Genomic data is rapidly transforming the way we understand the natural world and ourselves. While genomic technologies continue to advance at an accelerated pace, we still have much ground to gain in building local capacity to enable diverse regions of the world to lead their own population and medical genomics projects. Mexico is paving this road by creating a nation-wide DNA biobank that is entirely genotyped in local institutions, with scientists working locally directing the analyses of the genotyped data as part of an international collaborative network of researchers. This project is building the Mexican capacity for embarking and leading large-scale genomic projects, including local data generation, training of human resources, attraction of top-level scientists in cutting-edge science, and translation into health care improvements.
The Mexican Biobank undertakes the genetic profiling of the most comprehensive DNA Biobank available of the Mexican population to date (ENSA 2000). Genetic profiling and deep phenotyping are powerful tools that help better understand individuals’ variation associated with disease and tackle population-specific health problems. Moreover, population genetics research gives people a self-knowledge that is deep in both space and in time. The Mexican Biobank will reveal the population history of the Mexican population as well as the role that the interplay between genetics, migration, mating patterns and the environment has played in shaping the current diversity of the Mexican population.
The Mexican Biobank project and resulting scientific discoveries will occur in parallel with similar efforts in UK (through the UK Biobank), China (through the Kadoorie Biobank), Africa (through the African Partnership for Chronic Disease Research), as well as ongoing genomic efforts in the Caribbean (Lesser Antilles diversity project led by Jada Benn Torres from Vanderbilt), and South America (Peruvian Diversity Project led by Anne Stone from Arizona State University, Chile Genomico Project led by Ricardo Verdugo from the University of Chile, and Patagonia Diversity Project led by Mauricio Moraga from the University of Chile). Despite the different diversity profiles in each of these populations, the analytical methods, computational tools, statistical algorithms and demographic models that we are developing under the Mexican Biobank Project are directly beneficial to other projects on Hispanic/Latino populations because of the shared admixture process and evolutionary forces shaping their genomes. Therefore, building capacity in Mexico means a multiplicative effort to propagate knowledge and training across the Latin American region.