Ayurveda gets gene tech advantage

New Delhi, Feb 26 | Updated: Feb 27 2006, 05:30am hrs
What happens when a millennia-old medical system meets cutting-edge technology You get Genoma Ayurveda which, in laymans terms, amounts to deciphering the principles of the ancient Indian system of medicine using gene-mapping technology.

Georges St Laurent Jr, founder-director of Celera Genomics and a key participant in the Human Genome Project, is in India these days to sell this embryonic idea. We are trying to integrate the empirical foundations of ayurveda with the scientific principles of genetics. It will help us specifically pinpoint the ingredient that is responsible for the cure, besides building new potential drug libraries for chronic diseases, he says.

St Laurents team has already held talks with Union minister for science and technology Kapil Sibal, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, besides IIT, Delhi.

And keeping them company are the Kanwars of Apollo Tyres, who have recently forayed into the healthcare business. In their proposed 10-year plan, the Kanwars have envisaged a R&D institution for alternative systems of medicine.

In a proposal to the government, St Laurent has suggested the formation of a nodal agency that will licence out plants for research by pharma companies against royalty. This will help protect IPRs and prevent controversies like those on neem. Besides, the royalty can be used to give everyone access to such treatment, he says.