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MedGenome, a firm that uses genetics to provide diagnostics and research for new drugs raised $20 million as venture capital investment from Sequoia Capital. The firm, which aims to generate revenue of Rs 60 crore in FY16, expects analysis of Indian genetic pool could help gather better insights on diseases and its cure. MedGenome is partnering with leading Indian hospitals to understand the genes causing diseases that is unique to the country, says Sam Santosh, chairman and Chief executive in an interview with Raghu Krishnan. Edited Excerpts:
Tell us your plans over the next 12-18 months in India? What are you offering in India, in terms of clinical diagnostics?
We are looking at establishing ourselves as a leader in the genetic diagnostics space. It is a new area. The industry is very new. We are investing in creating awareness; increase our coverage and get more doctors to actively participate in genetic diagnostics.
You are also working with global pharma companies?
So that (clinical diagnostics) is one half, the other half which is synergic to what we do here, target the US market get the Pharma as well as other biotech companies to do more research in India. India, because of its population that has a genetic history of over 5,000 years gives us great insight on different types of diseases. The diverse population groups, practices such as consanguinity (marriage of people within the same blood relations), it really makes it easier to understand problems. Some of our partners have expressed interest. More Pharma companies will be interested and there will be more research.
So, the partnership with diagnostic centres help you in improving your research and get insights on genetic pool for diseases?
The basic technology and analysis is the same for both. The more diagnostics we do in the country, we get more insights on diseases as we are able to look into more population groups, and this helps us to do more research projects. It provides synergies and we are able to discover causes to different diseases to create more research projects.
The research projects seek to help in increasing the Indian baseline data. The base is so low because India has not participated in the global research in the last 15-20 years. We are under-represented in the global catalog of genetic variation. Often, it is difficult to do the diagnostics due to lack of data. The research will help us to build more and more of the baseline data and that will help us to do diagnostics easier in the future. We think we have created a good model both in terms of the revenue and business that each ones feeds of the other.
Tell us about your collaborations with institutes in India?
We have as many as 25 collaborations. We work with the hospitals to capture genetic data, educating the community inside the hospitals. We are looking at joint research in developing local tests to help lower priced test more towards the local population. Like, some of the cancers we see in India are pretty rare outside. We need to define a gene panel that is more used to our Indian population. We are working with Tata Memorial for Cancer, Mohan's diabetic centre for diabetes. For some of the diseases, we are we are able to do research with Pharma, so in some of them we have tripartite collaborations.
Are you working with any drug makers in India?
Not with any Pharma companies in India. New drugs are still very rare. The Pharma industry in India is very big but they are more into generic and biosimilars. It will change; some of the larger ones are actually started talking (of new drugs).