doi:10.1038/nindia.2014.43 Published online 27 March 2014
Genomics-based medicine will receive top priority in India in the coming years, according to a new policy announced by the government Department of Biotechnology (DBT) .
Announcing this, the DBT has said that by 2025 it envisions converting 50% of existing hospitals in the country into "hospitals for prediction and prevention of diseases using genomic tools" for more effective treatments with less side effects. Concurrently, it plans one dedicated centre in each city for genetic testing services at affordable prices.
DBT's draft policy "Vision 2025" says "it is imperative" to advance the field of genomics in the country also from drug discovery perspective. The new policy talks about prioritising diseases of national concern — cervical, oral, lung and breast cancers — "where genomics could play a spearheading role in devising appropriate intervention and treatment."
In order to achieve this goal, the DBT plans to take genomics from research laboratories to clinics by increasing the use of genomic information in disease prognosis, diagnosis, prediction and making appropriate choice of drug on the basis of patients' genotypes.
The new policy calls for provision of more widespread genetic testing services for diseases with chromosomal aberrations or disorders.
To deal with such diseases that may be influenced by environmental factors, "we need to move away from single genes to genomic pathways," the DBT document says. Another approach for better understanding of genetic disorders includes small molecule screening and synthetic biology. "Genomic information could be used to design and test synthetic peptides and RNA blockers for vaccination and treatment," says the policy statement.
The policy also calls for "a sincere effort" in the direction of genetic epidemiological studies. This is to be ensured by to electronically maintain records of relevant genomic information of patients. "Collection of epidemiological data would be followed-up longitudinally by deep phenotyping and correlating with cellular, molecular and cytogenetic data for in depth breadth and coverage of analysis."
According to DBT, implementing "Vision 2025" would require a workforce well-trained in genomics research. It plans to train clinicians and health-care professionals in clinical genetics in collaboration with the Medical Council of India. Setting up of clinical bioinformatics units in strategic locations across the country and creating genomics awareness in general public and healthcare providers are other proposals under the new policy.