Indian billionaire and Asia’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, is preparing to launch a comprehensive genome testing kits billed as the cheapest ones available in India – and possibly even the world.
Developed by Strand Life Sciences, a company acquired by Ambani’s Reliance Industries Ltd. in 2021, the kit will be rolled out at a market price of 12,000 Indian rupees (approximately $145).
According to Ramesh Hariharan, chief executive officer of Strand Life Sciences, the new product will be marketed on Reliance’s MyJio app, potentially reaching approximately 425 million subscribers of health app JioHealthHub, e-pharmacy Netmeds and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.
Strand Life Sciences’ kit, which will reportedly help users identify inherited genetic disorders, predispositions to cardiac and neurodegenerative ailments, as well as cancers, is cheaper than popular genome testing kits currently on the market.
That includes 23andMe’s $199 kit, which provides health and ancestry data. The popular genomics company’s $99 kit provides only ancestry data.
The soon-to-be-released kit is also 86% cheaper than the ones offered by Indian companies such as MapmyGenome and Medgenome, which cost over $1,000.
“It’ll be the cheapest such genomic profile in the world,” Hariharan claimed. “We’re going out at an aggressive price point to drive adoption as it gives us a chance to build a viable business in preventive health care.”
The kit can also help users discover any predispositions to cardiac and neurodegenerative ailments, as well as cancers.
Some Chinese companies have already offered genome testing kits for as low as 599 yuan (approximately $87), but they may not identify as many ailments and disorders as Strand Life Sciences’ kit intends to identify.
Ambani’s dive into the global genetic testing market – which is expected to be valued at $21.3 billion by 2027 – comes at an opportune time, given that India is on track to become the world’s most populous nation.
The United Nations is expecting India to overtake China’s population of 1.45 billion by April. As per Worldometer, India currently has a population of just over 1.41 billion. This could potentially turn India into a biological data gold mine, which in turn could help experts develop drugs and prevent diseases in the nation.
Vishal Manchanda, senior vice president at Systematix Institutional Equities, told Bloomberg that Strand Life Sciences’ new product will “ideally lead to creation of a big pool of data which will help development of targeted treatment and early intervention.”
Ambani’s entry into the global genetic testing market was already hinted at during his speech at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2019, where he described data as the “new oil.”
In this new world, data is the new oil. And data is the new wealth. India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people and not by corporates, especially global corporations. For India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, we will have to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India, in other words, Indian wealth back to every Indian.