Application of Genomics in Various Indian Industries
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Genomics in India is on the cusp of some great things. Applications abound and India’s specific talent pool could lead to genomics contributing to making India the biotechnology hub of the world. Right now the genomics space in India is where the IT industry in India was in the early 80’s.The infrastructure and talent development that will happen over the course of the next decade or so will seed in the roots of the next wave of innovation out of India. This applies both from a research and commercial perspective.
Genomics as a field is driven by population studies. Currently, a number of projects are being floated in India with a mandate of sequencing several thousand human genomes, exomes and metagenomes. These initiatives are building upon the work that has been done over the last two decades with a larger scope as the sequencing costs have plummeted dramatically. Once these studies are completed we will know more about the variations within the Indian population. Armed with this knowledge we can develop health strategies that are specific to genomic variations within the Indian population.
With available arable land decreasing there is a burning need for higher yield crops and livestock. Our specific focus is towards helping apply genomics-based marker-assisted selective breeding in livestock thereby targeting milk production along with other economically important traits. The same approach is also applied in selecting the right seed varieties of India to increase yields from constrained arable land.
The other trend is towards precision/personalized medicine. This means tailoring the drug to the patient profile based on their genomics makeup. Cancer which claimed over 8.8 million lives in 2015 (as per WHO) and cancer survival rates have increased significantly over the last two decades. Targeted therapies, Companion diagnostics, improved risk stratification and significant advances in diagnostic tools has moved the ticker on cancer to survival rates of as high as 70% from just 50% before. Most new drugs come with companion Dx assays for better prognostic value. This will yield higher dividends once we have a large population specific Genome sequencing data available from India. While a clutch of drugs have come out, clinical trial in this space more of them need to be brought into India with local clinical trials. With more such targeted therapies available for the Indian population our survival rates
Genomics is also driving a move from curative to preventive healthcare. Instead of waiting for the disease to take over it is better via holistic measure including diet, exercise, pharmacogenomics and mental health-related interventions. An interdisciplinary approach towards preventive healthcare is required to curb burgeoning healthcare costs and load on limited healthcare resources. Many countries are adopting this for wiser health economic policies in longer run saving hospitalisation costs. In India, a strong set of startup have emerged providing direct to consumer (DTC) genomics tests which combined with the right nutrition and exercise plan would help shape lifestyle based preventive care. Given our populations strong predisposition for diabetes and cardiovascular disease preventive healthcare driven by genomics is a top priority.
Infectious Diseases management
While complex diseases and oncology are traditional hotbeds for high throughput genomics, we are also witnessing genomics playing a large role in Infectious diseases arena. Specifically, India has the highest incidence of TB with an incidence figure of 2.79 million as of 2016. Genomic platforms are being used to sequence TB causing mycobacterium and differentiating MDR/XDR Tuberculosis. Large projects are underway to genotype the clinical isolates of TB bacteria strains active in India and based on that data develop specific treatment regimens to combat TB.
On the reproductive front, we are seeing increased uptake for Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT) due to increasing pregnancies above the age of 30 and Pre-implantation Genetic Testing/Dx (PGT/PGD) due to increasing utilization of IVF for birthing. Indian mothers are gaining awareness about these tests and an increasing number of gynaecologists are using the latest tools to improve pregnancy outcomes for high-risk births
We are at the forefront of a clear DNA Revolution and Indian Academia along Indian Corporates are embracing this transformative change. These are highly exciting times to be involved in genomics and the larger life sciences space. What the ecosystem is working on today will help us live longer more fulfilling lives with disease prevention, disease eradication, and more productive agricultural practices.