Human mapping project takes off

Manasi Saraf Joshi
Thursday, 16 May 2019

Talking to Sakal Times, IISER’s Prof Nagraj Balasubramanian said, “The aim of the project is to create a database of scientific literature and teach the students to annotate this scientific literature. Experts from IISER and NCCS will evaluate the annotations by the students and create the database.”

PUNE: First of its kind project ‘Manav-human atlas’, which aims at creating a comprehensive and integrated human map took off recently. The project, conceptualised by Persistent Labs, is in  collaboration with Indian Institute of Science, Research and Education (IISER) and National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS). 

Talking to Sakal Times, IISER’s Prof Nagraj Balasubramanian said, “The aim of the project is to create a database of scientific literature and teach the students to annotate this scientific literature. Experts from IISER and NCCS will evaluate the annotations by the students and create the database.”

Prof Nagraj Balasubramanian further   said, “Persistent was working on the platform to upload  and read scientific papers, and getting specific information which can be annotated. And to annotate it, it required experts, besides a team which will be able to work on it.”

“Thus, for this project, besides scientists from IISER and NCCS, the college students from science stream, who are in their final year or completed their masters, will be trained to annotate the data,” he added. 

“Scientists work on different scientific problems and carry out research in different areas. But if they need to get more information, they have to search through 5,000 papers. With this project, if you click on the desired word, you will be directed to various links and it would be easier  to get the desired information,” said Prof Balasubramanian.

“To capture this information besides the human experts, the element of machine learning and Artificial Intelligence will play a crucial role,” he said.

Persistent Labs’ Senior Domain specialist Anamika Krishnapal said, “While working, we realised the need of having a database and thus initiated this project. For expert advice, we collaborated with IISER and NCCS and got the funding from Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT). Our team is working on it for close to two years now.”  

Balasubramanian said, “We got Rs 12-13 crore from the Centre and about Rs 7 crore from Persistent. The three-year pilot project has taken up ‘skin’ as the topic of research. So far, the funding has reached around Rs 20 crore.” 

Elaborating on the role of NCCS, Scientist D Ajay Pillia said, “We will be playing role of reviewers and predicting the modeling. Basically, it is a science outreach programme and training the students to annotate the science data from the database.”

“We will review, evaluate whether the annotation done by the students is right or wrong,” said Pillia. 

MANAV ATLAS
Manav initiative aims to create a comprehensive and integrated human map by assimilating all known macro-level and micro-level information from scientific literature and public databases. The proposed human map refers to a computational representation, which is envisaged to capture human physiology in natural and diseased state. This map will provide knowledge in holistic fashion from inter-organ dependencies to intra-organ, tissue level, cell and sub-cellular level biological reactions. Such representation is an important tool and can serve as analogous to the ‘human reference genome’. In particular, Manav would have applications such as patient-specific support for medical/ treatment decisions, understanding of pre-clinical and clinical assessment of healthcare products and personal health forecasting. Moreover, it will help identify gaps in current biological knowledge, which could be the basis for future studies and policies.

TRAINING
IISER is conducting workshops to train teachers.
Colleges will be informed and with a group of students led by a professor will work on the project. The colleges need to register with Manav project.

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