ET Bureau Last Updated: Feb 03, 2020, 08.51 AM IST

MUMBAI: India’s plan to focus on two national-level programmes to build genomic data of the population and crops is expected to help the country in developing personalised drugs, tackle disease and increase yield in crops, experts said.

It is also an attempt by the country to build genomic data of South Asians, who are largely under represented in the databases existing in the world.

Vijay Chandru, CEO of Strand Life Sciences, said initiatives around genetic data mapping by the government took shape in 2018 when K Vijay Raghavan, principal scientific advisor to the prime minister, had requested for pre-proposals from researchers in India.

Chandru was a part of the team that drafted one of the first pre-proposals, which was presented to the the Prime Minister's Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council. He said the proposals had possibly lossevolved into a  national scheme and this could be an early announcement of funding support to the scheme. “There is a resolve from the government’s side to create large population databases of genomic data.

This can have an impact on healthcare, drug discovery and agriculture,” said Chandru. Indian ethnicity is under-represented in genomic datasets currently, according to experts, and the diverse population of the country interests genome-mining researchers across the globe.

“Clinically we see very different mutations and variants in South Asian population, for which the interpretation for treatment would be (more) nuanced for South Asians,” added Chandru.

Biocon founder Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw called it investments in leveraging technology to gain a competitive edge for the country. “Building a genetic database for drug innovation and investing in quantum computing are critical components for leveraging technology to gain a competitive edge,” she said.