Kiran Mazumdar Shaw on Expectations from the Union Budget 2020

The budget provides a great opportunity to promote research and innovation in India. The country needs to invest in innovation to harness its potential for tackling the economic challenges confronting us today. This year’s budget can provide adequate funding for the development of the kind of life sciences technology that will take India to a leadership position globally.

* Develop big data analytics skills for advanced diagnostics. Digital technologies are transforming businesses and India needs more of these to transform its life sciences and biotechnology businesses. Technology and big data analytics can make research and development more efficient by analysing billions of datasets, accelerating the drug discovery process and reducing error rates. They can reduce the cost of expensive diagnostics for Indians. This can bring a tectonic shift in the biotechnology and life sciences landscape.

* Create an innovation fund of Rs50 crore to fund MedTech startups to develop low-cost rapid diagnostic tests for rare diseases. Advances in MedTech can ensure early diagnosis of rare diseases. India needs to develop a battery of low-cost rapid genetic diagnostic tests for neonatal screening. India’s strength in information technology and bioinformatics will be highly beneficial in the development and democratisation of precision diagnostics for rare diseases.

* Fund Genome India Initiative. At present, India lacks a reliable genetic information bank for research. To overcome the lack of genetic data, India recently concluded a six-month pilot project of sequencing genomes of Indians. The next target for India will be to scale up the genome mapping project to add more participants and bring down the project cost.

* Rs100 crore budgetary outlay for creating a virus repository with genomic data. With viral pandemics increasing across the globe, this is an urgent need in India. This would be tremendously useful in controlling outbreaks of highly infectious diseases. This repository would also be useful in developing diagnostics and vaccines for such diseases.

 

This was published in THE WEEK on January 25, 2020.

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