Groundbreaking ‘Avestagenome Project’ To Detect Cancers At Early Stage

A search spanning over ten years, for novel biological markers to identify specific diseases and cancers, using blood samples from Parsi community members, is expected to receive a boost through a financial grant from a US-based non-government foundation. Bangalore-based, biology life sciences firm –  Avesthagen Limited – announced the acceleration of its ‘Avestagenome Project’®. This research focuses on the Indian and Parsi communities, with the aim of understanding the linkage between genes, environmental factors, and disease, with an initial look into the role of smoking in developing lung, oral and oesophageal cancers.

Since 2008, the Avestagenome Project® has been collecting a biobank of Parsi blood samples and extensive patient data from over 4,500 members of this community, with a target of 15,000 Parsis globally, by 2021. The molecular basis of longevity and age-related disorders, prioritising cancers, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and neurological disorders will be investigated in this cohort specifically. The project will provide insights into disease prediction and accelerate identification and development of biomarkers, predictive diagnostic tests, new drugs, and therapies.

Recognising the importance of the Parsi cohort and the unique system’s approach to research, the US-based, ‘Foundation for a Smoke-Free World’, whose mission is to end smoking within this generation, recently awarded a grant to Avesthagen to prioritise research into lung and tobacco-related cancers. Avesthagen will combine liquid biopsy, next-generation sequencing (NGS), state-of-the-art bioinformatics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to identify predictive and early-stage biomarkers of cancers in smokers. The project will utilize non-Parsi smoker and non-smoker samples from the wider Indian, and other, populations to gain further insights into the evidence behind such data.

Followers of Zoroastrianism strongly advocate a responsible attitude towards the environment and respect for the elements of creation – fire, water, air, earth, and ether/space – with a special emphasis on fire, the purest of elements and an essential for all rituals and prayers. Veneration for our holy fire has kept a good number of Parsis from smoking, coupled with family pressure and religious restrictions. This makes the community members and Avesthagen’s Biobank the ideal control population to act as the reference standard for research into tobacco-related cancers and diseases.

Considered mainly endogamous (practice of marrying within the community), the Parsi community is characterized by longevity, fewer cases of lung, head, neck and esophageal cancers. At the same time, there is increased prevalence of Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease, cardiovascular diseases, breast and prostate cancers, and male and female infertility.

In a press release, Dr. Villoo Morawala-Patell, Founder and Chairman of Avesthagen, said, “More than one million people die each year due to tobacco in India and currently there is limited research to help identify early biomarkers of smoking-related disease. We believe our study will identify novel biomarkers that could be used as predictive diagnostics for susceptibility to lung and other cancers. We are committed to employing the most advanced research methods available to drive the development of treatments that truly save lives. I am dedicated to improving the lives of people across the world.”

“The work that Villoo and her team are spearheading has the potential to revolutionize the way that we detect cancer,” said Dr. Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. “Their findings may also provide key insights into the causes of Parkinsons Disease and cancers unrelated to smoking and thus common among the Parsi population,” he added.

Founded in 1998 by Dr. Villoo Morawala-Patell, Avesthagen Ltd. is a leading global systems biology innovation company, uniquely positioned to help solve some of the world’s biggest health challenges. Since its inception, Avesthagen has introduced new products and patent applications every year, serving the life science, food and pharmaceutical markets. Avesthagen continues to build on this heritage by partnering the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World to tackle unprecedented health, wellness and other challenges facing our world today. To learn more about Avesthagen and its research project, log on to: For queries, Email:

(Courtesy UNI)

Leave a Reply