India is the land of inventors and industry, spices and spirituality – and 1.3 billion human genomes. But although the subcontinent contributes around 20% of the world’s population, the DNA sequences of its people make up around 0.2% of global genetic databases. Missing out on mapping worldwide genetic diversity is a big mistake, according to Sumit Jamuar, chief executive of Global Gene Corp.
It’s a company aiming to democratise healthcare by capturing anonymised genetic data from populations around the world and share it with the global community of academic and pharmaceutical industry researchers. It will start by focusing on populations in South Asia.
“Healthcare is broken,” Mr Jamuar says. “We spend $1 trillion on drugs every year, of which 40% or more are deemed to be ineffective. That’s $400bn wasted. What’s more, the burden on healthcare systems is only going to increase.
“We realised that with the power and possibility of genomics and precision medicine, you can change the health outcome for any individual and allow them to have not just a longer but a better quality of life. What was lacking was genomic data to realise that promise, and that’s what we’ve set out to achieve.”
Then there’s the question of storage: a single human genome contains roughly three gigabytes of data, and it quickly adds up. With plans in place to sequence tens or even hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world, keeping all this information safe and secure is a growing issue.