The great Indian DNA decoder
By Sundari Sivasubbu
30th September 2012 12:00 AM
Even as we pop the daily pill into our mouths to fight that waning battle with high BP, thyroid or diabetes, how many times have we wished for a time machine just so that we could go back in time and make the necessary changes in our food, exercise and lifestyle? If only we had a blueprint of our bodies when we were still healthy!
Knowing whether or not you will get a disease in future and being equipped to prevent the onset is no more a distant reality, thanks to DNA Diet, a powerful concept brought to India by Xcode Life Sciences.
Founded in 2010 and headquartered in Chennai, the biotechnology company innovates in the field of healthcare through research in life sciences, bioinformatics, genomics and statistics.
“DNA and diet are two different phenomena. Usually the DNA is studied to find out a person’s disposition to a future illness. For the first time in India, we’ve combined genes and nutrition through Xcode’s unique programme called Lifelong Wellness,” says Dr Saleem Mohammed, CEO and co-founder, Xcode.
Lifelong Wellness is a personalised programme that starts with a genetic assessment that gives the predisposition of an individual to lifestyle disorders like diabetes, obesity, heart attack, sudden cardiac arrest, atrial fibrillation, hypertension, coronary heart disease and stroke. “Based on an individual’s health risk, metabolic profile and physical parameters, we design a practical and personalised nutritional and fitness plan for a lifetime,” says Saleem who holds a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Nebraska, USA, where he has co-authored four papers and contributed largely to research in the field. He is the recipient of the Milton E Mohr Fellowship Award in 2006 and the Grant Award for Start-ups from the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) in 2011.
Genes play a very important role in our health. The basic idea is not just knowing the present status of your body, but also the future of your wellness or the lack of it. This is the beginning of genomic revolution in India, he says.
Isn’t there a demoralising effect to knowing that one is susceptible to an illness in the future? Won’t it send the client to years of paranoia? No, asserts Saleem.
“Prevention is always better than cure. We have genetic counsellors with us who help the client understand their profiles and equip them to mitigate or minimise risks. This actionable knowledge can be used to achieve a healthy life,” he reasons.
Under Lifelong Wellness, one can avail Life Sight, an insight into one’s genetic profile; Life Food and Life Fit, a personalised nutrition and fitness programme; Life Track, a personal health log; Wellness on Mobile, a 90-day, daily messaging service; Life Basics and Life Digest which provides practical health tips and updates for a lifetime.
Though Saleem recommends the programme to people aged between 25 and 45 years as they experience high stress, long working hours, irregular eating habits and lack of physical activity, he also encourages DNA tests for children so that the right eating habits can be inculcated as early as possible.
Apart from pioneering personalised nutrition and medicine space, Xcode will establish in future gold standards for genetic information specifically for the Indian subcontinent. “Our long-term vision is to discover genetic causes of these chronic illnesses that would help in accurate indication of their onset,” he says.
“Visualise a hot summer day in 2020. You go to a vending machine and you find 16 different kinds of Pepsis. A scanning device on the machine scans your fingerprint, identifies your DNA, your health condition and diet pattern and delivers the right type of Pepsi to you. Xcode has taken the first step in bringing this to reality,” signs off Saleem.
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