Thailand, China jointly launch genomics research project

Thailand is poised to initiate a research project aiming to provide research tools and platforms for high-risk populations of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and offer risk

prediction and intervention plans before symptoms appear, a senior Thai official said Saturday.

Supamas Isarabhakdi, Thai minister of higher education, science, research and innovation, announced the project at the 19th Annual Meeting of the International Conference on Genomics (ICG-19) held at the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology of Thailand, under the higher education ministry, will cooperate with the Bangkok Genomics Innovation Public Company Limited (BKGI), a Thai-Chinese life science joint venture, to push forward the project based on new biomarkers such as Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO).

"The TMAO test has the potential to revolutionize the prevention and management of cardiovascular diseases in Thailand. By detecting the risk of cardiovascular diseases early, we can improve the quality of life of people and reduce healthcare costs associated with treating the disease in its severe stages," said Supamas.

Data shows cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and stroke, are major causes of illness and death in Thailand. Some 100,000 cases of acute heart failure are recorded in Thailand each year. Stroke affects around 300,000 people annually, with a government expenditure of no less than 30,000 million baht (about 826 million U.S. dollars) per year.

Themed "Omics, Wellness, and Longevity," the two-day event serves as a platform for scientists, researchers, policymakers, and industry leaders from around the world to exchange knowledge and collaborate on cutting-edge research in genomics and biotechnology.

Supamas said that for decades, BGI, a major shareholder of the BKGI, has been transferring technology to Thailand, elevating the country to a new level in life sciences and healthcare research. This advancement allows Thai people to diagnose diseases with a simple blood test and enables the formulation of treatment plans, especially when risks are identified ahead of time. These cutting-edge collaborative projects have already benefited over 100,000 Thai citizens.

Jeremy Cao, general manager of BGI Group South East Asia, said the company has initiated a series of collaborations with relevant Thai institutions in the healthcare sector in recent years. These collaborations include assisting Thai institutions in introducing prenatal testing technology and partnering on thalassemia prevention and treatment projects.

Thailand has a high prevalence of thalassemia, with the causative genes inherited through autosomal chromosomes among family members. Data indicates that around 30 to 40 percent of Thais are carriers of thalassemia genes. Cao said that timely detection of carriers and effective interventions are of great economic health significance for Thailand.

Additionally, BGI has worked with Thai universities to develop joint education programs on genomics and to train specialized talent in the field of life sciences, Cao added.