Investigate the genesis of common diseases afflicting Indians: Dr Harsh Vardhan


Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Science and Technology, has said that research into Ayurgenomics would get full government support as it holds out exciting possibilities in mankind’s search for low-cost solutions to the global disease burden.

He urged scientists and technologists working on genomics and integrative biology to focus on common diseases afflicting Indians and to translate their work into more effective cures. Addressing the staff of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), a Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “More than ever before we need local, affordable and effective health solutions for alleviating the misery of the common man.”

Speaking to scientists and staff of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), a constituent Laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), on Saturday, Dr Harsh Vardhan stressed that “Ayurveda holds out solutions for preventive & personalized medicines because it is based on holistic understanding of an individual. This fact is recognized the world over.”

Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “The Narendra Modi Government will do more than any previous regime for the advancement of Ayurgenomics. Already, a separate Ministry has been created for Ayurveda and traditional forms of medicine. Yoga is already integrated into the mind space of the global citizen thanks to the Prime Minister’s breakthrough with having June 21 declared as International Yoga Day.”

The Minister pointed out that India is experiencing the world’s highest loss of potentially productive years of life. The burden of non-communicable diseases has also outstripped that of communicable diseases. At this juncture, the country needs affordable, home-grown solutions and therefore looks up to the fast-growing new field of genomics and integrative biology.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said genomics and integrative biology are poised to emerge as the “space science” of the 21st century. “For much of the 20th century, the space race dominated the public imagination on scientific progress. In the 21st century, a country will be judged by its achievements in human genome sequencing. We have already arrived there because our Ayurveda conceptualized individualized health care solutions first,” the Minister pointed out.

Diagnostic technologies, high science therapeutics and specialized services developed by CSIR-IGIB could contribute towards provision of quality affordable healthcare to our people while generating valuable intellectual property that could be monetized globally.

In December 2009, CSIR-IGIB created ripples by announcing success with genome sequencing of an Indian citizen (whose identity is confidential) and that put India in the elite band of nations with this capability. The breakthrough was interpreted as a signpost in the search for low-cost health solutions.

Elaborating on the potential of genomics he mentioned that scientists have discovered the unique Indian genetic risks for asthma, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and other conditions. They are stressing the need for creating a network of collaboration between clinicians and scientists. The new initiative in skin biology, while attracting industrial collaborations with Persistent and Unilever-India, is simultaneously delivering societal values by understanding neglected diseases such as vitiligo.

Also under implementation with HP-India is the first integrated, rapidly deployable, cloud-connected eHealth Centre for Affordable and Transparent healthcare.

Dr Harsh Vardhan also appreciated the efforts to address India-specific information on diseases through the programmes like “Guardian” which uses the power of genomics for systematic characterization of rare genetic disorders in India. The inter-disciplinary efforts towards translational and innovative research through Ayurgenomics in the CSIR Unit – TRISUTRA, can also catalyze future leadership in Molecular Medicine.

Earlier he visited Clinical Genomics, Con-focal Lab, Zebra Fish, FACS, BSL-3 and Animal House facilities and appreciated the efforts of the present Director, Dr Rajesh Gokhale and that of earlier Director, Dr Samir Brahmachari in bringing up CSIR-IGIB as a unique institution in the country.

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