Careers in genomics – The Hindu

As scientists and other professionals use discoveries in genetics to revolutionise the world, careers in genetics and genomics are booming, given the advances in the field of personalised medicine, DNA sequencing technologies and commercial applications of genetics research.

‘Genomics’ stands for the study of whole genomes. While ‘genes’ are instructions encoded in molecules called DNA in a cell, ‘Genomics’ is the study of all genes of an organism and or altered genes in each set of conditions (diseased versus healthy). It also encompasses the functional relevance of this alteration. Genomics relies on Next-generation Sequencing (NGS) technology. Advances in NGS technologies led to the birth of an era of microbiome studies. The human microbiome, animal microbiome, and soil microbiome are promising cures to diseases like Diabetes, improving livestock health, and promoting sustainable agriculture by suggesting soil improvement/preservation measures.

The advancement in genomics continues to happen on the technology as well as the application front. It can be applied to diseases like cancer, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia, or infectious disease epidemiology such as SARS COV-2. Genomics led to the identification of variants, especially of variants of concern (VOC) during the pandemic and continues to help clinicians and scientists design better vaccines. Genomics also fostered ‘Precision medicine.’ Herein, personalised therapy is offered to a patient based on his/her genome.

Genomics offers several career opportunities in areas such as Clinical genomics, Cancer genomics, Genomics of rare diseases, Genomics and wellness, microbiome-based therapeutics, Bioinformatics, and Computational biology. Besides, there is plenty of growth in the engineering of sequencers and of sequencing protocols where newer and cheaper scientific technology is being sought after. It’s a rapidly expanding field with newer sequencers rapidly replacing old ones.

Booming Career prospects

Scientist-cancer genomics: Cancer arises due to genome instability or mutations. Early diagnosis is the key to its cure. Genomics experts can diagnose and predict cancer prognosis. A scientist working in cancer genomics can suggest immunotherapy for the patients.

Rare diseases scientist: Rare diseases such as Sickle cell anaemia can be effectively managed if diagnosed early. A rare disease genomics scientist can enable early diagnosis and improve the prognosis of such diseases.

Scientist-Bioinformatics/Bioinformatician/Bioinformatician and computational biologist: Bioinformaticians develop tools and ways to store, segregate and analyse data while computational biologists use these tools to render meaningful biological information.

Product Manager: Given the range of sequencing applications and sequencers per se; each product must reach its intended end-user, which is what a product manager does. Next-generation sequencing companies often hire product managers to reach their target customers.

Field Application specialists: Buying and installing a sequencer is a huge investment. Its preventive maintenance, training, and repair are extremely critical. Field application specialists train the end users on sequencers, follow up on their queries and also maintain the machine.

Sequencer design experts/Engineers: Companies offer several sequencers such as Illumina (MISeq, HISeq), PacBio, Nanopore, and Ion Torrent sequencers from Thermo Fischer Scientific. An engineer in alliance with a genomics expert can design a piece of equipment that performs better and is more cost-effective.

Expert, Pharmacogenomics: It is one field of precision medicine that tailors drug/therapy to patients’ genomes.

Expert, Agri genomics: Application of genomics in agriculture helps evaluate soil microbiome and other parameters to improve agricultural output.

Expert, Human microbiome: Microbes inhabit our gut, skin, and other parts of the body in large numbers. The diversity and number of beneficial microbes are essential to good health and wellness. Experts in microbiome cater to this aspect of human health.

Educational qualifications required

B.Tech. (Biotechnology): Genomics and Biosimilars aspirants should opt for Physics, Chemistry, Maths, and Biology in 10+2 with at least 50% marks.

M.Sc. in Genomics (Biotechnology): After Physics, Chemistry, and Biology in 10+2, aspirants should complete B.Sc. (Hons) in Graduation.

For those who wish to study further, Ph.D options are also available.

The writer is Assistant Professor, UPES School of Health Sciences and Technology

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