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[BANGKOK] Thailand has launched a project combining drug research with genetic studies to develop personalised healthcare for its citizens.

The first phase of the project, launched on 13 July, will create a database of genetic and health information from thousands of Thai patients.

The underlying science is 'pharmacogenomics', in which doctors analyse a patient's genetic profile to predict which diseases they might be susceptible to and which drugs might work better than others.

This is because an individual's genetic make-up can determine how they are affected by disease, and how they respond to treatment.

Project director Wasun Chantratitaya, of the government-run Thailand Centre of Excellence for Life Science (TCELS), says the centre will use the information it collects to develop a map of genetic diversity among Thai people.

This should enable doctors to tailor their treatments to patients' genetic make-up rather than relying on trial and error, says Wasun.

The project is a collaboration between TCELS and US-based software company Oracle, whose role is to develop the database.

Under the three-year plan, the project will collate information from patients on eight diseases: thalassaemia, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, lupus, rheumatism, heart disease, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers will recruit 1,000 volunteers for each disease. Data collection has already begun for thalassaemia.

TCELS's chair Pornchai Matangkasombat says the database could also help local medical researchers develop drugs specifically for Thai patients.

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