Genomic medicine is the ‘hot cake’ of current medical research. Here is my take on what should be India’s top priority areas for biomedical genomics research.
1. Research on Ethical issues in biomedical genomics . Biomedical genomic research is associated with various ethical concerns including the issue of identifiable genomic information, informed consent for data sharing of research and intellectual property issues. India has an image of championing the cause of low and middle income nation when it comes to intellectual properties and at the same time when it comes to ethics in clinical trials it has a particularly bad record. This will be one area where India should mark has #1 priority for biomedical genomics research before it ventures into other more adventurous directions .
2. Research to develop new DNA fingerprinting method for diagnosis of tuberculosis. The ICMR in its priority plan for 2012-2017 has already identified the topic as one of the important areas for research. Considering the public health issue of tuberculosis and the now imminent danger of MDR-TB this is one area India cannot ignore further.
3. Create large phenotype-genotype databases and infrastructure for data sharing
A Center for Public Health and Community Genomics, USA report advocated the need for, “ large population databases to catalog phenotypic-genotypic, demographic, socioeconomic, environmental, and behavioural data in order to explore genetic and external environmental contributions to disease…. Maintaining large databases can potentially allow scientists to examine risk across populations through segmentation, improving an understanding of why some individuals and/or populations develop disease and some remain health.”
India with a huge burden of non-communicable diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer will benefit immensely if it takes the lead in this respect if this database is build. It is also important to realise that India is home to “six out of seven genetic variants of the human race “ and without involving research in Indians- genomic medicine can never grow to an adult butterfly with flying colours. India has an immense advantage in the field of information technology so database and infrastructure for data sharing should not be a major problem .
Image Courtesy :Argonne National Laboratory where it is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
The deleterious effects of tobacco are now no secret and do not need further discussion. As a medical doctor, I have seen many families suffer and people dying only because they did not heed the statutory warning of “Smoking Kills” or the many different varieties of these these that are now everywhere. The WHO predicts that more than 8 million people are scheduled to die by 2030 worldwide due to tobacco . It is indeed shameful and worthy of being condemned that WHO continues to do lip service by just pushing for ban of tobacco marketing in various forms. Why not ban tobacco altogether?….
….. The truth for tobacco control remains as it was about fifty years back when there was so much confusion about what harms tobacco causes or to what extent. And the truth in the words of a noted novelist is ” one of the most potent and common carcinogens (tobacco) known to humans can be freely bought and sold at every corner store for a few dollars. ” 
Read the full article by Dr.Soumyadeep B at the British Medical Journal (Open Access)
In this recent correspondence by Dr. Soumyadeep B and his colleagues published in the Lancet Global Health :
A decrease in research funding is a matter of urgent concern, but research funding and funding to increase access to health-care information need not be mutually competitive. No suggestions to divert funds from basic or clinical research to ensure access have been made. However, the very point of research will be nullified if the results do not reach the end-users who put evidence into practice; thus a balance between the generation and the dissemination of health-care information is of utmost importance. Although the importance of generation of health-care information is self-evident, the matter of dissemination has always been put on the sidelines. Information dissemination is a complex, dynamic process, which is controlled by sociocultural, economic, and political agendas. Therefore, the wisdom generated from research does often not distill down to the end-users, the physicians, and other medical professionals who are fighting the battle at the bedside. Painstaking policy making, ensured implementation, quality assurance, monitoring, and reviewing are necessary to ensure that the endpoint is reached.
Read entire article at Lancet Global Health (Open Access)
An announcement by the Indian government that civil service officers will be reimbursed for approved medical treatments they receive outside India has led to calls of hypocrisy from doctors.
A circular from the Department of Personnel and Training earlier this month extends the benefit of medical treatment outside India to staff in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), and the Indian Forest Service (IFoS) as well as …
Read full article by Dr Soumyadeep B at British Medical Journal
Surgeons and health activists have called on the Indian government to make the practice of unbanked direct blood transfusion legal again to meet the needs of people living in rural areas.
The Association of Rural Surgeons of India, Jan Swasthya Sahyog (JSS), a non-governmental organisation serving in rural and tribal areas, and the Christian Coalition for Health in India say that unbanked direct blood transfusions (UDBTs) are vital in some parts of India. UDBT involves testing potential donors for blood type and screening the blood for infections and then transfusing directly to the patient without any banking or storage.
Read the full article by Dr. Soumyadeep B at the British Medical Journal