December 23, 2013 “Intelligence: Late Breaking Lab News”

Saudi Arabia is the second country to embark on the goal of sequencing 100,000 human genomes. Earlier this month, the Saudi Human Genome Program was announced. Funding for the program, expected to take five years, will be provided by the Saudi Arabian national science agency. The first country to declare this goal was the United Kingdom. In December 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the National Health Service of the United Kingdom had budgeted US$160 million to sequence 100,000 human genomes during the next three to five years.

MORE ON: Genomes

There is an interesting aspect to this genome sequencing program in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, Editor Robert Michel participated in an international symposium on laboratory medicine hosted by the Department of Pathology at the Riyadh Military Hospital, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. One presentation was delivered by Dr. Aida I. Al Aqueel. At the hospital, she is Consultant of Pediatrics Genetics, Metabolic and Endocrinology. Dr. Al Aqueel pointed out there is a tribal culture that is heavily consanguineous in the Middle East. Marriage between first cousins has been a cultural norm across the region for millennia. This has led to the “founder effect,” generating a significant number of autosomal recessive diseases that are not seen in Western countries. This is one reason why the Saudi’s human genome project may lead to unique and valuable insights about a variety of recessive genetic diseases.


Another development on the international market is the announcement of a collaboration between Strand Life Sciences of Bangalore, India, and 443-bed El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California. The partners will establish a Strand Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at the hospital. Utilizing exome sequencing, the collaboration will support physicians with services in cardiology, oncology, pharmacogenomics, and personalized medicine. Although based in India, Strand has another U.S. connection. It received venture funding from Burrill & Company of San Francisco early in 2013.


  • TriCore Reference Laboratories of Albuquerque, New Mexico, named Khosrow R. Shotorbani, MBA, MT(ASCP) as its new CEO, effective February 2, 2014. Shotorbani has held executive positions at ARUP Laboratories.

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