March 7, 2014, Washington, D.C. – Dr. Pardis Sabeti MD/Ph.D., professor at Harvard University and MIT’s Broad Institute, has had the opportunity to study the genetics of many different populations throughout her storied career. But one population missing from the genetics research done by Dr. Sabeti and others is her own – the Iranian population. Genetics research has advanced medicine in many ways – from identifying new drug targets to allowing scientists to identify the cause of some cancers. Understanding the genetics of the Iranian population would be the first step to ensuring Iranians are a part of the personalized medicine that has resulted from genetics research. “We are in the midst of a revolution in the fields of genomics and medicine, and it is thrilling to bring this to bear for my own heritage,” said Dr. Sabeti.
Dr. Sabeti joined forces with two other Iranian scientists, Dr. Mostafa Ronaghi (Chief Technology Office of Illumina, recently named the “smartest company” by the MIT Tech Review) and lead researcher of the project Roxana Daneshjou (MD/Ph.D. candidate at the Stanford School of Medicine), as well as Dr. Russ (dubbed Rostam by the team) Altman (Professor of Genetics and Bioengineering at Stanford University). Together, this all-star team launched the Iranian Genome Project thanks to generous funding provided by the PARSA Foundation.
The Iranian Genome project is doing what no other project has done before – whole genome sequencing of a diverse group of Iranians. “As an Iranian scientist, I want our population to be a part of the genetics research that has rapidly expanded over the last decade,” said Roxana Daneshjou. “This information will not only teach us about our population history but also allow us to do research in the future on diseases affecting Iranians.” Dr. Ronaghi feels the same way. His company, Illumina, has been on the cutting edge of genomics research, and it had always been a dream of his to have Iranian data available to researchers.
The project has been collecting samples in the San Francisco Bay Area and is coming to Los Angeles for the first time. “We’ve already started getting data from the samples we’ve collected in San Francisco. However, Los Angeles has an amazingly diverse Iranian population. There are groups in LA that aren’t in the San Francisco area, and we are excited to be able to collect samples there. The more participants we have, the better,” said Roxana Daneshjou. The Iranian Genome Project will be in Los Angeles on March 14 and 16. Individuals interested in participating should fill out the survey form on the project’s website, irangenes.com.
Dr. Sabeti is most excited about being able to present the results back to the Iranian community. She and the Iranian Genome Project team plan to come back to Los Angeles in the summer time to present to the community. “We are deeply indebted to all of the generous individuals participating in our study, and we are looking forward to sharing the knowledge we gain with them and the entire community. We are excited to further engage with the Iranian community and discuss the implications of this transformative era in medicine.”