India's futuristic gene card ready for launch

India's futuristic gene card ready for launch

Since releasing individual genetic information in public domain can be extremely dangerous with serious social consequences, the Centre is in no hurry.

The gene card will not be commercially launched till a policy decision is taken on how much and what type of genetic information will be loaded on the card. Policy and legal frameworks have to be evolved first before permitting commercial use of genetic information.

Geneticists have made the actual card, which looks like any regular credit card. Three such cards were made all of which belong to scientists who are working on the project.
The bright orange and white coloured cards were shown to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about 15 days back.

Personal genetic information, which visually resembles a design, is printed on the top-right corner of the card under which name and age of the person is printed.

The actual genetic information sits inside a secure server at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology here. When the card is read by a special reader, the genetic information can be viewed on a computer screen or a mobile phone.

“The big question is whether society is ready. Without preparing society for this kind of knowledge its dangerous to share such information,” Samir Kumar Brahmachari, director general of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research told Deccan Herald. He is one of the three persons whose gene cards were made along with two young scientists.

Ever since completion of the successful human genome project, genome information was always thought to be dangerous to put in private domain as there is an wide scope of misuse.

One of the commonest fear relates to employment. For instance, if an employer knows (from gene information) that a person has genes for alcoholism or fragile-X syndrome, will the person ever get a job? There is a plethora of other ethical issues, which needs to be debated before the card is made available commercially.