India, UK based biotech firm wins ‘Star Trek’ creator’s better humanity award

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Updated: Aug 21, 2020 9:57 AM

An India and UK headquartered genomics biotech company is among four worldwide projects awarded the USD 1-million 2020 Roddenberry Prize designed to advance the vision of 'Star Trek' creator Gene Roddenberry to better humanity.

Star Trek, humanity award, 2020 Roddenberry Prize, Gene Roddenberry, coronavirus pandemic, Global Gene CorpLaunched this year in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the prize pivoted to engage organisations who demonstrated their agility and innovation on the frontlines of COVID-19. (Representational image: Reuters)

An India and UK headquartered genomics biotech company is among four worldwide projects awarded the USD 1-million 2020 Roddenberry Prize designed to advance the vision of ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry to better humanity.

Launched this year in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, the prize pivoted to engage organisations who demonstrated their agility and innovation on the frontlines of COVID-19. Global Gene Corp was recognised in the Science category for democratising healthcare through genomics by mapping and organising the world’s genomic diversity.

In the process, the company based out of Mumbai and Cambridge was lauded for helping the world overcome the bias that 80 per cent of all existing genomic data come from people of European ancestry. “Growing up in India as a ‘Star Trek’ fan, Gene Roddenberry inspired us with his vision of a future where technology is a force for incredible positive impact on humanity,” said Sumit Jamuar, Chairman & CEO of Global Gene Corp.

“This recognition of our work to create an equitable and fair world where all of us, irrespective of where we live, can benefit by leapfrogging to the healthcare of the future enabled by genomics, digital health and creating the next generation of therapeutics is a truly remarkable moment in our journey to create lasting transformation,” he said.

Global Gene Corp said that the prize money of USD 250,000 for each winning project will go towards furthering its research and development programmes. “To deliver our mission, Global Gene Corp has built technology platforms to enable large scale studies on human health and well-being, facilitating creation of Electronic Health Records, Genomic data repositories and analytics, Biobanking, Digital Health apps and accelerating Therapeutic discovery,” explains Jamuar, an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) alumni who co-founded the firm with a strategic priority to map and organise the world’s genomic diversity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted unacceptable inequities in healthcare globally by infecting more than 20 million people so far, with greater trauma, not unexpectedly, in developing countries. The need for inclusion of different ethnicities and populations to understand the disparity in healthcare outcomes and research has never been clearer,” he said.

The other winners of the 2020 Roddenberry Prize include two US-based projects: Digital Green in the Environment category for its work in empowering smallholder farmers by harnessing the collective power of technology across India, Ethiopia and other parts of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Generation in the Humanity category as a non-profit that trains, places, and supports people of all ages into life-changing careers, also operating in India as well as France, Italy, Spain and Mexico. The fourth winner, under Education, is France-based Bibliotheeques Sans Frontieeres (BSF) or Libraries Without Borders, set up to democratise access to information and education.

“Gene’s vision was for big, bold ideas to change the world,” said Roddenberry Foundation Chief Executive Lior Ipp.
“The year’s prize invested in organisations able to move quickly and boldly in combating COVID-19, from spreading COVID-19 awareness to ‘last-mile’ populations to delivering online job training to contact-tracing and risk evaluation in genetic mapping, this year’s prize winners are extraordinary organisations responding to humanity’s needs during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” he said.

The organisers said that the 2020 prize attracted over 2,500 applications from non-profit and for-profit enterprises of all sizes from around the globe.

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