MedGenome looks to market novel screening test for coronary artery disease

Until now people who feared coronary artery disease (CAD) could walk into a hospital and get a blood test, cholesterol check-up or an electrocardiogram done to get the health of the heart checked. Going a step ahead in checking the health of one’s heart, Sequoia-backed genomics-based diagnostics company MedGenome Labs has rolled out a statistical method called Polygenic Risk Score (PRS) for a first time in India. The test calculates one’s risk of developing an artery blockage based on the millions of genetic variations in his anatomy.

“While other screening methods pick up the risk of an artery blockage a few months or at best a year before it can actually happen, with the PRS method, you can be classified as a high-, medium-, low- or no-risk individual at any time in your life,” said Vedam Ramprasad, CEO, MedGenome Labs. The PRS score has a lifetime validity as it is calculated based on the DNA sequencing as it remains the same, he explains.

The company collaborated with five medical centres in Chennai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Jaipur to develop the statistical model which took two years to build. The genomics company brought on board 1,800 people who suffered from CAD and 1,163 healthy individuals whose blood samples were taken for DNA extraction. This data was run in the company’s computer algorithm to get the PRS for all the individuals. When the scores were compared, those who suffered from CAD had much higher score compared to healthy individuals. The higher the score healthy individuals had, the more was the risk of them getting a heart blockage at any time in their life based on their genetic makeup.

A poor lifestyle and high PRS could be a fatal combination and may result in early-onset CAD, according to experts. The estimated prevalence of CAD disease in India is about 10.5 per cent of the population which extrapolates to a burden of about 32 million affected individuals. Over and above, the incidence of cardiac disorders has increased from 2 per cent to 10.5 per cent of the urban population in the past few years and early age of onset is a new countrywide trend.

The company is now in talks with several hospitals to commercialise this method which will cost around Rs 5,000 and take 4-5 days for the results to be processed.

The same PRS can also be replicated for other genetic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. “We are next working to procure data for diabetes and streamlining the pipeline, which will be ready in the next 2-3 months,” said Ramprasad.