There is a huge gap between India and the rest of the world when it comes to the field of genomics, said Girish Mehta, the chief executive officer of MedGenome, a leading genetic engineering firm based in India.
This perhaps is the reason why marriage between relatives is still common in India.
“When the west is specializing in immuno therapy, gene editing and development of medicines, we are still working in the basic data generation level,” he told Onmanorama.
“India has a huge population and we get multiple samples for even the rarest of diseases from this country. We generate a huge demographic database of disorders here but, are unable to utilize them in a productive manner. So, what happens now is, we provide data to the US and they manufacture medicines and develop technologies; just because they have intellectual capital and we have demographic capital,” Mehta said.
MedGenome recently introduced innovative technologies to the Indian medical arena, including 'HLA typing', the process of matching the bone marrow of a donor’s genome with that of a recipient’s, and blood- analysis method to check the reappearance of cancerous tumors.
“We take a portion of blood, extract the required genetic portion from it and match it with the donor's genomes to check suitability. Extracting tissue becomes an invasive procedure if the tumor is internal – in lungs, pancreas or colon. It costs high expertise and expenditure and pain. Why should we do all those if we can just analyze your blood and produce a better and efficient result,” he asks.
Lack of awareness about genomics is a huge hurdle, he says. “This is a field which is getting updated on a daily basis. A lot of significant researches in the field are still going on. You need to be educated constantly to stay updated about disease cure with the help of genomics,” he says.
MedGenome runs educational campaigns all over the country, in association with regional cancer centers and oncology institutes. They conduct specialized programs for experts of different medical fields.
Mehta suggested that media should play an active role in making the discussions regarding genomics live in the society so that people develop an awareness about the possibilities of genetic cure of diseases.
“There should be active public discussions about genetic reasons of diseases and inheritance of syndromes through consanguineous marriages, so that the domain starts making its social impacts too,” he added.