Shahid Akhter, editor, ETHealthworld spoke to Praveen Gupta, Founder and MD, Premas Life Sciences, Delhi to figure out the trends in genomic applications and research that is fast changing the healthcare industry.
Trends in the application of Genomics
This is a very exciting field right now, globally the application of genomics is far and wide in terms of what we see, a lot of adoption in the area of clinical side, using genomics for better diagnostic tools, better treatment regimes so that is one area in which genomics is trending at the point. People are using for direct to consumer genomics markets in the sense that people are using these genomics based testing to use for nutrition, fitness, personalized medicines and that is a very important thing which is a major trend area in which people are trying to take the medicine in such a manner that one size fits all regime goes off. A lot of trending in the area of agriculture like people are trying to have meticulous selection to have higher and better variety of yield. So I see genomics trending right now in practically every single field which is there.
Impact of genomic based testing
In the space of oncology, not only can you detect a disease early but you can also decide which therapy will be responding back to the disease. So, that’s a huge advantage of having a genomics based testing. Similarly, for example there is an exciting area called NIPT (Non Invasive Prenatal Testing), in the very first trimester now without having an invasive test you can find out the genetic health of the foetus in the mother by using a peripheral blood drop. This is a huge advancement in genomics area for application practice so, whether its oncology or reproductive health there are lot of applications in mechanical field.
Challenges and concerns in genomic research
There are lot of challenges and concerns in India for example when you talk about NIPT, there are concerns of misusing in terms of sex selection but its been completely alleviated by the fact that all the data can be masked and you know one cannot use for sex selection but those are potential challenges. I think the bigger challenge which we face right now is the paucity of funds. India is not spending enough in the research areas, we are just spending about 0.6 – 0.7% of our GDP, whereas all developing countries like China are spending in the range of 2 to 2.5%. So India has to up the spending in the research. In the clinical field of genomics, these tests need to be covered as patient has to pay from the pocket. Today we need to have an insurance coverage for these tests, either by the state or by the private insurance companies to offer these test to be covered by the panels. That will actually increase the adoption rate. Third challenge is around awareness; we need to make the clinicians aware about the importance of using genomic tools in the diagnosis.
What sets you apart (Premas Life Sciences) from others in the field?
We’re launching some of the cutting edge technologies where the concepts have to be established. Our biggest differentiator is the kind of people we have. I think in my field, it’s the people who make the difference. So, we as a company are hiring some of the leading scientist in the organisation to basically go and have a dialogue with the scientists. Our products are extremely high-end and extremely differentiated. So products are differentiated but to market them you require a work force which is also of a very different kind..
What applications interest you most and your future plans?
I feel this is an exciting field to be in right now, especially genomics. We are expanding our portfolio, we are looking at expanding the application areas like tomorrow we can go into soil health and we can look at microbiome testing of the soil for a better yield of plants. We can be working with certain researchers to look at gut microbiomes. So as a company we are looking at adding new applications for the same products, new products for new applications which are coming. Like for example once the microbiomes’ research being done, tomorrow a lot of probiotic companies will come in the market which will be using this research data to create next generation probiotics. We have created a very successful model in India in last 12 years….