clotting.
Globally each year, accidental contact with snakes lead to over 100,000 deaths. Over 400,000 individuals suffer permanent disabilities, including amputation. India alone accounts for 2.8 million snakebite cases that lead to about 50,000 deaths annually, primarily attributed to the Indian cobra, common krait, Russell's viper and saw scaled viper, infamously called the 'big four'.
"The Indian cobra is the first of the 'big four' deadly snakes to be sequenced. This is a major step towards understanding its venom components and it will effectively change the way antivenom is developed" said Dr. George Thomas, Chief Operating Officer, AgriGenome Labs, India. He further added, "This study has provided a very high-quality reference genome that will make assessment of the Indian cobra genetic diversity possible and practical. It will be an important resource for conservation of this revered and feared Indian snake".
"Obtaining the genomes and the venom gland genes from the other three of the ‘big four’ and the deadly African snakes such as the black mamba, carpet viper and spitting cobras is the logical next step. It will provide a complete platform for developing a safe, universal antivenom for snakebite victims all over India, Africa and other neighbouring countries" added Dr. R. Manjunatha Kini.
Safe and effective antivenom is a major unmet social need in India and other parts of the world. The world health organization (WHO) has classified snakebite as a neglected tropical disease (NTD). Institutions such as the Welcome Trust have announced funding for development of better antivenom. The Dept. of Biotechnology, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, Govt. of India, has also announced funding opportunities for antivenom development in India. These developments along with the insights gained from genome sequencing as reported in Nature Genetics, will help develop better antivenom that can end the snakebite crisis.
Ms. Kamalika Das
SciGenom Research Foundation (SGRF), a not-for-profit organization, is working to promote Science in India through research and education. Currently, the foundation is involved in a number of research initiatives that are typically not funded by government agencies, but identified as scientifically relevant and important for India. SGRF has ongoing research activities and collaborations in agriculture, animal health, wildlife diseases, biodiversity, genomics and human health. As part of its educational initiative, it organizes the annual Nextgen Genomics, Biology, Bioinformatics and Technologies (NGBT) Conference. The 10th international NGBT will be held in Kolkata, India from Sep 27th to Sep 30th, 2020.
About AgriGenome Labs
AgriGenome Labs is the leading genomics service provider in India offering high-quality genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis for the research and breeding community of the country. AgriGenome’s services cover non-human organisms including plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and viruses. The in-house genome sequencing group has expertise in genome assembly and annotation. AgriGenome's R&D activities focus on crop improvement through TILLING and CRISPR-Cas9 based genome editing. Furthermore, AgriGenome Labs has completed genomes of several Indian spices, medicinal plants and livestock - some under its own R&D program and the rest in collaboration with other groups.
MedGenome is a global leader in personalized medicine with unique genomic solutions in immuno-oncology, ophthalmology and other rare diseases. It has a high-throughput NGS facility in Foster City, California, supporting biomarker identification and target discovery research projects for bio-pharma and academic institutions in the US, Europe and Canada. It is a market leader in genetic diagnostic testing in India. MedGenome has developed algorithms and tools to correlate genomic data with clinical and phenotypic information to provide deep insight into complex diseases at genetic and molecular level to enable support drug development and personalized medicine.
SciGenom is an ISO certified company, with a fully functional state-of-the-art molecular biology laboratory in Cochin. Its R&D lab is recognized by Department of Scientific & Industrial Research (DSIR), Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India. SciGenom currently provides DNA cloning, protein expression and assay development services to both national and international clients. It also has antibody development capabilities for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications. SciGenom Labs also serves as a sandbox for life sciences startup ideas and has successfully incubated several companies.
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Dr. John Pines, Head of the cancer biology division at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, receiving SGRF lifetime achievement award for his pioneering contributions in the field of the cell cycle and mitosis.
Dr. Deepak Pental, Professor of Genetics and the Ex-Vice Chancellor at the University of Delhi, receiving SGRF lifetime achievement award for his contribution to the development of transgenics and marker-assisted breeding of crops.
Dr. John Kuriyan, Chancellor's Professor at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) and Chemistry receiving SGRF lifetime achievement award for his contributions to the structural analysis of the proteins/enzymes in cell signalling and DNA replication.
Dr. Gagandeep Kang, Professor in the Department of Gastrointestinal Sciences at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, India and the executive director of the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad, for her path-breaking contributions on rotaviral vaccines and understanding the natural history of infectious diseases
Dr. Vivek Malhotra, Professor and Chair at the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at CRG in Barcelona, Spain receiving SGRF Excellence in Science award for his contributions to understand the the functioning of Golgi complexes.
Dr. Pushpendra Kumar Gupta, Hon. Emeritus Professor & INSA Senior Scientist, Department of Genetics & Plant Breeding, Ch. Charan Singh University, Meerut, India, receiving excellence in science award for his contributions in plant breeding and crop biotechnology.
As part of the 30th Kerala Science Congress we are privileged to announce the institution of a new award SGRF SPARK Award for the best innovative idea for “Transforming Kerala through Science & Technology Interventions”. This award is instituted by SciGenom Research Foundation (SGRF), a not-for-profit organization, promoting Science through Research and Education along with Kerala State Council for Science Technology & Environment (KSCSTE). Post Graduate Science students from Kerala are eligible to contest for this award. The entries will be evaluated by a panel of experts, and the best innovative idea shall be chosen for the award.
Inspiring the next generation of innovators to come to the forefront of scientific pursuit shall be the goal of this award and we hope this inspires students to inculcate a passion for Science & Technology through offering solutions to today’s challenges in Science & Technology.
For More Details,
Dr. N. S. Pradeep,
SGRF Spark Award Competition,
Kerala State Council for Science Technology & Environment (KSCSTE)
Sasthra Bhavan, Pattom, Thiruvananthapuram – 695004.
Dr. Kuldeep Singh, Director of ICAR- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, receiving SGRF excellence in science award for his outstanding contribution in Plant Breeding and Molecular Genetics and Genomics.
Dr. PARTHA P MAJUMDER, Distinguished Professor, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), Kolkata, India receiving 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr. George Thomas for her pioneering and path-breaking contributions in the field of Human Population Genentics in India.
Dr. K Thangaraj, Sr. Principal Scientist, Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, India receiving 2017 Excellence in Science Awards from Dr. George Thomas for his pioneering and path-breaking contributions in the field of Human Population Genentics in India.
Dr. V. Shanta,Chairman, Cancer Institute, Chennai, India receiving 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr. George Thomas for her pioneering and path-breaking contributions in the field of Cancer Research in India.
Dr. Vijayalakshmi Ravindranath, Professor, Centre for Neuroscience, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India was awarded the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr. George Thomas at the NGBT meeting, Cochin, India.
Dr. N.K Singh, National Professor, Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, India receiving 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for his pioneering and path-breaking contributions in the field of Agricultural Science in India.
Dr. Ivan Dikic Receiving the SGRF Excellence in Science Award medal and plaque at the 2015 NGBT meeting from Dr. George Thomas.
Dr.Mammen Chandy, Director of Tata Medical Centre, Kolkata, India receiving 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award from Dr.Mohan (right) for his pioneering and path-breaking contributions in hematology and bone marrow transplantation in India
Dr.Alfred Wittinghofer, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology, Germany was awarded the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the NGBT meeting in Hyderabad for his pioneering and path-breaking contributions towards the structural analysis of signaling proteins, especially GTPases.
Dr.Jitendra P Khurana, Professor and Dean, University of Delhi South Campus was awarded the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award at the NGBT meeting in Hyderabad for his pioneering and path-breaking contributions in plant molecular biology and genomics.
SciGenom Research Foundation (SGRF) and its co-hosts - Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), and Institute of Bioinformatics (IOB) hosted the three-day NextGen Genomics, Biology, Bioinformatics and Technologies (NGBT) Conference at Hyderabad International Convention Center (HICC). The inauguration was presided over by Ch. Mohan Rao, Director, CCMB. Other speakers included Dr George Thomas, Director, SciGenom Research Foundation, Dr Sekar Seshagiri, 2015 NGBT Conference Chair and Dr Thangaraj, Group Leader, CCMB.
The conference featured various sponsors from the genomics and sequencing platform manufactures who were excited to partner with the largest genomics conference in the country bringing together the best of scientific minds and practitioners together. MedGenome, the leader in clinical genomics in India was a major sponsor for the event along with Illumina, the largest sequencing platform manufacturer in the world.
“The conference provided a platform to bring academia and industry in genomics and related technologies together,” Sam Santhosh, CEO, MedGenome opined. He added: “We are happy that the NGBT conference has grown to become the largest genomics conference in the country.”
2014 SGRF Excellence in Science Awards, a prize setup to recognize excellence in Science in India, were awarded at the 2014 NGBT meeting, Bangalore, India. The winners were selected from the nominations received by a committee of experts constituted by SGRF. The 2014 award focused on clinical/translational genomics work.
Dr. Ishwar Verma Head, Department of Genetics Medicine, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, was awarded the 2014 SGRF Excellence in Science Awards on Nov 17th, 2014 at the NGBT meeting in Bangalore for his significant contributions to medical genetics research and the application of genetic in the clinic in India
Dr. V. Mohan, President and Founder MDRF, was awarded the 2014 SGRF Excellence in Science Awards on Nov 19th, 2014 at the NGBT meeting in Bangalore for his significant contributions to diabetes genetics research and his work in the clinic for the management of diabetes in India
Dr. Ishwar Verma (middle) along with Dr. George Thomas (left), Dr. Krishnaraj Rajalingam (right) after receiving the SGRF Excellence in Science Award medal and plaque
Dr. Ishwar Verma delivering a keynote lecture at the 2014 NGBT meeting
Dr. Ishwar Verma receiving an oil on canvas painting memento following his lecture at the 2014 NGBT meeting from Dr. Krishnaraj Rajalingam
Dr. V Mohan delivering his keynote address at the 2014 NGBT meeting
Dr. V Mohan, MDRF, receiving the 2014 SGRF Medal from Dr. Andrew Peterson, Genentech.
Dr. Andrew Peterson, Dr. Radha Venkatesan, Dr. V Mohan and Dr. R. M. Anaja at the awards ceremony
Dr. George Thomas, Dr. Radha Venkatesan, Dr. V Mohan and Dr. R. M. Anaja at the awards ceremony
2014 SGRF Student Scholarships for AC&RI, Killikulam winners were announced at the 2014 NGBT meeting on Nov 19th, 2014.
The scholarship winners were selected and recommended to SGRF director Dr. George Thomas by a committee constituted by Dr. V. Subramanian, Dean (i/c) and Professor, AC&RI, TNAU, Killikulam, India.
The selection committed consisted of
The scholarship to cover the tution and boarding expenses for the year 2015-16 was awarded to Ms. Tamilarasi. N.K and Kavitha. R, first year B.Sc. (Agriculture) students at AC&RI, Killikulam, India.
Ms. Tamilarasi. N.K., winner of Seetharaman Seshagiri memorial scholarship receving the scholarship certificate from Dr. M. Swamiappan
Ms. Kavitha. R, winner of Namagiriammal memorial scholarship receving the scholarship certificate from Dr. M. Swamiappan
Scholarship winners (middle) Ms. Kavitha R, Ms. Tamilarasi. N.K and their parents (to left of Ms. Kavitha) along with the scholarship committee members (from far left) Dr. Swamiappan M, Dr. Angappan and Dr. George Thomas, SGRF Director, (far right)
Dr. Swamiappan M, receiving a portrait of Hassan as memento from Dr. George Thomas, SGRF Director
Dr. Angappan, receiving a portrait of Hassan as memento from Dr. George Thomas, SGRF Director
June 28th, 2014 – SGRF recognized several founding Professors of the Agricultural College and Research Institute, Killikulam, Vallanadu for their excellence in Education and Research and also for their contributions to the college during its inception in 1984. This recognition was awarded in collaboration with the 1985-89 students of the college