Genomics Impact On Healthcare & Challenges Ahead
In a fireside chat with Harbinder Narula, Dr Ramprasad discussed his academic background, the transition from academia to business, the impact of genomics on healthcare outcomes, the changing perception of genomic testing in the medical community, the growth of the genomics business, and the future challenges and opportunities in the field
Dr Vedam Ramprasad, CEO of MedGenome, a leading genomics company, recently spoke at the BW Healthcare World 40 under 40 Summit & Awards 2023, shedding light on the transformative power of genomics in the healthcare industry.
In a fireside chat with Harbinder Narula, Dr Ramprasad discussed his academic background, the transition from academia to business, the impact of genomics on healthcare outcomes, the changing perception of genomic testing in the medical community, the growth of the genomics business, and the future challenges and opportunities in the field.
Transitioning from Academics to Business
Dr Ramprasad emphasised the positive influence of an academic background on both himself and the company. He explained that the scientific rigour instilled during academic pursuits, including hypothesis-driven research and evidence-based approaches, guided their work at MedGenome.
This approach ensured an ethical and scientific foundation for the company's operations. He highlighted that around 70 per cent of MedGenome's team members had extensive academic backgrounds, having completed postdoctoral research in renowned universities abroad. However, he acknowledged the challenges of aligning the team's academic mindset with a business-oriented perspective.
The Impact of Genomics on Healthcare Outcomes
Dr Ramprasad illustrated the profound impact genomics has made on the healthcare industry, leading to unprecedented advancements in treatment possibilities. He cited the remarkable progress achieved over the past five to six years, with approximately 250 therapies currently in late-stage clinical trials. This rapid development contrasts with the situation a couple of decades ago when genetic diseases often had no available treatments.
Today, over 15 diseases have potential treatments in the pipeline, signifying a significant shift towards more personalised and effective healthcare solutions. Dr. Ramprasad expressed his astonishment at the progress made and referenced Nobel laureate Jennifer Doudna's statement that we are in the "golden era" of biomedical research and medicine.
Changing Perception of Genomic Testing in the Medical Community
Dr Ramprasad discussed the evolving acceptance of genomic testing within the medical community. He acknowledged that initially, there was scepticism and resistance due to the perceived high costs and lack of treatment options for identified genetic mutations.
However, since 2017, he observed a complete change in perception and a growing acceptance of genomic medicine. Today, the majority of clinicians, especially those in tertiary healthcare setups, recognise the importance of genomics and view it as an inevitable part of hDrealthcare. Dr Ramprasad emphasised that the field is still in its early stages and that a significant impact is yet to come.
The Pace of Genomics Business Growth and Future Prospects
Reflecting on the pace of the genomics business growth, Dr. Ramprasad acknowledged the positive developments in the West, particularly in the United States and Western Europe. However, he noted that in India, despite the country's vast population and healthcare challenges, the resources and investments allocated to genomics are still not sufficient.
He highlighted three areas that require attention to accelerate the growth of genomics in India:
Increased investments and resources: The healthcare sector, whether private, governmental, or non-governmental, needs to allocate more resources and investments to genomics, considering India's demographic profile.
Role of healthcare practitioners: Healthcare practitioners play a crucial role in driving the adoption of genomics. Their awareness, acceptance, and integration of genomic medicine into clinical practice are vital for its widespread implementation.
Insurance coverage: The insurance sector needs to open up to genomics, providing provisions for coverage of genomic tests. This would make these tests more accessible and affordable for the general population, further driving the adoption of genomics.
Challenges and Regulation in Genomics
Dr Ramprasad emphasised the need for balanced regulation and guidelines within the genomics industry. He acknowledged the presence of spurious components in various industries, including genomics, and emphasised the importance of responsible commercialisation and ensuring that real science backs the products and services brought to market.
He called for a legal and ethical framework to govern the collection, storage, and analysis of genomic data, stressing that data security and privacy should be paramount concerns.
The Future of Genomic Companies and Data Analysis
Dr Ramprasad acknowledged the potential power of genomic companies with access to vast amounts of data and the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) for data analysis. He rated the potential impact of genomic companies at around 6-7 on a scale of 10. While acknowledging the value of data, he emphasised the need for a legal and ethical framework to ensure the secure and safe use of data.
Dr Ramprasad advocated for guidelines and regulations that strike a balance between being business-friendly and safeguarding consumer interests. Dr Vedam Ramprasad's insights shed light on the profound impact of genomics in healthcare, the challenges faced by genomic companies, and the need for continued investment, regulatory frameworks, and collaboration among healthcare practitioners, insurers, and the genomics industry.
The future of genomics holds tremendous potential for transforming healthcare, but it will require ongoing efforts to ensure responsible and impactful progress in the field.