Nascent, but Indian genome sequencing market will take off soon

Experts suggest that it is a matter of time when products in genome sequencing will become affordable and the Indian genome sequencing market will progress towards maturity


For decades, the Indian pharmaceutical market was a fierce battleground for generic drugs. Be it native companies or foreign names, all of them have resorted to selling generic versions of branded molecules to capitalize on the overwhelming demand for treatment to common diseases. However, at the turn of the 21st century, things were bound to change. India, an emerging economy now, was keen on taking leaps in improving healthcare. And, that is when the Indian healthcare industry turned to technology. Two decades from then, India is now a promising destination for healthcare, and a thriving medical tourism destination.

As pharmaceutical and life science research gains importance with availability of funds and development of research infrastructure, the need for new drugs that are specific to the Indian populace has become imperative. It is basic knowledge that what works for the U.S. population has zero effect on Indians, because we have different genetic makeups. While that is one, every individual also has a unique genetic makeup. This opens doors for personalized medicine, as a result defining the impetus for genome sequencing.

Start-ups Lead the Way in India

Technology, as in most cases of the life sciences sector, is the backbone for genome sequencing market, too. It is the availability of sophisticated instruments to perform genome sequencing that matter the most. So, the companies manufacturing these devices root the growth of those carrying out genome sequencing. And invariably, it is the U.S. – powerhouse of pharmaceutical industry – that leads in companies manufacturing devices for genome sequencing. Reports suggest that three players – Illumina, Pacific Biosciences, and Life Technologies are prominent in the business.

In India, it is start-ups who are showing the way for the future in genome sequencing. Most companies in the space today are only offering services that collect samples, carryout sequencing, conduct primary analysis, and also study variations in genomes. Of this, it is the variation analytics that will matter when it comes to pharmaceutical applications. And sadly, it does not even account for 10% of the Indian genome sequencing market.

The Early Bird Advantage

Every individual has a unique reaction to the same drug and this happens because of the unique genetic makeup. This, over the years, healthcare providers have realized is a critical deterrent for treatment success. As a result, doctors have started looking for personalized medicine where treatment is targeted with fewer side effects.

In India, there is enough talking in the pharmaceutical space about personalized medicine, but there is little being done to make things happen. Currently, most companies offering or working on developing personalized medicine are dependent on variation analytics derived from foreign population. This seals the fate of efforts as inferences from foreign population will not be credible to design drugs for Indians. As a result, experts say that the companies making the first move will enjoy early bird advantage. The products offered by them will define the dynamics of the nascent Indian genome sequencing market.

One such name is Metaome. A two-year-old company based in Bengaluru, it is developing products that could change the face of Indian genome sequencing market. Understanding the variation in drug response in an individual is called variation calling. And, Metaome is developing products that will help in variation calling, thus help develop personalized medicine.

Cost is No Longer a Worry

While the opportunities look promising for those planning to enter the Indian genome sequencing market, one factor that has remained a worry for companies is the sheer cost of the procedure. Again, technology has a role to play in solving this. As technological advancements offer cheaper solutions, the cost of genome sequencing will come down. This will have a cascading effect on consumption. With lowering costs, the chances of consumers adopting products for genome sequencing will grow. And, as consumption increases, manufacturing costs will further come down. Experts suggest that it is a matter of time when products in genome sequencing will become affordable and the Indian genome sequencing market will progress towards maturity.

The Role of Awareness in Creating Opportunities

The very term ‘genome sequencing’ is alien to most of the healthcare fraternity. So, expecting the patient population to know about such a thing itself is over-ambitious. That is why the success of a new-born industry which is inundated with complex scientific principles and sophisticated technology depends on creating awareness, both, among healthcare providers and patients. Companies entering this market will be keen about capitalizing on social media for results. With information a tap away, creating credible web content to instill awareness among the customer population will be the key. Companies are also going to look at key opinion leaders in the physicians’ fraternity to spread the word.

Regulations to Streamline Business

For every nascent industry, the lack of regulations is a prominent deterrent. Reason? A product launched in the absence of regulations might not fit the bill once policy makers decide on streamlining the industry. So, the risk of falling back to the start line is high. This can demotivate even a company with a game-changing product. That is the reason why pharmaceutical experts who are in the know of developments suggest that the Indian government set up regulations for genome sequencing.

The primary problem arises from questions over ethics of the process of genome sequencing. The procedure impacts the not just the patient, but the entire family. In most cases, there is lack of clarity on the aim of the procedure between the physician and the family members. Further, there is no law that mandates the need to explain the risks involved in the diagnosis. This where regulations can make the difference. When rules govern a sensitive procedure, both, doctors and patients, are clear about every aspect of the process. Further, it creates transparency and empowers the patient and their family members to question or stop in case of a discrepancy.

While experts in the industry urge for a timely regulation, it is for time to tell how policy makers will react to rapid changes in the Indian genome sequencing market. Nevertheless, the regulations, once made, will play a crucial role in shaping up the Indian genome sequencing market in the coming years.

About Author: Adarsh Jain is an Assistant Team Lead at the Transparency Market Research. The quest to find answers to his deep curiosity in biological processes led Adarsh to pursue engineering in biotechnology. While science experiments intimidated him, he discovered his love for writing. Adarsh who writes on health, science, education, technology, and business, has got five years of experience in the domain.

*The views expressed by the author are his own.