Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Molecular Biotechnology

Perhaps the most potent use of biotechnology for development of human well being has been in the field of molecular biotechnology. The powerful revolution in medicine during the past decade has been in the field of genomic research that has completely transformed conventional medicine into molecular medicine. The remarkable unveiling of virtually complete Human Genome in June, 2000, and release of the genetic code in February, 2001, has been instrumental in unraveling path breaking research and wonder drugs and application for scientific community. While it has created jubilation amongst medical professionals across the globe, but at the same time, the intended applications raised several ethical, legal and issues social too (ELSI).

Advances in genomic medicine research in India in the field of cancer genomics, vaccinology, microbial genomics, pharmacogenomics, vector genomics, neurogenetics and molecular basis of diseases have resulted in development of new drugs and finding new cures for ailments which were considered to be fatal in the past.

While new developments are taking place in the field, the need to further upgrade the proven technologies such as diagnostics and vaccines and make them use for application is also emerging. It is here that the Indian Industry will have to put extra efforts to benefit out of biotechnology revolution. Thus it is seen that while the Indian industry is strong in product development and marketing for commercial benefits, biotech in India still lacks the infrastructure required for R&D in molecular modelling, protein engineering, drug designing and immunological studies. This issue needs to be addressed immediately to gain out of research initiatives.

Another aspect worth considering is that various technologies in the field of molecular biotechnologies have the potential to improve productivity and increase the number and quality of new drugs by validating more genomically diverse and higher quality drug targets and speeding-up clinical development by designing better trials that clearly show better safety, efficacy and compliance. As per an estimate, by improvising medical outcomes by use of well developed drugs and diagnostics, pharmaceutical companies could benefit to the order of US$ 200-500 million in extra revenue for each drug. Apex scientific bodies in India e.g. CSIR, ICMR, DBT have launched country-wide programmes to identify and characterize new drug targets, especially in the area of tuberculosis, malaria, leishmania etc., besides new drug targets for diabetes, cardiovascular and neurological disorders. In addition, there is also in the pipeline a proposal to undertake single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) mapping in over 500 genes to identify and characterize in Indian population, the genes linked to susceptibility to malaria, TB, diabetes and some cardiovascular and neurological disorders, which are more common in Indian context.

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