As scientists and other professionals use discoveries in genetics to revolutionize the world, careers in genetics and genomics are booming, due to advances in personalized medicine, DNA sequencing technologies, and commercial applications for genetics research.
Genomics stands for the study of the complete genome. Whereas “genes” are instructions encoded in molecules called DNA in the cell, “genomics” is the study of all an organism’s genes and/or genes altered in each set of conditions (diseased versus healthy). It also includes the functional significance of this change. Genomics is based on next generation sequencing (NGS) technology. Advances in NGS technologies gave birth to the era of microbiome studies. The human microbiome, animal microbiome, and soil microbiome are promising treatments for diseases such as diabetes, improving livestock health, and promoting sustainable agriculture by proposing soil improvement/conservation measures.
Advances in genomics are still happening on the technology front as well as on the application front. It can be applied to diseases such as cancer, sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, or the epidemiology of infectious diseases such as SARS-CoV-2. Genomics has led to the identification of variants, particularly variants of concern (VOC) during an epidemic and continues to help clinicians and scientists design better vaccines. Genomics has also promoted “precision medicine”. Here, the patient is offered personalized treatment based on their genome.
Genomics offers many career opportunities in areas such as clinical genomics, cancer genomics, rare disease genomics, genomics and wellness, microbiome-based therapies, bioinformatics, and computational biology. Besides, there is a lot of growth in sequencing engineering and sequencing protocols as the latest and cheapest scientific techniques are sought. It is a rapidly expanding field with newer sequencers rapidly replacing old ones.
thriving career prospects
Cancer genomics scientist: Cancer arises due to genome instability or mutations. Early diagnosis is key to its treatment. Genomic experts can diagnose and predict cancer. A scientist working in cancer genomics can suggest immunotherapy for patients.
The world of rare diseases: Rare diseases such as sickle cell anemia can be effectively controlled if diagnosed early. Rare disease genomics can enable early diagnosis and improve prognosis of such diseases.
Bioinformatics Scientist / Bioinformatics Scientist / Bioinformatics Scientist and Computational Biologist: Bioinformatics scientists develop tools and methods for storing, separating and analyzing data while computational biologists use these tools to provide meaningful biological information.
Production Manager: Given the scope of applications for sequencers and sequencers per se; Each product must reach the intended end user, which is what the product manager does. Next-generation sequencing companies often hire product managers to reach their target customers.
Field Application Specialists: Purchasing and installing a sequencer is a huge investment. Preventive maintenance, training, and repair are critical. Field application specialists train end users on sequencers and follow up on their inquiries as well as device maintenance.
Sequencer design experts/engineers: The companies offer several sequencers such as Illumina (MISeq and HISeq), PacBio, Nanopore and Ion Torrent from Thermo Fischer Scientific. An engineer allied with a genomics expert can design a piece of equipment with better performance and more cost-effectiveness.
Expert in pharmacogenomics: It is an area of precision medicine that designs drugs/therapies for patients’ genomes.
Expert, Agricultural Genomics: The application of genomics in agriculture helps assess the soil microbiome and other parameters to improve agricultural production.
Expert, human microbiome: Microbes live in great numbers in our gut, skin and other parts of the body. The diversity and number of beneficial microbes are essential to good health and wellness. Experts in the microbiome address this aspect of human health.
Required academic qualifications
B-Tech. (Biotechnology): Genomics and Biosimilars aspirants must select Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology at 10+2 with at least 50% mark.
MSc in Genomics (Biotechnology): After Physics, Chemistry and Biology at 10+2, aspirants must complete a Bachelor of Science. (Hons) in Graduation.
For those who wish to study further, PhD options are also available.
The writer is an assistant professor at UPES College of Health Sciences and Technology