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.