Nobel laureate Richard Roberts calls for more research in personalized medicine

Published: Friday, June 19, 2009, 17:21 [IST]
 

Bangalore, June 19 (ANI/Business Wire India): Starting as a small company without taking the help of any investor but still doing focused research to generate revenue is a good approach for start-ups in Biotechnology, according to Nobel Laureate Dr. Richard.

J. Roberts. Delivering the highlight lecture on the second day of the ninth edition of Bangalore Bio, India's premier Biotechnology event organized by the Department of Information Technology, Biotechnology and Science and Technology, Government of Karnataka, Vision Group on Biotechnology and MM Activ Sci-Tech Communications Co., he shared the experience of his own company New England Biolabs, which started as a small research firm in a basement and today has become the world's largest source for recombinant and native enzymes for DNA technology.

Dr. Robert's discovery, that we can split genes revolutionized the thinking and led to therapies with recombinant drugs. Dr. Roberts precisely discussed on topics within the broad purview of Biotechnology.

On recession in general and research in Biotechnology in particular, Dr. Roberts said, "We still know very little about the biology and how mechanisms of life work. So this provides us a huge opportunity to focus on the areas that humanity needs most. In fact, recession provides an opportunity to plan and consolidate better. But there is a lot to do in the area of personalized medicine."

Key thrust areas according to the Nobel Laureate are - GM Foods, Bio-energy, Stem Cell Research, Synthetic Biology and Personalized Medicine. He lamented at politics and politicians agitating against GM foods. He questioned the basis of their view. When a plant breeder introduces hundreds of genes, about which we do not know, to produce hybrids, we accept. But when a scientist works with just one gene, about which he knows fully, politicians oppose it. He called for a need to change this attitude.

Commenting on Pharma industry in general, he said, "They are not really interested in curing the diseases, fearing they lose their future income. Instead, they offer only amelioration, in which case the patient needs to keep on buying medicines. Personalized medicine works differently. But he advised Pharma companies to take up specific drugs to phenotypes as this market also are huge and the possibility of making profits is high."

Dr. Roberts said, "Small is beautiful in the area of Bio-Energy. A small bio-fuel cell can produce electricity enough to charge a laptop, mobile or a light in a remote African hut."

On stem cell research, he said, "We can cure diabetes, kidney failure, and many lifestyle diseases and can even grow organs using the cells of the patients. In such case there will not be any possibility of rejection."

Delivering the second Highlight Lecture, Dr. V M Katoch, Secretary, Department of Health Research, Government of India, and Director General, Indian Council for Medical Research, said, "Proactive bureaucracy and committed political will made Bangalore a Bio-tech hub of India. He called upon Bio-tech companies to work on antiviral drugs and accelerate inventing tools to detect viruses and infections. Though there is lot of research going on in inventing and producing drugs, there is lot to do from the patients perspective to know which drug works better for him."

Dr. Katoch said, "Classification of diagnosis and diseases among Indian population will address this issue. Though this process is very costly today, bio-tech companies should do research to bring this cost down. When this is done, we can move ahead with personalized medicine. Government of India will encourage bio-tech companies to work in this area."

Chairing the session, Dr. Sharat Chandra, Director, Center for Human Genetics, said, "In India, two types of biomedical research is going on. One is in the pharma industry that leads to produce drugs. The other is by clinicians to know the outcomes and responses to treatments in patients. The second one is too small as on today, a lot more is needed to be done." (ANI)

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