Scientists from A*STAR GIS awarded CZI Ancestry Network Grant to investigate immune diversity in Singapore and Asia

20 December 2021 | Monday | News

The project focuses on how genetics, gender and geography influence immune cells in Asian populations
Image Source :  (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS)

Image Source : (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS)

A team of researchers, led by the Agency for Science, Technology and  Research’s (A*STAR) Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS), was awarded the prestigious  Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) Ancestry Network Grant in support of their Asian Immune  Diversity Atlas (AIDA) project. The project aims to build a map of cells from the blood of healthy Asian individuals spanning 20 distinct populations from eight Asian countries: Singapore, Japan, South Korea, India, Thailand, Russia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.


Although Asia accounts for nearly 60 percent of the global population, samples from Asian  individuals are under-represented in global genomic databases. AIDA, the flagship project  of Human Cell Atlas (HCA) Asia, aims to correct this imbalance by studying how immune  cells are affected by age, ethnicity, environment and geography.  

With the support of the CZI Ancestry Network grant, AIDA will expand representation of  diverse Asian population groups within the HCA, promote research participation across Asia,  and maintain long-term community engagement to ensure that the project benefits  participating communities. AIDA will also provide a baseline measurement of the immune  system (the body’s defence mechanism) in healthy individuals, which will be essential for 

identifying the abnormalities that occur in diverse immune-related diseases, metabolic  disorders and cancers. 

The project will sequence millions of individual cells from over 1,000 individuals to study the  expression of genes as well as the unique immune cell receptors that are involved in  mounting a defence against invading pathogens. This will shed light on the properties of  immune cells in healthy individuals and serve as a reference and comparison point for  understanding immune aberrations in diseases.  

Dr Shyam Prabhakar, Associate Director of Spatial and Single Cell Systems at GIS, said, “AIDA is the first large-scale effort to characterise immune cell diversity in Asian populations.  It will lay a foundation for Precision Medicine in Asia by facilitating therapies tailored to the  specifics of the patient. The curated data will be deposited in public repositories for the  benefit of the scientific and clinical communities.” 

Prof Patrick Tan, Executive Director of GIS, said, “GIS is honoured to be part of this  pioneering regional collaboration, working towards a unified goal of creating a large-scale  map of representative traits of immune cells from healthy Asian individuals. It will help us define the changes that cause immune disorders and eventually develop new treatments.” 


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