Genetic testing, one of the latest tools to manage rare diseases including cancer and to assess the probability of developing many chronic ailments, is gaining popularity in India and may replace many of the conventional laboratory tests in the coming years, say experts.
Genetic tests - mainly into oncology, reproductive health, predictive and pre-symptomatic testing and ancestry - are generally used to confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition and the probability of the development of a genetic disorder or the same being passed on to the next generation. Human cells have over 2,000 types of genes in Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and these tests can determine mutation of these genes to predict the chances of many diseases. It is now widely used in advanced testing to find disorders like thalassemia, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and cancers like colon, breast, ovarian, thyroid, prostrate etc.
These complex tests were priced at Rs 2 to Rs 2.5 lakh in India until a few years ago. The results took long as the labs procured them from abroad. Now most of these tests can be done in India at costs ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 60-70,000 per test. "In the initial years, we had to go from one specialist doctor to another to convince them of the possibilities of genomic testing. In the initial years till 2016-17 period, we could do hardly 500-600 tests. Now we do over 10,000 genetic tests a month", says Dr V L Ramprasad, Chief Executive Officer (India) for MedGenome, India's leading genomic solutions company into oncology, reproductive health, inherited diseases and infectious diseases. MedGenome, started in 2013 in the US and India, did over 85,000 tests in 2018 and over 1,20,000 tests in 2019.
According to a study report by Market Research Future (MRFR), the global genetic testing market is set to reach a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.50 per cent, worth over $22,800 million between 2019-2024. Of this, the prescribed genetic testing segment is expected to be over $21,600 million by the end of 2024.
Though the genetic testing market has grown at over 15 per cent a year to reach Rs 400-Rs 500 crore in India, it is nothing when compared to its potential and growth in countries like the US or the India's routine diagnostics market worth Rs 40,000 crore. "Of the 26 million born in the country every year, at least a million are born with genetic diseases and most go undetected," says Ramprasad. Compared to this, China does over 10-12 million tests and the US does over 100-150 million tests a year.
In India, cost of tests is going down as volumes rise and there are about half a dozen major companies in the sector, led by MedGenome, Strand Life Sciences. Leading diagnostics chains like Metropolis, SRL and Dr Lal Pathlabs are also entering into this sector. MedGenome works with over 1,600 hospitals and clinics and more than 5,500 clinicians. It has a centralised Next-generation Sequencing (NGS) facility in Bangalore which can do most of the advanced 200 plus genetic tests. It has clinical and genomics data for 170,000 patients to provide insights into complex diseases at genetic and molecular level, says Ramprasad.
MedGenome, founded by Sam Santhosh, Chairman and Global CEO and co-founder Mahesh Pratapneni, also has a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) facility in California and helps pharma and biotech companies accelerate their early drug discovery pipeline and in biomarker discovery for their diagnostics programs. MedGenome, also a founding member of the GenomeAsia 100K to sequence 100,000 genomes in Asia, has data into genetic diversity of Indian population for more than 4,500 population groups. In India, the company offers complete suite of reproductive testing solutions, inherited disorders related to neurology, nephrology, cardiology, metabolic and other diseases, genetics and molecular tests for hemato-oncology and solid tumors and infectious diseases.